When it comes to supply chain processes, businesses have been feeling the pressure build over the past 12 months. But those that are thriving, rather than simply surviving, share at least one thing in common: They know the value of a data-driven approach, and are making the necessary investments to prove it.
Process automation can be a game-changer, delivering end-to-end visibility and risk monitoring, but it needs to be done right. It’s only as strong as the data feeding it. That data needs to have maximum accuracy, consistency and context. In other words, it needs to have data integrity.
Without that underlying foundation, business leaders will struggle to make the confident data-driven decisions they need to power a true supply chain transformation.
In a recent report, Process Automation in Supply Chain, members of the SAPinsider community were asked about the top supply chain concerns driving their need for process automation. Amid all the market volatilities of the past few years, it isn’t surprising that the top two responses were resiliency (51%) and agility (46%).
Additional telling details from the report include:
There’s clearly a significant gap between where the industry needs to be, and where it actually stands. Budget and change management are frequent culprits that delay process-automation initiatives, but in some cases, it just comes down to a lack of knowledge about technology tools.
The key objectives for process automation are becoming increasingly strategic. The need for cost reductions and productivity boosts remains top of mind, but other concerns are gaining traction, including end-to-end visibility (82%), increased efficiency (79%) and building internal skillsets (72%).
It’s time to take big steps toward the building of an agile and resilient supply chain. But where to start? Following are four suggestions from the SAPinsider report.
Build capabilities to monitor and measure supply chain processes. Look at your unique, current business needs and objectives, and develop a set of measures around them. While it can be beneficial to reference what’s been done in the past, a “copy-and-paste” method isn’t the way to go here.
Proactively detect anomalies by deploying machine learning-based predictive algorithms. This prevents small deviations from becoming bigger, costly downstream issues. For optimal results, integrate advanced process control capabilities into your supply chain control tower.
Map your unique strategy and roadmap for process automation. Don’t forget to go deeper than technology. For example, data governance of supply chain master data is crucial to success. And if your enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution is cloud-based, be sure to consider your cloud strategy.
Keep an eye on advanced automation opportunities. While auditing your supply chain processes, consider more advanced forms of automation, such as intelligent automation, which brings together people, processes, and technology, and cognitive automation, which, when embedded within robotic process automation (RPA), creates a human-machine collaboration that helps with more efficient decision-making.
Keep employees involved and engaged with specialized reskilling training. Create a true human-machine symbiosis by harnessing the knowledge of your own internal experts, and turning that into automated processes. Make sure that those who will remain working within the processes are involved from the beginning, and that they know how to best deploy the tools.
Ultimately, supply chain resilience relies on a programmatic approach for improving end-to-end process visibility and risk monitoring. To be successful and keep pace with disruptive global events and changing consumer expectations, supply chains must become both digital and autonomous. Process automation is critical, but the success of digitized processes and workflows will also rely on the accuracy, consistency and context of the data feeding them. Supply chain transformation, fueled by data integrity, will be the key to confident decision-making during the uncertain times ahead.
John Reda is senior vice president of product management for data integration at Precisely.
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