A supply chain is the network of all the people, businesses, resources, processes, and technological advancements involved in the production and distribution of a good. The transport of raw materials from the supplier to the producer and their eventual distribution to the end user are all included in a supply chain.
Many companies have established supply chain processes that they rely on and run on a daily basis. Manual supply chains have been replaced by automation systems, which offer faster, time-efficient, and cost-effective processes. Increasingly, businesses are adopting supply chain automation, and it’s easy to see why: it has the potential to dramatically improve the company’s productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness.
What is Supply Chain Automation?
A supply chain refers to the entire process of producing and selling a product. This includes allocating raw materials, manufacturing, storage, distribution, and delivery.
Supply chain automation eliminates the need for manual human involvement during these steps. Ultimately, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic process automation (RPA) , and predictive analytics help streamline and boost your company’s supply chain efficiency.
The Benefits Of Supply Chain Automation
Utilizing supply chain automation provides plenty of benefits. Here are the main advantages:
Automate Manual Tasks
The entire process of the supply chain is time-consuming. Employees from different departments need to coordinate during the supply chain process. Plus, they have to handle the process manually, adding to the timeline and increasing the possibility of error.
However, when done automatically, tasks can be sped up and completed in shorter time frames. Additionally, there are fewer errors as fewer people are involved in the chain. As a result, automation offers a twofold advantage: speed and accuracy.
Moreover, supply chain automation can clear up bottlenecks and allow employees to focus on more complex tasks. Cumbersome and repetitive tasks can be completed quicker and more accurately by automation systems that require little to no human interaction or oversight. In turn, employee productivity is boosted since employees focus on value-added tasks.
Common menial supply-chain tasks that can be automated include:
- Processing orders
- Paying invoices
- Generating and organizing documents
- Creating inventory lists
- Produce bills of lading
- Produce shipping notes
- Track and organize orders
- Track shipments in real-time
- Track key performance indicators (KPIs)
Transparency of Operations
Manual supply chains require extensive communication and cooperation across various departments. Often, breakdown occurs along these channels leading to a lack of transparency and mismanagement.
Supply chain automation steps in to connect various departments and systems into a centralized platform. Data is visible within a single automation system, and access is granted to all team members. As a result, information is accessible in real-time and within a single platform, increasing transparency, organization, and visibility. Moreover, automation systems can monitor productivity and ensure accountability within all steps of the supply chain.
Not only does automation benefit employees by promoting inter-departmental efficiency, but it also provides visibility for consumers. For instance, operational automation systems can alert team members and customers of potential shipment delays, processing issues, and payment errors.
Regulations are Met
In order to continue business operations, owners must ensure that federal and state regulations are met during the supply chain process. However, with the complexities and nuances of health and safety standards, compliance can be difficult to maintain manually.
Supply chain automation systems can be programmed to incorporate these regulations into the company’s best practices. Additionally, artificial intelligence can automatically and regularly audit the company’s operations to ensure compliance. In turn, this again reduces employee efforts and saves time on tedious and detail-oriented supply chain tasks.
Lastly, predictive analytics can work to identify potential pitfalls, helping risk-averse companies mitigate and avoid non-compliance risks.
Improved Customer Satisfaction
As of 2020, 60% of consumers stated they continued to do business with a company due to positive customer experiences. In other words, consumers were loyal to businesses that provided excellent customer service.
As previously stated, supply chain automation benefits the client just as much as the business and its employees. With customer service automation, consumers reap the benefits of faster delivery, real-time tracking and alerts, and improved tech support.
Limitations of Supply Chain Automation
Despite the overwhelming benefits of supply chain automation, businesses should thoroughly assess the drawbacks before deciding whether implementing the system is the right choice.
Cost and Integration
The biggest hurdle to incorporating supply chain automation is the cost of the systems and services. For many small businesses, this is a significant investment that they may not be able to justify or recuperate.
Additionally, if your company’s current systems are extremely outdated, integration may prove to be difficult or even impossible. As a result, your company would need to invest more money in completely revamping every operational system. Moreover, supply chain automation systems often require costly servers to run, adding to your business expenses.
As such, companies will need to calculate fixed and variable costs to determine whether they can make the leap into automation.
Using a Low-Code all-in-one automation platform is the easiest and most cost-effective way to automate a demanding supply chain.
With the power of RPA and Cognitive Automation, Comidor helps companies save time and money while also increasing efficiency at every stage of the supply chain process, from sourcing products to delivering them to customers.
Automation for customer service includes chatbots, email automation, self-service help centers, and interactive voice response systems. Each of these services aims to meet increasing consumer expectations. By adapting your supply chain and offering automation services, your company can boost customer relations and loyalty.
Despite the extensive ability of supply chain automation systems to take over and complete tasks unsupervised, it is still limited in its capabilities. Currently, many automation systems rely only on RPA which is rule-based and can only perform repetitive or simple tasks, such as order processing, packaging, inventory management, and some administrative functions.
In contrast, Intelligent Automation can handle the supply chain’s end-to-end operations. These solutions combine AI, ML, and RPA technologies, enabling them to carry out tasks that require extensive judgment and evaluation without the involvement of a human. Additionally, Intelligent Automation can handle continuously learns from historical data to enhance performance.
The expanded capabilities of Intelligent Automation give businesses insights into the supply chain-wide and a great potential for optimization.
Utilize Supply Chain Automation
With changing market and consumer demands, companies are now faced with the challenge of adapting and innovating. Automating your company’s supply chain can propel your business forward by improving efficiency, accuracy, customer relations, and transparency.