Over the past year, it seems like the concept of digital transformation has taken a back seat to specific tools and technologies to automate and optimize processes within an organization. In many ways, this reflects the reality that digital transformation is a given that firms have gone beyond defining a strategy to trying to put it into action.
One of the most challenging and potentially rewarding targets for transformation is the supply chain, where new levels of efficiency and insight have the potential to benefit a broad eco-system that includes the company, its vendors/suppliers and its customers.
Supply chain encompasses a range of different, siloed processes, functions, departments, and systems within an organization. It also extends to external entities like customers, suppliers, contractors, and service providers including carriers, brokers, insurance providers and inspection firms.
Companies that success in transforming their businesses, when there are so many moving parts involved, often do so by starting with a grand vision. They achieve that vision, however, by breaking it down into bite-sized pieces that focus on achieving a few quick wins, where ease of implementation and adoption, and extendability to other parts of the organization/operation are key.
A key component in any digital transformation strategy is the migration away from manual processes, burdened by a wide range of unstructured data sources including paper documents, emails, faxes, phone calls) and by a dependence on human workers to transform that unstructured data into structured information stored in ERP/ECM/CRM/other business database systems. Companies seeking to achieve a digital transformation migrate from the old ways of doing things to establishing automated, instrumented, connected, workflow-driven processes.
From our experience at Artsyl, and from talking with partners, customers and other solution providers within our ecosystem, we’ve been able to distil what all this means and what a truly digital supply chain looks like.
This is what our successful customers tell us their digital supply chain looks like:
No redundant data entry — Duplicate data entry is a source of error and inefficiency that companies can no longer tolerate if they want to transform their businesses. A keyboard is an obstacle; data should flow freely through systems across the supply chain without the need for a human operator to rekey anything.
Timely Data Capture — The Internet of Things (IoT) is about capturing information automatically, at its source. Barcode scans, RFID, video analytics, GPS devices, motion detectors, etc., replace manual monitoring and recording of data and communication of KPIs. In this sense, paper documents are a “thing.” I other words, where paper flows into the organization, it should become digitized and information should be extracted automatically, without manual data entry (see the previous bullet).
Automate rules, manage exceptions — Automation should be designed to handle the majority of tasks, relying on human process owners when exceptions are identified. When human intervention is required, existing systems should be designed to learn and adapt so that over time, there are fewer exceptions that require (literal) hand-holding. This is where machine learning comes in. Over time, humans become increasingly focused on higher-level skills and decision-making and systems take over more and more of the routine.
Efficiency Breeds Insight — Data captured throughout the supply chain at key points in any process is leveraged to further optimize and streamline processes. This is where you get to refocus your human operators, so they can spend more time adding value to the process and focusing on improving the end results.
Evolve or Die — In the past, rigidity of a given system or process within the supply chain could bring the kind of transformation we’re talking about to its knees. The systems, processes and tools we are talking about need to be able to evolve, so they can anticipate and adapt to changes in the business environment organically.
With a clear vision for what supply chain digital transformation looks like the next question is where to start. Rather than taking on everything at once, successful companies identify processes that are relatively simple, involve a high enough volume/velocity of information to deliver a substantial reward and can result in the implementation of systems/processes that can scale to adapt and handle other processes.
To learn more about how to get started on your digital transformation journey to lower costs, boost productivity and achieve greater process control, contact your Artsy account executive at email@example.com.