In order to maximise business cost efficiencies, it is essential to optimise supply chain automation with an eye to hands-on analysis of outcomes for customer service in order to keep the human touch that is the basis of trusted relationships.

Given that personnel is one of the greatest costs to business, it is understandable that businesses increasingly invest in autonomous hardware, such as, picking robots, RFID tagging technology and transportation tracking systems.  However, supply chain management (SCM) systems must be viewed as a complement to technology.  Systems planning will help identify where the balance of responsibilities could lie.

It is important to remember that transportation and logistics has traditionally relied on building of customer relationships between people, so reducing human interactions is not always possible according to, Ignacio Felix, talking to Supply Chain Dive.

This is because the bottleneck for many supply chains is in the planning of any supply chain automation. Complexity of process and diverse staff roles all have to be included into an automated business model.  From front line drivers and customer service staff, through to back-office purchasing and finance departments, “…you really have a lot of manual pass-throughs of the same information,” says Felix.

Legacy IT systems can, he says, be an additional barrier to SCM systems planning.  Integration with existing communications platforms, or transition to completely new, comprehensive systems potentially slows productivity, for instance.  While this is a short to medium term issue, implementation if an effective supply chain management system ultimately transforms performance, making it an investment for longer term competitiveness and longevity.

Planning can seem tedious, but given current technological capacity to automate many repetitive business processes, however, the leveraging of automated data management and transfer and harnessing solutions that refresh supply chain planning processes can produce measurable and unanticipated efficiencies, potentially creating a virtually ‘touchless system’, driven by data. Human error, often based in boredom, or crisis management is minimised.

The Best Approach to Supply Chain Automation Planning

 

lnvestors in Kraft Heinz were told this year that with automated systems, the company establishes “… transparent and challenging targets and coordinate global KPI tracking, and with a global, end-to-end supply chain perspective, we remove capacity constraints and bottlenecks from the system.”  In other words, they could plan objectives that could be easily measured against tracking data.  This clarity of business processes enables this conglomerate to identify areas for making efficiencies, as well as remaining accountable to shareholders and other stakeholders.

Ultimately then, technological investment is best practice in customer service.  Their centralised ‘Global Center of Excellence’ in the Netherlands controls and monitors operations, plus shapes this multi-national company’s overall vision and direction, including digital planning.  SCM systems ‘dashboards’ help managers devise tactical programs based on issues highlighted in data analysis, which in turn supports for “…cross-functional collaboration”, says Craig Guillot of SupplyChainDive.com

Marco Rodrigues, head of Kraft Heinz’s Global Center of Excellence believes that there are opportunities for efficiency savings and areas for improving effectiveness everywhere in organisations.  They take the attitude that “… no area is off-limits.”

Of course, readers may argue that an international company of their size has the necessary resources for identifying and implementing efficiency measures. However, it is in the margins that companies ultimately find the edge.  Now more than ever before, as the SCM automation systems are available, smaller companies can save time and money, building their market share with hardware and software, deployed and managed centrally, that equips them to compete.

With leadership who can access centralised information quickly and easily,  senior staff can split test strategies and tactics for optimal performance to create cumulative improvements to operations across departments.  The innovations opened up, together with an empowered governing infrastructure helps supply chain management and transportation logistics companies better develop staff talent and performance management practices that ultimately builds robustness.

Investment in “…machine learning technologies, advanced analytics and process design” is a must for automation to become optimised, according to Supply Chain Dive.   This automation supports decision makers to experiment with new solutions to apparently intractable conditions.  Governance becomes increasingly about iterative development, founded on data management infrastructure that objectively measures systematically applied performance management practices.

Central data management, says Felix, can support companies to “…pilot fast, fail fast…” and thereby move towards success faster also.