Why Automation is the Key to the Future of Supply Chain Management

As with many industries looking to cut costs, increase efficiency and improve customer and employee experiences—automation is the answer.

Adobe Stock 178790882

As supply chain disruptions continue to persist and consumers become ever-more used to two-day delivery, supply chain managers are looking for ways to improve efficiency and meet customer needs. As with many industries looking to cut costs, increase efficiency and improve customer and employee experiences—automation is the answer.

By adopting automation technology, supply chain experts can better serve their customers by automating manual tasks, increasing visibility and transparency, presenting accurate data and providing improved customer service.

Automate Manual Tasks

Manual labor can be tiresome, tedious, and, more importantly, prone to error. But with automation technology, tasks like order processing, inventory management, data entry and report generation can be completed with fewer delays and inaccuracies. For example, automation can help companies improve inventory management by tracking inventory levels in real-time and generating automated alerts when stock levels are low, avoiding stockouts, minimizing waste and improving overall supply chain efficiency.

And you don’t need C3PO–or another fully autonomous robot—to take advantage of automation technology. Simple ways to integrate automation into company processes can include automating invoice generation and payment processing, implementing accounting software to automate reporting and customer relationship management, and using machine learning to predict customer behavior or identify patterns in sales data. The list of benefits goes on.

Automating manual tasks in supply chain management can help companies streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve their ability to meet customer demands. By adopting automation technology, supply chain experts can focus on more complex and critical tasks while leaving mundane, repetitive tasks to the machines.

Increase Visibility and Transparency

The ability to track goods and materials at every stage of the supply chain is critical for identifying potential issues and making informed decisions. However, achieving visibility and transparency in a complex and dynamic supply chain can be challenging. Fortunately, automation technology can provide real-time updates and insights, making it easier to track the movement of goods and materials.

For instance, RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology can be used to track the movement of goods, while GPS (global positioning system) can be used to track the location of delivery trucks. These two technologies can provide automated, real-time updates that can be built into supply chain logistics processes. Another way to leverage automation to improve visibility and transparency could include using sensors to track temperature and humidity levels in shipping containers, allowing companies to monitor the condition of goods in transit and take action to prevent spoilage or damage.

There are several advantages to increasing visibility and transparency in the supply chain, including better decision-making, improved customer satisfaction and increased efficiency. With improved visibility and transparency, companies can make more informed decisions about inventory levels, shipping routes and delivery times, reducing the risk of stockouts and identifying potential issues in the supply chain before they become more significant problems.

Present Accurate Data

Inaccurate data can have a significant impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of supply chain management. When data is incorrect, it can lead to delays, increased costs, and poor decision-making.

There are several causes of data inaccuracies in supply chain management, including manual data entry errors, system integration issues, and incomplete or outdated data. These inaccuracies can have significant downstream impacts on the supply chain, from manufacturing to order fulfillment and delivery.

Automation technology plays a significant role in improving data accuracy. For example, automated data capture processes can eliminate manual data entry, reducing the risk of errors. Similarly, automated data analysis can help identify and correct inaccuracies in real-time, ensuring that data is always up-to-date and accurate.

Provide Improved Customer Service

Customers demand quick and efficient service.

Automation technology can help supply chain companies provide improved customer service by streamlining and automating manual tasks. For example, automated order processing and inventory management can reduce the time it takes to process an order, which in turn reduces lead times and improves delivery times. Additionally, automation can provide real-time updates on the shipment status, allowing customers to track their orders from start to finish. Companies can even implement automation AI like a chatbot to handle customer inquiries, hastening response times and increasing customer satisfaction.

The advantages of improved customer service go beyond just customer satisfaction. By improving customer service, businesses can increase their brand reputation and gain a competitive advantage in the market.

Worried about losing the human element in your customer service? Strategically implement automation technology for routine tasks, like order processing and inventory management and reserve human representatives for more complex issues or situations that require a personal touch. It’s also essential to cross-train employees to work alongside automation technology so they know how to best leverage it.

Automation technology will be a game-changer for the supply chain industry—in some ways, it already is. Leaders must consider automation in their supply chain strategy to stay ahead of the curve.

To prepare for the adoption of automation technology, companies should conduct a thorough analysis of their supply chain processes, identify areas where automation can be beneficial, and develop a plan to implement automation technology. When selecting automation technology for their supply chain, companies should consider factors such as the level of customization needed, the scalability of the technology and the cost-effectiveness of the solution. It's also crucial to ensure that employees are trained and prepared and that the new technology is integrated with existing systems.

By carefully evaluating automation technology options and implementing them strategically, companies can realize significant benefits and improve their overall supply chain operations.