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3 Proven Methods for Supply Chain Automation

Michael Wilson | Mar 27, 2017

Supply chain management teams continually seek to increase efficiency and productivity while anticipating delays and changes in consumer preferences. These priorities lead to ...

Supply chain management teams continually seek to increase efficiency and productivity while anticipating delays and changes in consumer preferences. These priorities lead to overall objectives of reducing cost and improving customer satisfaction. Achieving these objectives depends on having adaptable workflows that contribute to consistent business processes. The decision to improve workflows often leads to the decision to adopt supply chain automation.

Supply chains can move towards adaptable workflows by adopting automation tools that promote enterprise-wide management. In addition, automation tools such as robotics offer a combination of precision and durability. The use of supply chain automation software can decrease costs through analyses that lead to the development of efficiencies such as better packaging, improved transportation routing, and reduced consumption.

Using an ERP to Improve Workflows

The purchase of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system for supply chain management has the purpose of integrating significant areas of the business.  Before achieving the functionality of an ERP, the supply chain must move away from traditional — and sometimes one-of-a-kind — processes. Accomplishing this task requires a study of existing systems, repeated processes, and tasks. Defining workflow in this way sets the stage for the improvements that can occur through the ERP and illustrates complexities and challenges.

An ERP also reduces the opportunity for errors, handles repeated activities, and establishes the communication needed to achieve efficiencies. By automating process execution, an ERP leads to accurate processes and the availability of metrics and analyses that allow better decision-making.

Optimizing workflows through the implementation of an ERP allows the sharing of information across the company and improved collaboration between vendors, suppliers, and logistics planners. The ability to make better decisions lessens the opportunity for errors that could lead to delays.  When external circumstances threaten to disrupt processes, the ERP protects the supply chain with automated alerts.

Increasing Value

Almost all types of supply chain management software provide methods for improving demand forecasting. In addition, these software tools offer improved inventory control and forecasting. The delivery of goods becomes smoother through automated order fulfillment, invoices, and improved supplier processes. With all this, the supply chain gains the capability to quickly and accurately respond to its customers.
Supply chain automation software also provides warehouse management that tracks the location of merchandise across the total supply chain, from beginning to end. Effective inventory control offers the advantages of reducing replacement time and minimizing the time needed for reordering. As a result, the improved processes also reduce the need for additional warehouse space. Connecting warehouse management and inventory control across the supply chain assists with quickly moving products from suppliers to consumers while decreasing cost.

Achieving Precision

Implementing the use of collaborative robotics achieves precision within tedious tasks. The collaborative portion of robotics links manufacturing processes with suppliers and consumers.  As demand increases or decreases, robotic operations respond to inventory needs by automatically adjusting to a different task or location. The ability to instantly share information between robotic processes and processes involved with supply, forecasting, sales, and distribution allows the supply chain to respond quickly to changes in consumer demand.

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