Although setting up an automated process is difficult in most systems, done correctly, automation is smooth and flexible and can make a significant positive impact on businesses within the supply chain. Furthermore, implementing automation to pre-existing strategies allows businesses to be more agile and efficient.
Adding automation to an advanced planning and optimization (APO) strategy enables more accurate forecasting, improved planning and increased operational efficiency with maximum visibility across the supply chain. When choosing the right automation strategy it is important to considered quality and consistency, time and cost savings, and governance and reliability.
Maintaining Quality and Consistency
Without automation, humans have to perform tasks with as little error as possible. However, humans are not perfect and prone to errors, making it nearly impossible to consistently meet high consumer standards. Automation guarantees that every action is performed identically, which results in high quality, reliable results and each customer experiences the same level of service from each area of the business. To ensure data consistency, some systems can be set up to automatically cleanse outlying data sets so that irregularities due not skew sales forecasts. This leads to more optimized inventories with fewer out of stocks or excess inventory situations.
Saving Time and Costs
It is no secret that manual tasks are time consuming. Automating processes significantly reduces the number of manual tasks and frees up time to work on things like building business values and business development, allowing you to be innovative and increase levels of motivation within the company. Additionally, automation allows companies to get more done with the same amount of time leading to a significant increase in productivity and faster turnaround times for both employees and customers.
Additionally, APO is structured, so it is manual to do any kind of change in the parameters in the levels of inventory. Without an APO strategy, warehouses lack an automatic way to check inventory to determine how much inventory needs to loaded on each truck. In order to change the service level, the warehouse would need to go through each SKU and alter the SKU number. With an APO solution, the user cannot only easily adjust SKUs, but the solution automatically comes with the SKU numbers in the system. Furthermore, an APO system will set the ideal levels of inventory by understanding consumer demand at an aggregated level. Used correctly, an APO solution solves the problems of productivity and provides greater agility to respond more quickly and more specifically to the requirements of the customer or distribution center.
Controlling Governance and Reliability
The consistency of automated processes means you can rely on business processes to operate, offering a reliable service to customers and maintaining competitive advantage. The reliability of automation ensures that processes essential to business governance are constantly being executed. Automated systems have the ability to learn what’s happening with demands in real time and can oversee and coordinate logistics for outbound and inbound shipments. In addition, automation has the intelligence and ability to eliminate potential errors in shipments early on and provides the agility needed to respond quickly and address these errors to keep processes moving through the supply chain.
Furthermore, automation enables APO systems to manage routine planning and replenishment tasks automatically. This allows staff to focus on managing exceptions that require human experience and market knowledge. With staff focusing on these high value-added tasks while the system manages routine planning and replenishment tasks, companies can reach an optimal balance of automation and human intervention.
The ability to automate these key business processes increases the ease of use of APO solutions and gives companies greater flexibility into their supply chain for a shorter reaction time to be able to respond quickly and fulfill consumer needs.