Industry Voice: Global supply chain crisis - can automation and integration protect businesses?

clock • 4 min read
Industry Voice: Global supply chain crisis - can automation and integration protect businesses?

Whether you make computer chips or potato chips, supply chain issues and shortages can wreak havoc on your business. Not only is there a financial and competitive cost, but perhaps even more damaging is the loss of customer trust, which can take years to gain and seconds to lose.

Trying to prevent empty shelves whilst avoiding wasteful surplus inventory is an increasing challenge in today's environment of unpredictable online shoppers and flash demand.

This is not just a retail phenomenon either: multiple sectors, from medical manufacturers to logistics companies are feeling the supply chain strain, whether it's a lack of fuel, components, or ingredients.  

This has been made all the more difficult with the pandemic putting further strain on supply chains - a lack of toilet roll is not the only thing that can leave consumers feeling caught short!

It is therefore essential that companies manage their supply chains efficiently to insulate the business from shocks and disruptions. While it's not always possible to control for external factors such as shipping delays, it is at least possible - and certainly desirable - to have the agility to react quickly when supply chains threaten to break down.   

Managing the unpredictable

If there's one thing the last few years have taught us, it is that there can always be new and unprecedented challenges around the corner.

Ensuring your business can respond to changing circumstances must be a priority if hoping to overcome these often-unpredictable events. To do this a company must be agile, using resources efficiently and ensuring effective communication between all business systems.

Many companies are discovering the answer through the adoption of application integration technologies, which can help glue together a supply chain, seamlessly connecting different processes into one easy-to-use platform.

Real-time data synchronization and connection among enterprise systems allows for a more dynamic and responsive business, ensuring the integrity of business inventory and avoiding static and irresponsive supply chains.

For example - in a retail context, buyers can adjust restocking frequencies with ease, able to scale up or down depending on demand, without lengthy and repetitive manual processes, becoming far more agile as a result.

Application integration can also give management access to data sets which can help them analyse and predict trends more accurately: this can prove invaluable in demand forecasting and can crucially benefit the intelligent decision-making of company leadership.

Automating your supply chain

Another solution is using automation in crucial areas to increase the efficiency - and flexibility - of a business's supply chain.

By automating new vendor and supplier onboarding, for example, companies are discovering that they can effectively navigate vendor shortages and the resulting delays. If one vendor is out of stock, a new vendor can swiftly be brought in to plug the gap in less than a day.  

Furthermore, a consistent problem in supply chains is the issue of orders being lost in transit. We have worked with one grocery chain using outdated systems where supply chain throughput was around 65 percent; that means 35 percent of orders were being lost.

This level of wastage is not only extremely costly but also can weigh down a business, making it less agile in the face of external issues.

Using AI-powered workflows to automate data integration is an excellent way of solving this as it enables easy and accessible management of data, breaking down barriers between different areas of your business and enabling efficient communication across your entire supply chain.

Automation in this manner is also highly scalable, allowing a business to benefit from its success whilst also providing the option to efficiently respond to changes in demand and supply.

While a lack of technical knowledge among the employee base has long been a barrier to many businesses' adoption of automation, a low-code, drag-and-drop approach solves this by allowing employees to quickly modify pipelines on the go. This gives them the tools to respond to changing circumstances, drastically increasing a supply chain's ability to flex in real-time, without needing to rely on IT specialist support to make changes.  

What the future holds

Application integration and automation can therefore create a smarter, more streamlined business which can benefit all aspects of the supply chain, give companies a competitive edge in a febrile environment, and ultimately, help keep customers and employees happy.

No-one truly can see what the future holds, but ensuring your business is able to duck and weave through oncoming challenges by adopting a responsive, scalable and dynamic supply chain through application integration and automation is a good place to start.

This post was funded by SnapLogic.

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