Supply chain bottlenecks and growing demands mean more manufacturers are looking to manufacturing automation to optimize their processes, reduce waste, improve productivity, and find new ways to save on costs and resources.
Intelligent automation (IA) enables supply chain optimization by automating end-to-end processes and providing data-driven decision-making.
What Is Supply Chain Optimization?
Your supply chain isn’t as simple as moving products from point A to point B. It’s more like point A to point 12, with several diverging steps, unexpected slowdowns, and warehouse stocking issues in between. But what if that could change, and your supply chain could be a simple, streamlined network?
Supply chain optimization utilizes technologies like intelligent automation, which combines robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), business process management (BPM), and intelligent document processing (IDP), among others, to improve your supply network’s performance. That means customers get what they want when and where they need it, and your organization can grow because inefficient processes don’t bog it down.
What are the phases of supply chain optimization?
There are three phases within a successful supply chain optimization: design, planning, and execution.
- Design: This is your network of processes, such as warehouse locations and product flow maps. Implementing IA into the supply chain design phase can help align strategic business goals, augment demand forecasting and automatically schedule manufacturing operations.
- Planning: This is where you create your strategic deployment plan for balancing supply and demand. Your supply chain planning phase includes planning how your inventory is organized and the assets you’ll use for delivering goods, services, and information between suppliers and customers, all of which can be automated through your digital workforce.
- Execution: This is where you focus on the applications and systems used to execute tasks, such as warehouse and transport management. intelligent automation's real-time analytics and supply chain visibility are critical to optimizing these processes.
What is the process of supply chain optimization?
Optimizing your supply chain is about choosing the right solutions that fit your business needs, adopting them strategically, and monitoring your results to see where you can increase your benefits in the future.
When modeling how you will optimize your supply chain, consider the following components:
- Inventory management
- Receiving and delivery
- Order processing
- Customer support
What Are The Benefits of Supply Chain Optimization?
It’s simple: running your supply chain operations at peak performance has its benefits, and IA can help with real-time decision support, supply chain visibility, and order management. Let’s look at some of intelligent automation’s benefits in detail:
Cut unnecessary costs by streamlining business operations. Repetitive processes can be simplified when automated and better inventory management helps manufacturers stay agile. Plus, intelligent automation helps lower supply chain infrastructure expenses by delivering on time and accurately tracking warehouse capacity.
Manage your supply chain on one platform that connects your people, vendors, systems and workflow. An integrated team ensures better collaboration and augments better business decisions, continuity, and reduced risks.
Improved supplier performance
A digitized supply chain provides real-time insights into the supply chain performance, allowing you to continuously improve your processes and further transform your operations.
Increased productivity and revenue
With a more streamlined supply chain and automated customer support, you can improve the customer experience with on-time, quality deliveries. This builds customer loyalty and helps you grow your business further.
IA ensures consistency and accuracy, improving the overall quality of your end-to-end lead times from procuring raw materials to product delivery. You can check the quality along every step of the supply chain, which helps improve efficiency and reduce waste.
What Are The Top Techniques for Supply Chain Optimization?
We will focus on three key supply chain optimization techniques: cost, inventory, and network.
This can be found in both short and long-term digital transformation efforts. The supply chain has several opportunities to optimize cost savings, such as reducing errors and rework caused by manual tasks, improving inventory management to avoid over or understocking issues, and reducing storage and transportation costs by allocating resources more effectively. Automating transportation and logistics can lead to huge cost savings.
Managing your inventory levels effectively ensures your customers get what they want. IA can augment decision-making to avoid waste and ensure your entire supply chain network has the right stock quantity to meet customer demands.
Supply chain network optimization ensures your supply change is agile and capable of handling changes. IA helps organizations develop strategic plans by gathering analytics on processes, helping you ensure you’re onboarding the right suppliers.
How To Implement Supply Chain Optimization
Firstly, you want to determine where your best supply chain automation candidates exist by evaluating your as-is processes. Tools such as task and process mining can augment this research. Then, you’ll want a centralized platform that brings all your processes together and gives you real-time insights into how everything within your supply chain is performing. With that, you can look at individual automation tools and how they can help you achieve total supply chain optimization. You can always use an operating model as your guide to deploying and scaling your intelligent automation, such as the SS&C | Blue Prism® Robotic Operating Model (ROM™2).
What software or technology can optimize a supply chain?
Find a supply chain optimization software that aligns with your business goals and suits your infrastructure. Your considerations should include key metrics such as your desired gross margin return on investment (GMROI).
From there, you can look at solutions.
- Discover where to automate with task and process mining.
- Deploy your automation with intelligent automation (IA), a technology that combines robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and business process management (BPM), among others, to automate and orchestrate end-to-end business processes.
- Choose prebuilt solutions for faster speed to value. InvoiceBotz is an intelligent document processing (IDP) solution from WonderBotz that uses SS&C | Blue Prism® Chorus OCR to read incoming documents. InvoiceBotz automatically receives shipping documents and invoices, extracts the relevant data, handles the classification and coding, and registers the information into the proper record system – all without requiring human intervention.
How Can Automation Deliver Supply Chain Optimization?
Rather than telling you what automation can do to make your supply chain management better, let’s look at real-life case studies of how other manufacturers successfully transformed their supply chain operations.
Automating inbound order processing
A WonderBotz customer streamlined their supply chain records with IDP to interpret the bill of lading documents from shipments. The automation connects to the legacy ERP system, updates the purchase order with the shipment information, and attaches the bill of lading to the purchase order (PO) for reference. The customer saved 3,200 hours per year, increased the reliability of data in the ERP, and improved compliance.
Balancing inventory levels
SS&C Blue Prism helped a manufacturer reduce inventory management efforts by 35% with RPA. They launched and scaled an automation program to help them manage the shift from old to new inventory with a central data repository to enable employees and digital workers to make informed decisions. The data helps employees confirm their inventory is balanced, and then a digital worker goes into the ERP system and turns the old products off and the new products on through a series of transactions.
Meeting (and exceeding) inventory demands
A premier grocer in the U.K. used IA to meet and exceed their store inventory demands. Intelligent automation streamlined their supply chain and reduced the cost to fulfill orders by half, also giving 800 hours back to the business.
What Is The Future of Supply Chain Optimization?
Let’s take out the crystal ball for a moment. Customer demands will continue to grow, with expectations for more and better services faster. And more customers and stakeholders are also looking for suppliers with good environmental, social, and governance (ESG) regulations. They’re looking for ethical, sustainable organizations. That, on top of evolving non-linear supply chains, the complex international supply chain ecosystem requires agility as much as robustness. Intelligent automation is the next step for manufacturers – are you keeping up?