Supply chain automation is more than just industrial robotics. Surely, warehousing, manufacturing, and shipping have benefited from physical bots, automated storage, retrieval systems, and automated guided vehicles, but there is a lot of untapped potential when it comes to automating end-to-end supply chain. To be truly resilient, companies need to rethink automation in terms of both software and physical robots that can fully automate multiple processes. So, what is end-to-end supply chain automation?
Simply put, supply chain automation is the use of technology and tools such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Intelligent Business Process Management (BPM), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DL), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to handle back-office tasks. These technologies can work across multiple software platforms and easily automate rule-based tasks that are critical but time-consuming. Therefore, when these tasks are automated, they increase the efficiency of employees, reduce errors, and drive higher customer satisfaction. These tasks can be anything from order processing, manufacturing, invoicing, procurement, warehousing, receiving/shipping/delivery, and shipment status, etc.
Applications of Supply Chain Automation Software
An integrated supply chain uses automated systems to extract, transfer, and validate data without using expensive custom integration. Supply chain automation uses cognitive technologies like AI and ML and connects disparate solutions and systems for performing a specific task without human intervention. These capabilities help support data-driven management practices, including:
- Inventory management, including Big Data strategies
- Demand and supply planning within the entire value chain and the factory/warehouse
- Risk event planning and mitigation
- Business Intelligence (BI): process, analyze, and organize data to provide insights
The management processes mentioned above are just a partial list that supply chain automation technology can streamline. For a clearer understanding of how these technologies work, let us look at some use cases of processes that leverage automation for higher efficiency and productivity.
- Quality checks.
- Sign-off paperwork for shipping.
- Maintain records and digital data trail for regulatory compliance.
- Record handling and freight management.
- Data transfers and aggregation from different systems, like opening and extracting information from emails, PDFs, or any other document into an ERP or any other legacy system.
- Digitization of all paper records for better record management.
The biggest problem faced by supply chains is its heavy dependency on paper – a traditional approach that is no longer effective amid changing customer demands and expectations. Manual work and paperwork decrease the efficiency at every step, from procuring inbound raw material at the facility to the last-mile delivery to customers.
When companies fully transition to digitization, they get access to intelligent automation (hyperautomation) solutions. Hyperautomation solutions include smart software bots that seamlessly allow to move away from manual work and create paperless supply chains. Smart, computer-coded robots mimic human actions by interacting with enterprise systems to extract data in any format, validate the information and perform the desired action. It enables the integration of disparate systems and creates workflows to automate digital supply chain processes.
Benefits of Supply Chain Automation
- Visibility into every stage of the product lifecycle
- Increased collaboration and decreased development and turnaround time
- Quickly identify inefficiencies in shipment variability
- Lower operating costs as automation reduces labor costs, inventory, warehousing, and overhead costs
- Higher productivity of employees and accuracy
- Improved compliance with industry standards by standardizing vendors, pricing, and products
Supply chain automation can give a competitive edge to any organization by reducing operating costs and ensuring higher customer satisfaction. As automation becomes popular in the global manufacturing industry, the supply chain must need to embrace it to drive growth and stay relevant.
Ready to see how Nuummite Consulting can help you automate your supply chains? Get in touch to request a POC customized specifically for your company.