In a world advancing at the speed of technology, there’s simply no denying the growing influence of automation in today’s global supply chain management. Delays at any point in the interconnected process could lead to lost revenue, decreased customer satisfaction and damage to a company’s reputation.
We’re talking about complex operations involving hundreds if not thousands of people involved in order management, warehousing, distribution, technical services, field services, transportation, and trade compliance. Companies that fail to embrace technology and rely instead on manual processes face significantly more risks. After all, one small mistake — a number entered incorrectly on a commercial invoice, a shipment mislabeled or classified incorrectly, or a key piece of documentation inadvertently omitted — can throw the whole process into chaos.
The potential of supply chain automation continues to expand to meet increasing demands for transparency, visibility, speed, and compliance from across the globe by supporting logistics processes and higher levels of productivity.
The supply chain industry is moving rapidly toward the use of robotics and process automation that works as a glue by integrating multiple systems which are dedicated to order management and tracking. The robotic process automation goes beyond physical systems to embrace the underlying software with the help of artificial intelligence.
Supply chain management driven by robotics and process automation brings many benefits, including greater efficiencies, higher productivity and the potential for tremendous cost savings. In particular, a lights-out warehouse, where every task is automated, companies achieve efficiencies in order fulfillment while controlling labor costs. The latest technology ensures that order fulfillment tasks are coordinated tightly from end to end to create a smooth transition from the placement of the original order and delivery to every customer.
The use of physical and collaborative robots are equipped with the high-resolution cameras, pressure sensors, and self-learning capabilities to assist workers with tasks like packing, sorting and picking.
The introduction of robotics like EffiBOT in warehouses creates a fully automated trolley in the picking process. It also helps coordinate more multiple pickings simultaneously rather than single-order pickings — a more efficient and ergonomic process to track complex inventory movements.
For instance, some companies makes use of the physical robot Sawyer for improved safety and quality. The robot is deployed in picking and co-packing for pet food, aerosols, confectionery, and canned drinks facilities.
This robotic process automation can help to undertake a range of repetitive tasks on a variety of products with its up-and-down scalable nature that helps to fulfill an e-commerce order more efficiently.
Automated technology works continuously to fulfill orders, helping shippers meet ever-increasing customer demands while reducing operational costs. For instance, a warehouse worker who is loading a delivery truck can scan a package barcode which will trigger the workflow with a notification in the shipper’s order management system. Then it will auto-send an email alert to the customer that their package is being shipped. Leveraging this type of technology helps provide effective, timely communication and visibility into order management and tracking. Similar barcode scanning technologies can also help identify the fastest route for delivery to control shipping costs and also help maintain bookkeeping best practices.
The level of automation introduced into a supply chain varies by company. Maybe you cannot afford the capital expenditure required for fully automated robotics in your warehouses and distribution centers. However, that does not mean you can’t leverage automation in other areas. For instance, moving away from paper-based record keeping in favor of electronic data storage and management is a great start.
The robotic process works by automating the entire supply chain from not just individual tasks but it also enables all different sectors to be managed. The adoption of software robotics allows professionals to focus less time on day-to-day manual processes and provides more time to deliver value to the entire business.
The use of robotics provides a centralized approach to procurement, shipping, warehousing, and inventory management by teaching automation software on how to complete the jobs. The tasks are finished on a job-by-job level by coordinating an entire unified process by allowing the interdependent sections to work.
For instance, if a robotic solution can detect that a warehouse is at maximum capacity for inventory, it will alert the procurement team automatically to halt ordering more inventory or even suggest a new storage location for incoming product.
We have seen the impact of RPA on supply chain management but this does not indicate robotics will replace humans in the warehouse. Implementing new technologies is not easy by any means, and it isn’t just a matter of purchasing one solution and letting it rip.
Putting all the pieces together is still challenging. Companies must integrate their customer-relationship management systems to the order management and enterprise resource planning platforms. Having the right supply chain partner, one that has an extensive global footprint, expert staff and is ready and willing to embrace emerging technologies, could be your strongest ally.
Vikash Kumar is a manager for custom software development company Tatvasoft.com. When he is not handling campaigns at work, he likes to write on topics such as automation and other technological advancements.