Infusing automation and artificial intelligence into cloud-based supply chain operations can take your processes to the next level..
Data-driven, yet fragmented. Process-oriented, yet siloed. An organization’s unwieldy supply chain operations can make achieving operational efficiency and business agility difficult. And in today’s volatile economic environment, these two objectives are at the top of the priority list.
Under pressure from what McKinsey calls the historic supply chain shock caused by the COVID-19 health crisis, businesses are doubling down on efforts to build resilience into their processes. And they’re using technology to do it.
Top challenge for streamlining supply chain operations
The crux of the challenge lies in the siloed nature of the supply chain. These silos exist by department (finance, procurement, operations, etc.), system (MRP, ERP, inventory, accounts payable, PO, etc.), and companies (suppliers, shippers, etc.). Several issues stem from these silos.
With so many disconnected processes and systems, data becomes fragmented quickly. Coupled with that, a lack of standardized data formats means that quality is an issue. This limits a company’s ability to use that data to drive better decisions.
Supply chain systems often have interfaces that are cumbersome or too complex for employees, and as a result the overall user experience suffers. Employees must learn and navigate across multiple systems, spreadsheets, emails, phone calls, etc., in order to move processes along.
Standard operating procedures are the glue that ties supply chain processes together. When working in silos, procedures are often ignored or incorrectly followed, resulting in more manual heavy lifting by employees and errors.
Connect your people, data and systems with a no-code, cloud platform
In a Supply Chain Dive article, Gartner Vice President and Analyst Mike Griswold named automation, machine learning and AI, and the cloud as three of the top supply chain trends for 2020. Here’s why.
Supply chain effectiveness relies on speed and employee productivity. Automation technology can help maximize both to drive scalable efficiencies.
Supply chain operations involve a significant amount of collaboration, both internally and externally. Limited or slow communication up and down the supply chain reduces efficiency. Complicating this is that communication between suppliers and customers is still largely a manual process completed through email.
Just one example of this is ensuring all supplier certifications are up to date and properly documented. Without automation, employees must manually contact suppliers individually to collect and file information. A smart workflow platform can automatically communicate with suppliers via email and SMS message to request missing or updated information.
This is exactly what one of our clients used Catalytic for, when the company needed to certify all 3,600 of its suppliers due to new regulatory requirements. The client built a solution on our platform in a few weeks to manage and automate the entire process. Ultimately, the team was able to save more than 200 days of effort, reach compliance six months faster, and improved their data quality in the process.
Machine learning and AI
In order to meet demand efficiently and cost effectively, companies must be able to better predict needs. Doing so requires advanced technology that allows leaders to accelerate and improve decision-making across the supply chain.
A platform with AI and machine learning built in can analyze language and documents with optical character recognition (OCR), natural language processing (NLP), sentiment analysis, and fuzzy matching. This is critical, as it makes messy, incomplete, and unstructured data usable.
Current systems limit how supplier data is accessed and reported, making it difficult to predict future inventory levels. An automation tool can import shipment data from a supplier’s system, extract, prepare and clean that data, and then serve as an interface for suppliers and customers to automatically query and update the information.
Just as the supply chain itself grows in complexity, so does a company’s use of technology. What happens over time when tools aren’t properly or easily integrated is that this complexity begins to work against companies, increasing the workload of IT to maintain solutions and forcing employees to manually move data in between systems. It all equates to slower processes and diminishing ROI of very expensive technology.
Cloud tools offer a significant advantage, both from the start and over time. They are faster, easier, and less expensive to implement and upgrade.
With a cloud-based system, companies can easily connect all of their existing technologies to eliminate any friction that exists across the entire supply chain’s tech stack. Not only do processes become more efficient, but managing compliance also becomes easier. Catalytic’s cloud platform is built with documentation in mind, providing a fully-encrypted system of record for your workflows that’s SOC2 Type 2 and HIPAA compliant.
The driving forces behind supply chain operations are productivity, efficiency, and accuracy. Not only does automation technology enable this, but it allows organizations to fuel the business agility needed to navigate this challenging economic environment and beyond.