Supply chain management remains one of the most crucial parts of the business world, and the future of work in the industry is poised to change significantly in the near future.
With advancements in automation and artificial intelligence (AI), there’s no doubt that the way goods are produced, transported, and distributed is set to undergo a radical transformation.
According to a study, the global market for supply chain automation is expected to reach $88.9 billion by 2026. And this shows how fast the industry is evolving, highlighting the need for professionals to stay up-to-date with the latest developments.
But while these technologies offer new and exciting possibilities, they also present challenges that businesses must address.
In this article, we will look at the future of supply chain management and how automation and artificial intelligence are set to impact it.
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Overview of supply chain management
Supply chain management refers to all the processes involved, from the procurement of raw materials to the delivery of the product to the end customer.
According to Shawn Plummer, CEO of The Annuity Expert, “At every stage in supply chain management, there are decisions to be made and tasks to be completed. Therefore, you must have good systems and processes in place to ensure everything runs supply chain disruptions smoothly.”
Even though there are many different parts to supply chain management, there are some key components. They include:
- Planning: The very first step is when you try to figure out what to make, how much of it to make, and when to make it.
- Sourcing: After deciding what to produce, you must find the best and most cost-effective raw materials needed to make the product.
- Production: It involves the process by which the raw materials are put together to create the finished product, whether that’s in a factory, on a farm, or somewhere else.
- Transporting: This includes all the steps in helping you get the finished products from the point of production to the point of sale.
- Selling: As soon as the goods are ready, the next step is putting the product on the shelves or online for your customers to buy.
- Delivery: When a customer orders your product, you must ensure it gets to them safely and in the best condition possible. You must maintain good communication with customers throughout the entire delivery process.
The idea behind supply chain management is to make all these different parts work together smoothly and efficiently to make your products available to customers when they want them.
It’s a big job, and it affects many people and companies along the way, from the suppliers of raw materials to the workers who make the product, the truck drivers who transport it, and the shop assistants who sell it.
But when it’s done well, everyone has what they need to do their job, customers get what they want, and the whole thing runs like a well-oiled machine!
Automation in supply chain management
Automation has been employed in many activities to increase efficiency and accuracy, and supply chain management is not left out.
In supply chain management, automation has been used to streamline and improve various processes in the supply chain, such as order tracking, inventory management, and transportation planning.
Automating these tasks means that companies can reduce the manual effort risk of human error, make faster and more informed decisions, and ultimately improve the overall performance of their supply chain.
For example, automated inventory management systems can track stock levels in real-time and automatically order replacements when stock runs low. Therefore, it helps you eliminate the need for manual inventory checks.
Benefits of automation in supply chain management
You stand to benefit from automation in your supply chain management. Some benefits include the following:
- Improved accuracy: Automation can help reduce the risk of human error in tasks such as data entry and inventory management. That means you have to worry about fewer mistakes.
- Increased efficiency: Undoubtedly, automated processes can be completed faster and with less effort than manual tasks. This can help you free up time for other important tasks and make your overall supply chain process more efficient.
- Better tracking: Automated systems can provide real-time information on the status of your orders, shipments, and inventory levels, helping you stay on top of your supply chain and helping you make more informed decisions.
- Cost savings: By reducing manual labour, automation can help lower labour costs and increase profitability. McKinsey found that 61% of respondents saw a reduction in supply chain planning costs.
- Improved customer service: Automation is the way to go to speed up processes and reduce the time it takes to get products to customers. It can help improve customer satisfaction and help build a strong reputation.
Artificial Intelligence in supply chain management
Artificial intelligence is currently revolutionising many aspects of our lives.
In supply chain management, it involves using computer algorithms and machine learning technologies to optimise various processes and improve the overall performance of the supply chain.
According to Tom Golubovich, Head of Marketing and Media Relations at Ninja Transfers, “Businesses can use artificial intelligence to analyse data from various sources such as sales trends, inventory levels, and shipping times, to predict demand and make smarter decisions about ordering and stocking products. This helps to reduce the amount of waste and overstocking.”
Another area where AI is used in supply chain management is routing and scheduling delivery trucks.
By using algorithms that consider factors such as traffic, weather conditions, and delivery times, AI can help to optimise the delivery routes and reduce the time it takes to get products to customers. Therefore, leading to improved customer satisfaction and reduced costs for the supply chain.
Benefits of artificial intelligence in supply chain management
Artificial intelligence is rapidly changing how we do things, and it’s no different in the world of supply chain management.
Here are some of the key benefits of using AI in this area:
- Improved efficiency: Artificial intelligence can help you automate many manual tasks in the supply chain, freeing up time for other, more critical tasks. That means that tasks are completed faster and with fewer errors.
- Better predictive analytics: Artificial intelligence can help companies predict demand, inventory levels, and shipping times, which helps to optimise supply chain processes and reduce waste.
- Increased visibility: Artificial intelligence can provide real-time data and insights into the supply chain, allowing you to make informed decisions about your operations.
- Enhanced customer service: Artificial intelligence can help you personalise your customer experiences by providing recommendations on previous purchases, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Reduced costs: Artificial intelligence can help companies streamline their supply chain processes, reducing waste and increasing efficiency. This can result in significant cost savings over time.
By leveraging artificial intelligence, you can better manage your operations, improve customer service, and stay ahead of the competition.
Prediction for the future of supply chain management
In the future, it is expected that more tasks and processes in supply chain management will be handled by machines and software instead of people. And this is because automation and AI can make the supply chain process faster, more efficient, and more accurate.
The shift towards automation and AI in the supply chain will likely bring many benefits. For instance, machines can work 24/7 without getting tired, making mistakes, or taking breaks. They can also analyse vast amounts of data in seconds, helping companies make better decisions.
However, it’s also important to note that this trend will likely result in changes to the workforce, with some jobs becoming automated and others being transformed. Some workers must develop new skills to remain relevant in the changing job market.
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The future of work in supply chain management is set to change dramatically in the coming years due to advancements in automation and artificial intelligence.
The global market for supply chain automation is expected to grow exponentially, and professionals in the industry need to stay up-to-date with the latest developments.
The question remains: How will businesses adapt to the changes, and what will the impact be on the industry and the wider economy?
We must embrace the opportunities presented by automation and AI while mitigating the potential risks and ensuring that the benefits are distributed fairly. As we move forward into the future, we must be prepared to adapt and evolve to remain competitive and successful in this rapidly changing landscape.
This article was written by Rachel Ann Tee-Melegrito, content writer, occupational therapist and SEO strategist.