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2021's top digital trends for supply chain workflow automation

How to incorporate 2021's top digital trends into your supply chain operations

The fallout from COVID-19 exposed risks throughout the supply chains of businesses across all industries, in very short order. The past few months these supply chain breaks have been triaged by operations managers and largely addressed with short-term solutions. While 2020 was about staying in business, 2021 is about designing processes for long-term gains.

In the year ahead, supply chain leaders will need to harness the power of technology to optimize their processes in an effort to respond to cost-savings initiatives and prevent future risk. Doing so will take an understanding of the trends driving this new normal of work. 

The business trends driving supply chain teams' operations in 2021

Catalytic’s recent guide, “10 Digital Trends Driving Your Operations Strategy in 2021,” dives into the different ways digital will impact operations across your business. Here are just a few trends that are significantly impacting the supply chain today. 

Renewed sense of urgency around cost savings

To make up for lost business and better position themselves for recovery, most companies instituted major budget cuts the second half of 2020. The stark rise in unemployment was certainly indicative of that. And while hiring levels are increasing, it’s an environment of cautious optimism at best. 

Technology can streamline supply chain operations to help eliminate the risks of costly delays and ensure performance standards are upheld. It can also help improve data quality to allow procurement leaders to make the best possible decisions.

Operational visibility increases cross-functional agility

The siloed nature of operations stifles the flow of information, causing redundancy, inefficient use of data, and inconsistent customer experiences. Peak supply chain operations require real-time communication with suppliers and better integration between systems.

When processes are digital, the resulting visibility allows for better collaboration all around. Supply chain teams can provide more accurate status updates, flag potential risks, and remove bottlenecks in real time.

Asynchronous work can make or break productivity

A remote work environment can create some challenges in terms of employee and supplier collaboration, when work isn’t exactly done in sync.

How can digitization help? Take supplier onboarding, for example. Digital onboarding workflows can ensure the process keeps moving without interruption, no matter the time. Managing supplier data is another process ripe for digitization. Automated processing keeps data maintained in real time without employee intervention.

Top supply chain processes to digitize

What makes a process a good match for digital technology? Those that are data-heavy, error-prone, redundant, and time intensive are often a good start. Global manufacturer Bosch has digitized many of its supply chain processes with the help of Catalytic. Here are just a few:

  • Catalytic helped Bosch design and implement a quality check process for entries within its Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) tool. After buyers manually enter data, Catalytic can instantly check it against a predefined list of potential errors, and route deviations to the appropriate buyer. 
  • In order to ensure compliance with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, Bosch used Catalytic to automate the distribution of 3,600 reports tailored to each supplier, and tracked the completion of supplier tasks in response to the reports. In total, this saved the company 200 days of effort. 
  • Catalytic was used to scan 69,000 contracts using OCR and automatically extracted key terms. When needed, a Bosch employee was prompted with a form to handle exceptions and continually improve the extraction engine. This process saved Bosch employees 1,500 days of effort.


3 ways to take action on digitizing your supply chain operations in 2021

For a complete list of the 10 digital trends driving operations strategies in the year ahead and a breakdown of what this means for supply chain teams, read our guide complete with more examples of specific processes you should target to make business impact in 2021.

Read the guide

Written by Catalytic