Supply chain management is the process by which businesses manage their supply-side activities to infuse efficiency and cost-economy, maximize customer value and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. The supply chain is an interdependent process which involves large numbers of people and manual tasks which need to be effectively coordinated and managed. A small error in one step can have a multiplier effect, causing huge losses. It is obvious that supply chains are complex operations which need to be very skillfully managed if leakages are to be controlled and value maximized. Digital transformation is a step towards this in the global supply chain management arena.
The main component of this digital transformation is automation. By adopting backend software for process robotics, organizations can automate on an end-to-end basis and enable different sections to work effectively and be managed in tandem. Process robotics adopts a centralized approach to supply chain management and involves automating day-to-day processes by teaching the software how these tasks are performed. By doing so, it frees up human resources tied up in these routine processes and enables them to focus on value-addition.
There are collaborative, physical robots which aid and simplify physical tasks for human resources such as packing, heavy lifting, sorting, inventory tracking, etc. These robots are equipped with high-resolution cameras, pressure sensors, and self-learning capabilities, making the process more efficient, safe and of better quality. It infuses scalability into the supply chain without the need for more human resource and improving the productivity of the existing labour force.
Supply chain industry is adopting these two solutions and is moving toward what is known as Robotics Process Automation (RPA) which is strengthening the industry. Contrary to popular belief that automation will lead to loss of jobs for workers, automation, as we have seen, is making them more productive, creating safer workspaces, minimizing possibilities of human errors and helping human resources focus on value addition rather than the mundane routine jobs.
Capabilities required for Automation
Experts hold that supply chain automation is not the end, it is the means to the end; it is a journey. They believe that there must be certain basic capabilities for automation:
- An integrated and systematic record of supply chain planning and optimization including demand, inventory and supply components must be deployed. Real-time data that is visible and accessible across the supply chain is essential for automation.
- An exception-based process management system so that the automation platform can identify what tasks can be automated and what needs to be manually done based on rules and tolerances.
- High-quality data about the business as well as all the partners’ capabilities and capacities, customers’ needs, journey, demand and delivery, etc.
- Supply chain must support advanced numeric and visual analytics that enables solutions to structured problems.
- Supply chain must have end-to-end optimization and machine learning abilities.
If you are interested in the field of global supply chain management, you should take a global supply chain management course and equip yourself with the necessary tools and techniques.