The effects of COVID-19 have forced many companies to reimagine their operations. Between increased orders, customer inquiries, shipping delays, government regulations and remote workforces, supply-chain disruptions are becoming commonplace in the new normal.
How can business leaders restore stability? One powerful method is supply-chain automation.
A Less-Is-More Approach
In a crisis like COVID-19, there are many outcomes well beyond business leaders’ control. However, when it comes to the supply chain, leaders can impact one critical area: the end-to-end order experience. By implementing supply-chain automation, distributors and wholesale manufacturers can ensure this section of the supply-chain process runs as smoothly as possible.
Our new normal thrives on an organization’s ability to do more with less — regardless of the industry. For distributors and manufacturers, this means creating more efficient, more effective operations. By modernizing the supply-chain process with the power of A.I., machine learning and applied analytics, companies can cut costs and maximize workforce productivity. A complete digital transformation is a lengthy process — and one that shouldn’t be tackled all at once — but improving traditional operations with technology-driven processes will help organizations quickly reap the benefits of a less-is-more approach. Improving the supply-chain process with automation is a great first step.
Better Customer Service
By far, one of the most trying supply-chain challenges during the pandemic has been customer service. Since the outbreak, many distributors and manufacturers have been struggling to operate with a remote workforce and an onslaught of government restrictions, which has not only created widespread delivery delays, but it has also generated an overwhelming number of customer inquiries.
As a result, customer service representatives (CSRs) are under a lot of pressure. They are relying on their usual tools to handle this influx of inquiries while, unfortunately, still attempting to tackle the repetitive, manual tasks on their plates. When CSRs in the manufacturing and distributing sectors typically spend three or four hours manually keying in purchase orders, it leaves little time in their workdays for customer-facing activities. During a crisis, it is nearly impossible for CSRs to function effectively with this workflow. This tedious, time-consuming process drastically hinders CSR productivity and slows down supply-chain efficiency.
With a fully automated sales order process, this section of supply-chain operations can be significantly improved. Instead of having your CSRs waste time trying to manually input orders, the right software can automatically convert emailed purchase orders into sales orders without the need for human intervention. Having sales order automation on hand frees up hours of your CSRs’ time and allows them to focus more on interacting with your customers. Replacing manual processes with automation accelerates supply-chain operations. With thousands of staff hours freed up, organizations can allocate them to high-value activities focused on generating revenue.
According to Visual Capitalist, warehouse automation was the top investment for retail, management and logistics professionals last year — followed closely by predictive analytics. While supply-chain automation has traditionally been associated with the warehouse floor, it is just as important in handling critical documents like sales orders and improving customer service. When day-to-day business operations are running efficiently, thanks to improved processes, supply-chain stability is a guaranteed result.
If the pandemic proved one thing, it’s that business leaders in every industry must upgrade their outdated and inefficient processes. To ensure you’re as prepared as possible when the next crisis hits, the time to become an agile, efficient organization is now. By enabling distributors and wholesale manufacturers to keep customer service standards high and optimize business processes, supply-chain automation helps them boost supply-chain stability.
Implementing high-impact and high-ROI supply-chain automation allows distributors and wholesale manufacturers to maximize their cost savings and revenue opportunities, while cutting out the need for additional expenses and resources. With the power of automation, the supply-chain process flow is stable and fully prepared to handle any future disruptions.
Ray Grady is president and CEO of Conexiom.