Try as we might, we can’t control when or how the next supply chain disruption will hit. From computer chips to kitchen cabinets, it seems like everything is on backorder these days. Organisations continue to grapple with raw material shortages, port logjams, a distributed (and smaller) workforce and civil and political unrest. In the UK, Brexit made the situation even worse.
The message is clear: supply chain disruptions are inevitable and unpredictable – and they’ve quickly become a regular part of everyday business operations. The unknowns that come along with these disruptions can make even the most experienced business leader feel out of control, and that’s an uncomfortable feeling.
But rather than focus on the things you can’t control, executives and managers should turn their attention to what they CAN control – how they allocate capital to investments in digitising their business for the future.
Many organisations have accelerated their overall digital transformation efforts in response to the pandemic, but these investments can also be used to combat supply chain issues. Budget put towards intelligent automation technologies and digitising information-intensive workflows helps companies overcome supply chain inefficiencies, while advanced data analytics provide the insight needed to identify and respond swiftly to disruption.
The right investments in digitisation put businesses back in the driver’s seat and ready to accelerate ahead of the next disruption.
Internal Blind Spots: The Silent Supply Chain Killers
Believe it or not, organisations should first look inward if they want to reassert some control over supply chain disruptions. Yes, it’s important to examine the external physical and logistical aspects, but inefficient internal workflows are a commonly overlooked blind spot. Manual, time-consuming processes create bottlenecks that ripple down the supply chain, yet they’re some of the easiest ways to gain some control.
Intelligent automation is often the best way to digitise workflows. In banking, for instance, automation technologies can vastly improve the speed and efficiency of various workflows, including customer onboarding, account opening, bank statement processing, and loan application processing. Insurance companies can automate and digitise claims processing and applicant onboarding. Transportation and logistics providers can leverage intelligent automation to collect, analyse and share real-time status updates on orders so customers can respond quickly to unexpected delays in shipments.
Accounts Payable is a prime candidate for workflow automation in just about every industry. While you may not equate AP workflows with supply chain efficiencies, think about the compound effect slow, error-prone invoice processing can have on supply chain interruptions. Late payments and other inaccuracies can strain vendor relationships at a time when businesses need to be doing everything they can to fortify and strengthen the vendor connection.
The key is to allocate capital to the right digital-first projects and execute effective change management. When done right, successful organisations benefit from optimal productivity driven by the right balance of human and digital workers. An added benefit is the free time human workers have to focus on engaging with customers and partners and applying strategic thinking to solve the next seemingly uncontrollable supply chain disruption.
Investment Tips: Gain a Controlling Supply Chain Stake
There are several intelligent automation technologies required to achieve end-to-end digital workflow transformation, which is why a platform is a wise investment. It includes a suite of technologies organisations can apply to supply chain woes.
Document intelligence and cognitive capture make it possible to automatically ingest and process structured and unstructured data. Robotic process automation (RPA) makes it easy to automate labour-intensive, multi-step tasks across systems and data sources with no coding. Process orchestration enables teams to monitor and improve the time, resources and costs associated with each step in the supply chain workflow, modify processes as requirements change and maximise workforce capacity without adding headcount.
Artificial intelligence capabilities help businesses assert even more control. Machine learning and natural language processing improve the speed and accuracy of document processing, and advanced data analytics help organisations identify inefficiencies in the supply chain and associated workflows. AI-powered analytics also provide end-to-end visibility into operational performance.
While there’s no crystal ball to predict the next disruption, data visualisation and analysis gives business leaders the information they need to make fast, fact-based decisions when the unexpected happens.
When investing in automation and digital technology, be sure to look for a low-code platform. An intuitive interface allows non-technical citizen developers to build RPA bots and automate business workflows quickly, further accelerating digitisation efforts and improving agility. Innovative platforms also come with embedded AI, so citizen developers can implement technologies like machine learning, natural language processing, and advanced analytics to business processes without needing to understand how they work. The resulting increases in productivity and capacity ease pressure within the supply chain and make it easier to adapt to changing demands and unexpected external challenges.
It may seem like your supply chain is spinning out of control. Stay the course and set your sights on the things you CAN control. Investing in the right digital-first technologies like intelligent automation equipped with AI delivers agility and resiliency, putting the power back where it belongs – with your business.