Luke Thomas is regional vice president - APAC at Appian, a low-code automation platform innovator.
Traditional supply chains are struggling to keep up with heightened customer expectations, increased regulations and outside influences on the market — including how to pivot operations in response to global pandemics, writes Luke Thomas.
Today, businesses must look at their work processes and how these can be streamlined, improved and made more resilient through digital transformation.
To improve supply chain operations, organisations must improve asset performance and reliability. Yet they often deal with manual processes, inflexible systems and spreadsheet tracking for asset management, creating silos and limiting visibility into the performance of key assets such as equipment, machinery, vehicles, factories, etc. This lack of control and visibility impacts performance, production, service delivery, and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.
For stronger business outcomes, organisations need better asset lifecycle management across the enterprise. Improving asset performance and reliability is critical to achieving operational excellence. Organisations often rely on manual processes and spreadsheet tracking, limiting enterprise-wide visibility across high-priority assets including equipment, machinery, vehicles, refineries, plants and factories. Logistics teams often handle a wide range of complex but repeatable tasks that require large amounts of data. Automation can help transform key aspects of logistics management, including automating workflows, more effectively leveraging asset data, and improved visibility of operations, such as:
- Fleet management: Automation capabilities give organisations the ability to track fleet utilisation and costs, trip and maintenance activity, and vehicle check-in/checkout processes – all from mobile devices. Businesses can effectively collect and utilise data on invoices, available hours for drivers, load/ticket information, job run-sheets, per-delivery costs, and more, with an innovative solution.
- Track and trace: A digital control tower allows users to track geographic location, control cold-chain distribution, and ensure the accuracy, authenticity, and safety of products in transit. This helps organisations protect against fraud and counterfeiting and ensure corporate responsibility.
There must be a heightened focus on communication and collaboration among supply chain partners moving forward to make the supply chain more agile and resilient. Amplified engagement will boost disruption response and, ultimately, customer satisfaction. Transformation opportunities include:
- Vendor onboarding: Streamline the workflow for vendor qualification and performance measurements. Implement a solution that improves visibility throughout to ensure reduced onboarding cycle times.
- Inbound supply management: Leverage data and implement technology that ensures end-to-end transparency across the supply chain. Look for a platform that can unify data and processes into a single interface, allow you to adapt to changing environments, and streamline workflow with automation capabilities.
- Supply chain planning: Streamline the sales and operations planning process, creating an integrated business management process that empowers stakeholders to focus on key supply chain drivers, including sales, marketing, demand management, production, inventory management, and new product introduction. Orchestrating the planning process ensures executives have the information needed to make key decisions that improve customer experience and drive positive financial impact.
The sourcing and procurement process is also growing more complex due to increased demand for accelerated timelines, heightened sustainability concerns, and the need to reduce risk with trusted suppliers. Looking forward, sourcing and procurement professionals will need to turn to automation capabilities to help them improve productivity and streamline critical processes. Sourcing and procurement are well-suited to the addition of automation capabilities. Key aspects of the procurement process can benefit from automation in areas such as:
- Procure-to-pay: Automation streamlines and accelerates the entire process, allowing organisations to increase productivity and efficiency while saving costs. Robotic process automation (RPA) removes redundant steps while enhanced workflow leads to more accurate decisions and greater process transparency.
- Contract lifecycle management: Automation capabilities can help transform contract management by allowing for standardised processes, better visibility for negotiations, and improved contracting cycle times.
A lack of proper demand planning puts organisations at risk of inventory miscalculations and production delays. With the addition of intelligent automation capabilities, managers can gain more control of key processes and areas of operation, including:
- Inventory and materials management: Automation allows users to manage workflow at every stage: requests for materials, cataloguing and provisioning, the movement of materials, their use in production, and distribution to the end consumer.
- Warehouse management: By implementing automation capabilities, organisations can improve transparency and productivity of warehouse operations. Leveraging RPA for manual tasks across order processing, inventory tracking, fulfillment, and shipping can increase efficiency and accuracy.
- Claims investigation and compliance: Organisations can use AI to identify potential fraud cases to investigate. Further integrate AI to validate claims, ensure quality control, and expedite claims processing.
- Maintenance and repair operations: With automation capabilities, companies are better able to adopt predictive maintenance programs and prevent costly machine repairs and replacements. Additionally, they can automate repair processes such as order entry, inspection, quotes, reviews and approvals, part shipment and invoice of repairs.
With ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic, changing customer expectations, an evolving technology landscape, and the demand for more sustainable practices, supply chain managers need efficient and transparent processes more than ever before.