Resilient Industry Supply Chain Enhancement for SMEs

Improving the supply chain resilience for small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe

The research project "Resilient Industry Supply Chain Enhancement for SMEs" (RISE-SME) aims to systematically enhance the resilience of supply chains, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This involves analysing the supply networks present in different ecosystems based on current resilience characteristics and developing scenarios for improvement, such as the integration of advanced technologies. By quantifying the supply chains into models, the project can uncover the impact of disruptions and examine the influences of measures to increase resilience. The focus of the research project is to actively involve stakeholders from the industry and transfer the insights gained into industrial practice through existing networks.

Resilience in SMEs

SMEs are important partners in most supply chains. They often specialize in or even provide unique goods or services that are not easily replaceable. At the same time, they may depend on individual suppliers, making SMEs vulnerable to disruptions on the procurement or demand side. While the increasing unpredictability of international crises and the vulnerability of supply networks are gaining more societal awareness, adapting existing supply chains is a complex undertaking. Small and medium-sized enterprises often lack the personnel or financial resources to closely monitor threats, implement systematic measures to mitigate vulnerabilities, or harness the potential of modern technologies. However, the new reality requires SMEs to achieve new goals in terms of resilience and sustainability in order to remain competitive.

While SMEs are the main drivers of many innovations in the industry, they often lack knowledge about and access to innovative technologies and techniques that can make them more resilient to disruptions in the supply chain.

About the research project:

Within the European research project RISE-SME, the aforementioned dilemma of recognizing the importance of increasing the resilience of SMEs and the limited possibilities for technology-driven transformation of supply chains is the focus of research efforts. As part of the Horizon Europe research program of the European Commission, the European research consortium is developing models to help SMEs identify disruptions in supply chains, predict their impact, and highlight the potential for a more resilient supply chain through the use of modern technologies. The concept of resilience primarily encompasses the development of a more flexible, agile, adaptable, and resilient supply chain.

Building on completed EU research projects such as NEXT-NET, AI-CUBE, and ReShap, in which Fraunhofer IML has already been involved, industrial ecosystems and supply chains, along with their existing connections and dependencies, are examined in four different sectors: agri-food, digital, mobility-transport-automotive, and textiles. The current resilience of the identified networks can be determined through manipulable and measurable modelling using resilience indices, and the effects of disruptions or measures can be analysed. By systematically assessing the influences of innovative digital technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, AR and VR solutions, or big data analytics, the project provides SMEs with guidance for technology transfer to enhance resilience. By connecting technology-savvy developers and more traditional SMEs, direct development potentials can be derived for both sides.

The involvement of existing digitalization and transfer clusters in Europe directly engages the addressed European SMEs in all phases of the project, allowing insights into ecosystem-specific pilot implementation plans to be directly transferred to industrial practice. The following illustration shows the project framework of RISE-SME, focussing the improvement of the supply chain resilience of SMEs, to give an overview about the project goals. 

Project framework of RISE-SME

Fraunhofer IML Structure of the RISE-SME project
© Fraunhofer IML - RISE-SME

The role of Fraunhofer IML:

Fraunhofer IML, through its Department of Supply Chain Engineering, has comprehensive knowledge in applied and practical research on supply chain management. The expertise lies particularly in quantitative modelling of supply chains in various industries and understanding factors and measurement of resilience in value networks, which is brought into the project consortium. Depending on the requirements of the analysed ecosystems, various tools for quantitative modelling of supply chains can be utilized, such as network simulation using the internally developed simulation tool OTD Network, discrete-event simulation using Plant Simulation, or methods of system dynamics. Additionally, the experience in integrating machine learning, AI, and big data technologies into supply chains in industry and research projects is part of the modelling preparatory tasks conducted by Fraunhofer IML in the project.

Consortium partners:

  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR)
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML)
  • Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência (INESC TEC)
  • Technological Institute of Aragon (ITAINNOVA)
  • F6S Network Ireland (F6S)
  • FIWARE Foundation e.V. (FIWARE)
  • Centro Tecnológico Industrias Têxtil Vestuário Portugal (CITEVE)
  • Digital Hub Management GmbH (DIGITAL HUB)
  • Confindustria Veneto SIAV S.p.A. (SIAV)

This project has received funding from the European Union's horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101138645.