Automation has quickly risen as a strategic must-have for the future of the supply chain in the face of growing uncertainty and fast-changing market dynamics. As organizations evolve and their supply chain networks become increasingly interconnected, automation empowers organizations to connect data, make more informed decisions, and increase the speed of those decisions.

Research and advisory firm IDC reports that one-third of companies have embarked on automation initiatives, but these initiatives are still in very early stages, relying on siloed automation processes and a disparate interaction between people and technology. Although many companies have implemented some level of automation in their supply chain operations, it is evident that these initiatives are disjointed and are failing to establish a seamless, fully automated end-to-end supply chain planning environment for long-term success.

In the Supply and Demand Chain Executive article, The Progression of Automation: Moving the Supply Chain from the Past to the Future,  John Galt Solutions’ Global Product Strategy Leader, Alex Pradhan, cites that “everyone’s automation journey is different.” As companies progress on the path to optimize their end-to-end supply chain network, it’s critical to harness automation to gain the ability to better connect the multiple touchpoints of the network, and enhance decision-making across strategic and execution time horizons. 

To achieve a truly connected and efficient end-to-end supply chain, companies must embrace the power of intelligent automation. This advanced technology serves as the vital connective tissue that binds and aligns all decisions throughout the supply chain, enabling companies to enhance their decision velocity.

In the article, Alex delivers insightful recommendations across four key areas for companies to embrace automation to advance supply chain planning processes and accelerate decision velocity:

1. Identify the Right Tool for Each Task

Approaching your automation journey with a segmented approach is crucial. It’s important to note that different tasks require varying tools because differing supply chain planning decisions can require different levels of automation. By segmenting and identifying the types of decisions and automation required, you can deploy the appropriate tools and gradually progress towards more advanced forms of automation. This approach ensures you are set up for success across your decision-making processes. 

Automation can take various forms, from leveraging basic rule-based automation to advanced machine learning algorithms. For routine and repetitive tasks, rule-based automation can be implemented to free up human resources and improve accuracy. On the other hand, complex decision-making processes can benefit from advanced machine learning algorithms that analyze large volumes of data and generate insights to support strategic decision-making. By matching the right tool to each task, companies can effectively streamline their supply chain operations and accelerate decision-making.

2. Enable 360 Degrees of Visibility

To harness the true value of automation, it’s important to shift from a singular focus on individual functions to a holistic, end-to-end perspective. A 360-degree view of the supply chain enables seamless connectivity and integration across various touchpoints. By breaking down silos and connecting processes and activities, you can increase visibility and enable comprehensive, end-to-end decision-making. For many companies, this step means moving away from static and disconnected approaches, and it’s a critical shift for unlocking the full potential of automation and achieving accelerated decision velocity.

With the advent of technologies such as sensors and real-time data analytics, companies can gather data from various sources, including suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, customers—inside and outside the four walls. This data can provide insights into demand patterns, inventory levels, production capacities, and delivery timelines. For example, the Atlas Planning Platform takes in any data you have available to deliver a holistic view of the end-to-end supply chain, to truly orchestrate and connect data, decisions and operations.

3. A Focus on Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics

While traditional techniques like visualization and what-if analysis have their merits, they often fall short in providing proactive insights and actionable recommendations. To truly anticipate future events and make informed decisions, it is crucial to emphasize predictive and prescriptive analytics. These advanced techniques enable you to answer questions such as "what might happen in the future" and "what should I do." Placing emphasis on leveraging predictive and prescriptive analytics allows you to identify future opportunities, mitigate risks, reduce uncertainty, and make decisions with greater confidence.

Predictive analytics utilizes historical data and statistical models to forecast future trends and outcomes. Through analysis of patterns and relationships within the data, companies can identify potential disruptions, anticipate changes in demand, and optimize the supply chain accordingly. Prescriptive analytics takes it a step further by providing actionable recommendations on how to optimize operations and make the best decisions in different scenarios.

4. Align Decision-making with a Digital Supply Chain Twin

A digital supply chain twin (DSCT) is a virtual replica of your physical supply chain, capturing all the relationships and interdependencies in real-time. It serves as a dynamic representation that enables decision alignment, orchestration, and coordination across the supply chain. Automation plays a pivotal role in processing and analyzing the vast amounts of data generated by the digital twin. By automating data capture, translation, and generating valuable insights, you can accelerate decision-making with a higher level of confidence and accuracy.

The DSCT integrates data from various sources, including sensors, internal systems, and external data feeds. Through automation, this data is continuously updated and analyzed to provide real-time visibility into the state of the supply chain. By simulating different scenarios and evaluating the impact of potential decisions, companies can proactively identify bottlenecks, optimize processes, and ensure the smooth flow of goods and information. This advanced model acts as a testing ground for decision-making, allowing companies to assess the potential outcomes and make informed choices before implementing them in the physical supply chain.

Making the Most of Supply Chain Automation

Embracing automation and leveraging advanced technologies will enable you to navigate the increased complexities of today’s environment and stay ahead of the competition.

Let us show you how you can start your journey towards accelerated decision-making today and secure a brighter future for your supply chain. With the right automation strategy in place, you can transform your supply chain into a connected and intelligent ecosystem that drives growth, resilience, and competitive advantage.