~90% of supply chain leaders invest in digital supply chain technologies.1 Workload automation (WLA) tools can be used in retail, human resources (HR), and supply chain operations. However, many supply chain leaders do not know about WLA tools.
Workload automation tools can schedule, initiate, and trigger back-end (i.e., end to end) supply chain tasks from a single platform. This article explores the benefits of workload automation in supply chains according to the business domains they contribute to.
Figure 1. WLA in the supply chain.2
WLA benefits in supply chain data management
Data use can be critical for supply chain management. For example, customer, sales, inventory, and product data can be used in inventory management. These raw data can be kept in separate tables in databases and integrated before being used in predictive analytics.
However, data integration can be time-consuming and can involve repetitive tasks. It can involve various operations like extracting, joining, cleaning, validating, enriching, and loading. Data analysts can spend about ~45% of their time in this process to prepare models (Figure 2).
WLA tools can:
- Improved data collection and integration: WLA can automate data gathering and integration from a variety of sources, including:
- supplier databases
- inventory systems
- logistics systems
- Enhanced data validation and cleansing: Workload automation can automate the validation and cleansing of data, ensuring that it is correct and consistent.
- Faster data analysis and reporting: Workload automation can automate the process of data analysis and report generation, offering real-time insight into supply management activities.
- Automated data archiving and retention: WLA can automate the data archiving and retention process, ensuring that data is correctly saved and conveniently available for future study.
- Improved data security: WLA can be used to automate data security processes such as encrypting sensitive data and monitoring for potential breaches.
Figure 2. ~45% of the time is spent preparing data.4
WLA benefits in supply chain task orchestration
Supply chain task orchestration involves coordinating and managing tasks to move a product or service through supply chains. The process can include:
- obtaining raw ingredients
The following factors can increase the supply chain task orchestration difficulty and lead to inefficiencies:
- Complexity: Supply chain job orchestration involves several tasks and procedures with their criteria and limits. This complexity can make task coordination difficult.
- Visibility: It can be hard to see all of the supply chain’s jobs and operations, making it hard to find and fix problems.
- Flexibility: Demand variations and supply chain disruptions can necessitate flexible supply chain task orchestration.
Workload automation helps supply chain task orchestration. WLA can:
- Compliance and auditing: WLA can automate applications and workflows to create audit trails to track processes and task execution.WLA can automate the process of assuring compliance with:
- rules and industry standards.
- service level agreements.
- Enhanced multi-system integration: WLA can automate data and process integration across different systems, including ERP systems, transportation management systems (TMS), and warehouse management systems (WMS). It can, for example, improve coordination between data management tools such as:
- SAP Integrated Business Planning (IBP)
- SAP Business Warehouse (BW)
- SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
WLA benefits in supply chain domains
Figure 3. Warehouse task cycle.5
Warehouses can be complicated and dynamic places. Workload automation software can:
- Automated quality control: Workload automation systems can automate quality control workflows such as:
- checking for damaged goods.
- inspecting products for flaws.
- recording quality control data.
- Boost material handling: Workload automation solutions can automate the process of moving and handling materials within a warehouse, including:
- using robots to load and unload goods.
- move items to and from storage.
- transfer goods between different warehouse locations.
- Enhanced labor management: Workload automation systems can automate warehouse labor management, including:
- creating labor productivity reports.
- monitoring team member performance.
- scheduling and tracking staff work hours.
- Enhance order fulfillment: Workload automation systems can integrate order fulfillment applications and tools. This can automate workflows related to:
- labeling and sending packages.
- updating client order status.
- picking and packing items.
- Improve inventory management: WLA solutions can assist in managing inventory levels in a warehouse automatically, including:
- creating inventory trend reports.
- monitoring stock levels.
- reordering items as needed.
- Improved reporting and analytics: WLA solutions can collect data from warehouse operations and provide reports to assist warehouse managers in:
- in real-time inventory predictions warehouses.
- identifying bottlenecks to reduce warehouse supply bottleneck risk.
- understanding trends. WLA can reduce time in daily, weekly, and monthly inventory predictions by automating data workflows.
- making data-driven decisions to improve warehouse operations.
Production Management/Operations Management
Figure 4. Production management/Operation management functions.6
- Extended quality control: WLA systems can automate the quality control process, which includes:
- assessing goods for flaws
- monitoring manufacturing operations
- recording quality control data. By automating these operations, you can increase the precision and consistency of quality control while lowering the risk of errors and faults.
- Improved cost control: WLA solutions can automate the cost-control process, including:
- tracking costs for raw materials.
- Upgraded maintenance and upkeep: WLA solutions can be used to automate maintenance and upkeep processes such as:
- scheduling maintenance
- monitoring spare parts inventory
- ensuring that equipment is repaired and maintained appropriately. Automating these tasks can reduce downtime, increase equipment performance, and extend equipment life.
- Optimized production scheduling: WLA software can help make a productive production schedule, reduce downtime, and meet production deadlines. WLA systems can automate scheduling manufacturing activities, such as:
- team members. This can:
- decrease the risk of stockouts and over- and underproduction.
- enable your business workflows to react faster to unanticipated changes in supply demand.
- enhance supply resilience
- improve forecasting in product consumption.
- Cut down warehouse transportation costs: Automating inventory management operations can help track inventory levels, replenish supplies, and identify and address stock issues, reducing warehouse transportation expenses.
- Increase pool distribution efficiency: Automating delivery scheduling and routing and offering real-time visibility into order and delivery statuses can assist optimize and streamline the distribution process.
- Reduce delays: Automating the detection and resolution of supply chain bottlenecks and offering real-time visibility can assist in identifying and resolving delays more rapidly.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint: Streamlining supply chain processes, minimizing superfluous truck and air shipments, and introducing energy-efficient operations can all help to lessen the supply chain’s environmental effects. These improvements can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon footprint and increase sustainability.
Figure 5. Demand and supply planning is taking over supply chain agendas.7
For more on supply chain automation:
- Supply Chain APIs vs EDIs: Benefits & Downsides with Examples
- 3 Ways To Improve Supply Chain Collaboration
- 5 Ways Hyperautomation Improves Supply Chains
You can download our workload automation whitepaper to learn more about the topic:
If you have further questions about workload automation best practices, you can reach us:
Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.
Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.
Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.
He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.
Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
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