Human progress is exponential: The sophistication of our industries and endeavors doesn’t increase by a fixed amount every year — it accelerates. For industry leaders, this is both a challenge and an opportunity; organizations that embrace change and stay on the forefront of this exponential growth can realize significant benefits.
This is particularly true in supply chains. As the world becomes interconnected and digital experiences become the norm, customers demand faster, more accurate and easier deliveries.
Adopting a supply chain automation tool is the best way to get ahead of the curve and become an industry leader in the face of this constant, rapid change. Here’s why.
Pivot from data management to identifying improvements
When your supply chain is heavily dependent on manual processes, there’s often significant unrealized potential. Human operators responsible for individual processes may be duplicating effort, engaging in an inefficient workflow because “it’s always been done that way” or even just working at their max pace — which is still slower than what a supply chain automation tool can provide.
Consider just one small process in the supply chain: invoice processing. Research shows that accounting teams that automate their invoice processing typically see a 60%-80% increase in savings, just from being faster. When you factor in the costs of avoided errors, that number increases dramatically.
Humans are not built for tedious tasks like data management. We’re built for strategy, creativity and innovation. Supply chain automation liberates your team from menial tasks to the critical work of identifying bottlenecks, inefficiencies and opportunities to innovate. Thus, adopting a supply chain automation tool kills two birds with one stone: Less time spent doing the tedious work that we’re ill-suited for and more time spent improving the supply chain.
Outside of the actual shipping and assembly of products, supply chain operations consist almost entirely of working with data — intangible, ephemeral data.
This has two major implications for your business:
1) There’s no need for an individual to be physically on-site to manage that data.
2) There’s an opportunity to automate those data management tasks.
Cloud-based supply chain automation capitalizes on both of these. You don’t have to worry about a hurricane, power outage or other disaster shutting off access to your servers and preventing you from receiving and fulfilling orders. You don’t even have to worry about a critical team member being unavailable. And, if something goes wrong, an automated supply chain solution can flag the relevant stakeholders, pulling in human intervention only when it’s absolutely necessary.
Stand out with a better customer experience
Drop shipping isn’t something companies do for a lark; the point is to offer the customer more choices, an easier time shopping and a less frustrating experience. But building out your drop shipping operations without automating the supply chain is counterproductive. Manually overseeing a drop shipping program is a great way to deliver a sub-quality customer experience.
Individually, the human operators in your supply chain may only take a few extra minutes when carrying out their respective tasks compared to an automated solution, but these minutes add up, ultimately delaying the customer’s shipment.
What’s more, in contrast with manually overseeing your supply chain operations, automation requires total visibility. Individuals can be responsible for their small corner of the operation, but a supply chain automation tool can only be implemented by integrating every relevant system. This might seem like a mark against automation — it takes the extra effort to get everything integrated before it can get started. But beyond making automation possible, integrating your systems has the added benefit of giving you a single dashboard to oversee everything.
How does this translate into better customer experience?
You’ll be able to diagnose issues with far less effort, and you’ll become aware of them faster. That means fewer delayed shipments, fewer incorrect orders, easier returns and faster complaint resolution. In an industry like retail, competition is fierce and industry leaders are almost solely dictated by who offers the customer a better experience. Supply chain automation tools are your direct line to that gold-star experience.
The bottom line: Streamlined operations
The benefits that a supply chain automation solution offers — like freeing time to improve the supply chain, becoming robust to crises and delivering a better customer experience — all contribute to streamlining your operations.
With fewer erroneous orders and faster shipping, you’ll receive fewer returns and order cancellations. You won’t need to access a dozen different systems to track down orders, identify issues or manage your inventory. Your team will be free to plan for the future, strategize, and identify new ways to meet your customers’ needs.
Reserving your team's energy for this innovative work is essential. The modern business landscape is constantly in flux, and companies need to remain agile to respond to the sudden changes in the market and the world. Automation is a critical foundational piece towards building this agility.