Optimize Supply Chain with Intelligent Automation

by | Oct 15, 2021 | Manufacturing

Developing supply chain intelligent automation solutions is one of the top priorities for organizations and centers of excellence alike.  Adding urgency, it’s a priority with a lit fuse.  Two years ago, discussions around a pandemic response did not exist.  The last 18-24 months have changed the landscape for supply chain methodology. Pressures from all angles now demand real-time solutions as many suspects a continuation of pandemic-like scenarios. If anything, the impact of COVID-19 has sped up automation programs requiring flexibility and rapid response capabilities to all things supply chain.

COVID-19s Disruption to Supply Chain

More than 90% of Fortune 1,000 companies have experienced COVID-19 disruption, but fewer than a quarter of companies feel they have a resilient supply chain.  In fact, only 21% of respondents were confident in their supply networks visibility; and ability to swiftly flex sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution if needed.[1]  Given the perspective that we’re unlikely to revert to pre-pandemic distribution, industry experts have a lot to think about within their current state:

  • Lack of real-time visibility – not only having visibility of the immediate supplier but, also looking two levels down to the suppliers’ supplier
  • Inability to react to major production slowdowns
  • Lack of mechanism to manage the vetting process of the supplier base

Let’s start to frame the path forward.  Data is the price of entry to the supply chain. Operations and supply chain scheduling took the form of multiple excel spreadsheets exclusive to the end-user alone.  Given the challenges of today, disconnected silo planning is no longer sustainable.  Like it or not, supply chain visibility will be the differentiator for leading companies.[2]

Finding a Sustainable Solution with Intelligent Automation

Solutions start with connecting and collecting data to gain comprehensive visibility and then layering automated intelligence on top of it. That is step number one to provide the availability to ask better questions:  What forms of automated intelligence will be the most effective in developing a resilient supply chain?  How can we use data analytics with the intent of gaining insight into supplier performance?  Where can we use process mining to identify disruptions, optimize resources, and leverage predictive modeling?

While much larger and broader supply chain decisions loom – nearshoring and reshoring as an example – data capture is the launch pad.  Visibility allows for what-if analysis with speed and efficiency versus drag-and-drop excel scenarios taking weeks that never quite take on a final form (enter, save as “2022 production scenario 1”, “2022 production scenario 1.2”, 2022 “production scenario 3.7”).

Taking the First Step

Ultimately, we want to ask: What problems are we trying to solve?  When there is a lack of focus, the trap of paralysis by analysis follows.  When armed with executive sponsorship and an integrated team, supply chains realize reduced risks and costs, improved services, flexibility, and sustainability.  The first step, however, must be taken in the form of concentrated effort; and there are many resources, workshops, and partners eager to light the way.

[1] Gartner, Weathering the Storm: Supply Chain Resilience in an Age of Disruption, May 2020

[2] EY, COVID-19: Why real-time visibility is a game changer for supply chains

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