Technology has outgrown every expectation, and, for most companies, it is the most important factor in their business. In this realm, supply chain automation technology is the new entrant that companies are turning to for optimizations and enhanced efficiencies.
In recent years, the supply chain has experienced many disruptions, making the use of technology a necessity. Enterprises are always hunting for advancements that will aid their entire supply chain process. The use of technology and software to streamline operations and processes without real-time human intervention is called automation.
Supply chain automation at an early stage has shown the potential to positively impact procedures, resulting in cost savings, increased efficiency, lower maintenance costs, and improved customer satisfaction. Read on to understand the intricacies, benefits, challenges, and latest trends of supply chain automation.
What is supply chain automation?
Changes in the conventional ways of manufacturing or delivery are not a by-product of recent technological advancements. In fact, the very first major change was instituted by Henry Ford when he introduced the art of batch production through assembly lines. Since then, the floodgates have opened.
Today’s advancements have given companies of all sizes easy access to the opportunities to reach maximum efficiency and minimize losses. In a nutshell, supply chain automation refers to using technology to simplify supply chain tasks such as accurate demand forecasting. and inventory planning.
For instance, a manufacturing plant producing ball bearings uses a vertical lapping and grinding machine. Once the commands are fed into the software, the machine operates automatically with utmost precision to produce ball bearings. Without this type of automation, a human would never be able to make two equal ball bearings with the same precision and speed.
The main reasons companies these days are looking towards automation are machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).
Talk of the townThe use of AI and ML has transformed supply chain automation In the above example, automating production via commands was an early use of machine intelligence based on a prompt given by humans. However, software now learns independently and makes predictions, such as when to schedule maintenance, where wear and tear is likely to occur most heavily, and the like. Another recent technology in the spotlight is IoRT, the Internet of Robotic Things. A robotic arm on the shop floor automating product packaging, or the robot following the yellow strip on the shop floor, known as an AGV (automated guided vehicle), are both examples of IoRT. IoRT, which bridges the physical and digital worlds, is still nascent, but we can expect an increasing number of applications of this technology in the supply chain.
Benefits of supply chain automation
- Enhanced logistical operations
Supply chain automation enables businesses to avoid wasting human resources on menial, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks. Automation lets you delegate these tasks to technological solutions that enable humans to attend to matters that actually need their input. Automation simultaneously reduces human error and increases operational excellence and efficiency.
Imagine your customers’ excitement at a notification that their order is on the way. That transfer of information is possible because of automation. The advancements in automation also improve efficiency and accuracy in picking and packing. How often do you hear that someone ordered something and got something else? Automation helps you avoid these discrepancies and satisfy customers.
Agility puts you ahead of the game
Even though we have advanced well beyond the crystal ball, we still cannot predict the future with certainty. The supply chain is long and has many moving parts, which makes it essential to be able to respond agilely and swiftly to a circumstance beyond the norm. Supply chain automation ensures that appropriate measures are taken as soon as the system identifies them. Automation enables agility that can save considerable expense, lives, time, and customer satisfaction.
Coping with demand
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) enable accurate prediction of demand. However, there is still room for improvement in delivery. Supply chain automation can streamline the entire logistics operation by planning the most efficient route, reporting delivery status to customers, and connecting the right delivery people with the right shipments. This saves you money and allows your employees to focus on more pressing issues.
The supply chain involves numerous stakeholders along the line from production to delivery at the customer’s doorstep, and maintaining visibility and communication over the long term is difficult. Digital automation enables information to flow transparently with real-time updates, ensuring that all relevant parties can access the information they need, when they need it.