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Automating supply chain innovation

Automation offers the supply chain significant advantages across efficiency, capability and reducing complexity. It can take on the tedium while opening up opportunity, and it can cut costs while allowing for improvements in deliverable and customer engagement. It is also still in the early stages of adoption - organisations are unsure as to its longevity while employees are concerned about its ubiquity.

There have also been challenges around the cost of implementing the technology and the skilled labour force required to manage and control it alongside the fears that it will usurp roles and oust people. Today, however, these challenges are changing as the technology becomes increasingly affordable and accessible and both organisations and employees recognise the benefits that it brings.
Image source: Gallo/Getty

Thanks to decreased costs and accessibility, South African organisations have more opportunity to take advantage of the productivity and management capabilities that automation introduces. They are also starting to see how automation, implemented intelligently, can increase accuracy, reduce time spent on specific tasks and enhance employee experiences.

Companies that are assisting their employees to embrace technology and work with it to improve their performance are seeing noticeable and significant increases in performance activity and bottom-line results.

It is not just a technology that usurps the role of the employee it is equally a solution that can improve overtime and workload management, increase engagement and fundamentally shift quality of life. Of course, these alterations in employee behaviour result in improved customer service and communication.

Changing the face of automation


Automation tools can improve working environments and empower employees but the level of impact is entirely dependent on the level of implementation and organisation expectation. As with anything, there is a dark side and it has to be addressed to ensure that any implementation is of value. For example, with automation changes in the last-mile supply chain, customers can end up receiving too much information.

They are bombarded with messages about timings of delivery, calls from drivers letting them know that they are on the way, alerts reminding them of an impending arrival – all excellent barometers of customer service on the surface, but with more than one delivery a customer may well feel overwhelmed.

Automation overload has to be managed realistically, just as automation itself cannot be ignored and left by the wayside. Any organisation within the supply chain that assumes the technology isn’t going to stick is going to find itself outdated and left behind.

The latter may be a sentiment often touted across expert and interview, but that’s because it is the truth. Automation may not be perfect, but it does offer a competitive edge when implemented within the constraints of relevance and strategy. What the organisation should be asking is this – what should be done to really get the most from automation investment?

The answer lies in looking to opportunity:

• In providing employees with the opportunity to enhance their skills alongside the technology platforms within the organisation.

• In being aware of how automation will affect different roles and functions and how to work with this change rather than against it.

• To see it as an opportunity to do more and achieve more than ever before.

Companies that are assisting their employees to embrace technology and work with it to improve their performance are seeing noticeable and significant increases in performance activity and bottom-line results. Increased visibility is enabling powerful developmental conversations and increasing collaboration across roles and departments. Technology is also equipping leaders with the ability to hone in on key focus areas that can transform business efficiency.

Proactive decision-making and the ability to streamline processes is critical to success.

Over the next few years, the industries that are not evolving and investing in technology will feel the impact. In the logistics space, logistics operators need to problem-solve and address multiple touchpoints along the delivery journey. Proactive decision-making and the ability to streamline processes is critical to success. The industry is already facing increased pressure to transform and adapt as competitors and disruptors engage with technology and redefine efficiency.

Perhaps in the past, automation and the emerging technologies of digital transformation were met with scepticism as logistics operators found comfort in the control that manual processes and documents provided; today, market expectations are pushing the boundaries of what is possible and technology, automation and business analytics and intelligence has never been more crucial.
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About the author

David Slotow is CEO of Trackmatic.
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