According to EFT’s Supply Chain Hot Trends to Watch for in 2019, one of the most significant trends that we should be paying attention to this year is automation.

Industry players have already begun experimenting with technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence. Drones are already delivering packages, and self-driving vehicles are being produced and tested as we speak. While automation in the supply chain is still in an early-adoption phase, the impact that it could have on the industry is significant. With the digital transformation of the supply chain on the horizon, it is essential to understand what automation would mean for logistics as a whole and how it can benefit your supply chain.

Supply Chain and Logistics is Embracing New Technologies

It is well-known that the supply chain and logistics industry is behind the times when it comes to modernization. It is one of the few remaining industries still using pen and paper while the rest of the world is almost entirely digital. That said, it is slowly but surely catching up, and automation in the supply chain is becoming increasingly present.

According to Allan Lyall, Pierre Mercier, and Stefan Gstettner at the Harvard Business Review, a considerable majority of supply chain functions could be “replaced by a smoothly running, self-regulating utility that optimally manages end-to-end workflows and requires very little human intervention” in the coming years.

This thought can be daunting to those currently working in supply chain logistics. Traditional jobs as we know them may change and the realm of responsibilities will be different. New technology has a knack of shaking things up, and change is often feared. Don’t worry– in this case, it will be highly beneficial for the industry. Automation will allow for supply chain executives to focus their time on data analysis and forecasting as opposed to managing and overseeing every single process in the supply chain. It will free up time and resources so that you can devote yourself to aspects of the job that require a human touch.

Realistically, we are still several years away from the full automation of the supply chain. Judging by the speed with which the industry embraces new technological trends, there will undoubtedly be some obstacles to overcome before it becomes prevalent. Nevertheless, it is something that supply chain managers should prepare for.

How to Prepare for Automation in the Supply Chain

The first step before adding any new technology to the mix is to ensure all of your underlying processes are sound. It should be noted that automation is not a panacea; adding it to your supply chain will not magically fix all problems you may have had before implementation. Automation is meant to enhance and streamline, and for it to be effective, it requires that underlying processes are standardized.

Additionally, before you can add automation to the supply chain, make sure you and your team understand what objectives you are trying to achieve. Outline specific goals and targets so that come time for review, you can accurately gauge what is working and what isn’t. Remember to put together an evaluation team to conduct reviews to maximize your returns.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to supply chain system integrators to help guide you to the best automation solutions for your company. When it comes to automation, it is not “one size fits all.” Be sure that everything that you incorporate into your supply chain is tailored and customized to your specific needs.

Benefits to Automating Your Supply Chain

Automation in the supply chain can offer a host of benefits. Some of the most notable are listed below:

  • Increasing productivity and efficiency
  • Boosting visibility
  • Lowering operating costs
  • Improving profitability
  • Minimizing human error

For example, as per Ryan Duguid of Manufacturing.net, automated technology can continuously fulfill orders. This would allow shippers to meet consumer demand regardless of how heavy it may be. It would also eliminate missed orders and inadvertently reduce costs.

Thinking Beyond Automation for Your Supply Chain

It is essential to keep all supply chain functions in line with your overall goals and strategy. In order to succeed, always be thinking outside the box and embracing new technologies that have the potential to enhance your operations.

Automating your supply chain will be monumental in increasing efficiency, but there are ways to make it even more effective. Pairing it with blockchain is the next step in digitizing your supply chain for the better. With fewer resources tied up in things like deciphering paper trails, verifying individual transactions, or dealing with middleman markup, you will be able to focus on making your business more efficient and profitable.

The benefits of adding blockchain to your supply chain are countless. It is an investment that you will continue to reap the rewards from for years to come. If you think you might benefit from adding it to your supply chain, get in touch with us for a demo of our Track and Trace software.