When it comes to your business’s supply chain, it can be tempting to stick with what works. If your business has been around for a while, there’s a good chance that you’re still completing inventory counts, picking, packing, and other tasks manually. However, some manual supply chain processes are not only outdated, but actually inefficient and even detrimental to your business.

Thanks to new technologies, companies can now harness the power of automation in their supply chains. When correctly employed, supply chain automations can save money and time, increase productivity, and prepare the company for the future.

What is supply chain automation?
Supply chain automation refers to using technology solutions to perform or streamline supply chain processes without human attention, effort, or involvement.

By incorporating automation technology such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and digital process automation, a business reduces the manual work required to perform certain business functions. This in turn speeds up workflows and makes the supply chain more efficient.

Benefits of supply chain automation
Automating your supply chain processes can have a number of benefits, including:

Automating manual tasks
Supply chain automation enables your business to redirect human time and effort away from menial, time-consuming tasks, and devote that time and effort towards tasks that specifically require a human touch.

Automating tasks allows you to delegate to technology solutions that can complete the tasks much more efficiently, and frees human workers to attend to matters that actually need human input. This increases your supply chain efficiency, as you’re not wasting your worker’s time and potential on tasks that another entity could perform.

Minimizing human errors
Humans make mistakes, and when tasks are performed manually, it’s very likely that something will go wrong. By removing humans from the equation, automation lowers your risk of error and can prevent mistakes like:

  • Accidentally duplicating orders.
  • Incorrectly entering data.
  • Entering inaccurate customer information.

Increased supply chain visibility
Maintaining supply chain visibility requires a lot of labor, communication, connectivity, and commitment from both merchants, suppliers, and service providers.

Through digital automation, information is automatically recorded and updated in near real-time. This enables relevant parties to access important information when needed, track inventory, and communicate quickly throughout the supply chain.

Increased supply chain visibility subsequently helps you quickly identify and resolve problems to prevent further delays and disruptions.

Improved customer experience
With automation streamlining your supply chain, your customers will reap the benefits, too. A largely automated supply chain gets accurate orders fulfilled and shipped to customers quickly, and helps you maintain high customer satisfaction and loyalty rates.

Limitations of supply chain automation
Although automation has a number of benefits, it still has some limitations that should be kept in mind. These limitations may be specially present in small business supply chains, where there are fewer resources and smaller budgets involved.

Currently limited to certain tasks
Not all supply chain functions can be automated. While relatively menial tasks are great candidates for automation, the majority of supply chain processes will still require human attention and involvement.

Advanced supply chain technology often requires significant financial investment, often costing thousands of dollars in annual fees or one-time licenses.

What supply chain processes can be automated?
While it isn’t currently possible to automate an entire supply chain, companies can automate key processes. Here are some of the supply chain processes that you should consider automating:

  • Back-office
  • Transportation
  • Warehouse
  • Inventory

Supply chain automation is on the rise, and there really is no stopping it. As we learn more about how to produce more affordable technologies and fine-tune them to meet the needs of operations, you can expect to see their usage spread like wildfire.

Keep your eyes on the horizon and stay ready to implement these groundbreaking technological enhancements as they step into the spotlight.

How do you feel about incorporating supply chain automation into your operations? Let us know with a comment down below!