Supply chain process automation is a growing area within manufacturing. Aided by rapidly improving technologies, manufacturers are now able to automate supply chain processes that have previously been handled manually.
This means more opportunities to reduce waste and support growth, but it also requires that businesses move with the times to avoid falling behind tech-savvy competitors.
In our blog, you will learn more about supply chain process automation, the key things to automate and the subsequent benefits.
What is supply chain process automation?
Supply chains cover every stage of the production and selling of goods.
Everything from procuring materials to the production and distribution of the finished item is supported by supply chain processes.
Therefore, the resilience and efficiency of your supply chains are essential to the success of any manufacturing business.
When it comes to automation, there are a number of technologies that have important roles to play. These include: warehouse robotics, the Internet of Things (IOTs), AI, machine learning and predictive analysis.
Embracing these technologies is now central to ensuring robust and adaptable supply chains that can handle the sorts of challenges experienced in recent years’ by Brexit, COVID-19 and more recently economic turbulence caused by conflict in Ukraine (to name just a few).
One relatively straightforward area for improvement for manufacturers is in data entry – specifically moving away from manual processes towards automation.
Manual input of data is more likely to lead to errors, as it is difficult for a human being to maintain concentration when carrying out repetitive tasks. This is even more evident when one considers the sheer quantity of documents needed to be handled for a manufacturer to operate smoothly.
Even if data is being inputted correctly, the time taken to do so accurately is onerous and could be used better elsewhere.
Thankfully, many processes relating to data entry can be easily automated and even physical documents can be scanned, with information extracted into digital formats that can be handled by computers.
In many ways this is the low-hanging fruit of supply chain process automation, freeing up your staff to spend more time on the things that add value and less time on repetitive manual tasks.
Warehouse robotics is another area where efficiency can be improved – this time on the shop floor.
The range of options for warehouse automation is steadily growing and these technologies are improving year or year. Smart forklifts and driverless vehicles can now handle the movement of goods with better accuracy and speed than a human operator. This could soon lead to significant reductions in accidents affecting your staff, leading to safer workplaces, reduced absences and better insurance premiums.
In addition, automated storage and retrieval systems are making the movement of materials and goods more efficient – allowing staff to store and find essential items with better accuracy and speed.
Internet of Things
How is supply chain process automation supported by the Internet of Things? First of all, it might be useful to describe what the Internet of Things is!
IoT devices monitor your electronic goods and devices. They report back on the health and status of these devices via wireless networks such as wi-fi and Bluetooth and have a range of benefits.
Depending on the area of manufacturing you specialise in, IoT devices can be used to track essential parts (particularly useful in automotive or aerospace), monitor temperature and humidity of storage areas (food and drink) or flag parts that are due for maintenance.
With supply chain process automation, you can have reports delivered directly to your inbox and then act accordingly – meaning less system downtime and better productivity in the long term.
One of the limitations of legacy supply chain management processes is the inability to plan and make evidence-based decisions to affect positive change for your business.
With predictive analytics, you can be more proactive, using data-crunching techniques to identify weaknesses in the supply chain process and tackle problems head-on.
Easily accessible and detailed analytics are key to moving away from reactive decision making and towards a more strategic approach.
With supply chain process automation you can benefit from anything from improved demand forecasting, better pricing strategy and optimised inventory management.
Did you find this article on supply chain process automation useful? If so, you can contact a CBO consultant here for a no-obligation chat and how to automate processes with Epicor Kinetic ERP.