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Digital supply networks: Why it’s time for the automated supply chain

The disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak have had an enormous impact on supply chains worldwide. Manufacturers have shut down or operated at reduced capacity, airports and borders have closed, and shortages of materials and products have occurred. Greater supply chain resilience in the future is a must, with more visibility and agility to deal with unforeseen circumstances quicker and more effectively. Organizations are now investigating the possibilities of a smarter, automated supply chain.

Let’s explore why that is. But first, let’s take a closer look at the situation right now, and what supply chain resilience really means.

Supply chain resilience today

In the Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 for 2020, the research and advisory company found that just 21% of survey respondents felt they had a highly resilient supply network. However, rectifying this is a priority, since more than half expect to be highly resilient within two to three years.

But what are the hallmarks of a resilient supply chain? In Supply Chain Resilience: A Risk Intelligent Approach to Managing Global Supply Chains, Deloitte defines four pillars:

  • Visibility (tracking, monitoring, and anticipating events and patterns)
  • Flexibility (adapting in response to issues while minimizing cost increases)
  • Collaboration (working effectively in cooperation with supply chain partners)
  • Control (ensuring procedures and processes are implemented)

With an automated supply chain, organizations can introduce much-needed agility and rigor, while expediting decision-making, approvals, and other processes that would otherwise be subject to damaging delays.

The power of a supply chain automation solutions

Supply chain automation solutions enable fast, streamlined processes with high visibility, allowing stakeholders from disparate locations, departments, and organizations to be efficiently connected. The efficiency gains of such solutions allows organizations to be more agile and ensure better compliance, due to a series of pre-defined rules and templates that can keep an automatic audit trail.

To illustrate an automated supply chain in action, we’ll look at some examples of how supply chain automation has made a difference to a range of businesses.

Streamlining purchase requests

Approval and processing times can be dramatically reduced when you automate purchase requests like leading chemical supplier Buckman did. By converting manual procurement processes to digital workflows, they reduced approval and processing times from five weeks down to a matter of days.

Sales associates can now process purchase reports much quicker and more easily, automating tasks such as creating customer folders and managing access permissions. And because record updates are automatically synchronized, and team members notified when new information is available, business decisions are based on more accurate, up to date information.

Digitizing standard operating procedures

By automating standard operating procedures (SOPs), food wholesaler FEGRO/SELGROS transformed their ineffective paper-based processes to deliver much greater efficiency and transparency.

With a centralized SOP repository and central control over their procedures, they are now able to obtain a greater level of visibility and ensure employees stay compliant. And, as well as collecting and storing their processes digitally and making them available to everyone who needs them, they also took the opportunity to improve and automate them, enforcing reviews and approvals. Now the business can operate more effectively, be more productive, and achieve more agility.

Enabling effective management and tracking

Until they adopted an automated supply chain, San Francisco Municipal Transport Authority (SFMTA) managed its supply chain processes via email. This was prone to errors, poor communication, lost documents, and other issues that resulted in delays and inefficiency.

SFMTA eliminated paper forms, digitizing processes across the board so workers can more easily follow, inspect, and participate in them. Now, every process and task can be tracked, building transparency and accountability into all work undertaken by contractors and others. The agency is now recording over 100,000 workflow executions per year, a testament to how vital supply chain automation solutions have become to their operations.

Ready for an automated supply chain?

We hope this article has shown you some of the possibilities on offer when you adopt supply chain automation. If you’d like to explore this topic in further depth, ChainLink Research has created a white paper that details how organizations can use supply automated workflows to deal with supply chain challenges. You can download Getting Real with Digital Supply Chains here.

Whatever crises and opportunities the future brings, process management and automation have the potential to take away some of the uncertainty and ensure organizations can respond quickly and handle all the eventualities. At Nintex, we’re dedicated to making that possible for businesses all over the world.



If you’d like to discuss the benefits of supply chain automation further, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Or you can also try Nintex for yourself with a 30-day free trial.  



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