Supply chain automation refers to the use of digital technologies to connect applications, improve efficiencies, and streamline processes in a company’s supply chain. This means the administration of different people, organisations, resources, activities, and technologies, involved in manufacturing and distributing a product or service, can be carried out with greater efficiency and speed. It can also reduce costs and minimise supply shortages. Automated supply chains also make it easier for companies to meet compliance standards, such as health and safety or best practice, especially regarding facilities in different countries observing different regulations.
Many companies still rely on legacy systems, longstanding individual networks that operate apart from each other. That disconnect in communications within the supply chain can lead to inefficiencies, lack of visibility, and general uncertainty. However, with an automated, centralised operation, your company’s end-to-end supply chain will be transparent and connected, while also eradicating manual labour from the process.
What are the environmental benefits of automation?
In general, we have seen an increased use of automated equipment in recent years. This shift has had a significant impact on our contribution to the environment. While it may lead to loss of jobs previously performed manually, the overall effect on the environment is extremely positive. For example, heavy duty manual operated machinery emits more CO2 to the environment compared to automated electronic machines. Automated machines can help to reduce carbon emissions by half and thus allowing air to clear up.
In the automotive industry, car manufacturing is largely automated, with human teams replaced by robots. This shift from manual labour to automation has enabled more efficient energy management in factories. Also, it has meant more reliable data has been collated resulting then in better managed supply chains. This has allowed manufacturers to reduce waste and emissions across the entire lifecycle of products, from raw materials through to transport.
How does supply chain automation work?
Supply chain management processes involve various administrative documents. Employees in the supply chain department manually store and process these documents for various reasons, but this is an unnecessarily time-consuming enterprise. Using artificial intelligence & OCR (optical character recognition), businesses can achieve end-to-end document automation. Today, tasks like data capture, information analysis, and immediate correspondence can all be achieved automatically and quicker than before.
B2BE’s sales order automation, for example, uses its own online portal that allows you to receive sales orders via email or facsimile. It is a fully hosted product and is accessible through the B2BE’s web portal. Product and price catalogues can be loaded into the system automatically and as sales orders go through the system, they are validated to ensure the client’s purchase order data is accurate.
It also uses OCR to automatically identify the sales order data to create electronic files, working with its EDI (electronic data interchange). B2BE’s system also creates EDI based files once they have been through the validation process so the sales orders can be uploaded and managed the same as EDI sales orders.
Sales orders are sent to the system as images and the data is captured to create an electronic file. The software learns as part of the data capture process so the automation itself improves over time to create the files automatically.
Using automation, sales orders are automatically compared to other product catalogue data to immediately spot incorrect information like part numbers, units of measure or pricing.
Because of this, companies’ customer service staff are notified immediately. They will be able to focus on the sales orders that have been found to contain errors so the errors can be fixed, and the sales order can be processed. This process streamlines the journey from initial order to shipping and delivery.
What is the environmental effect of supply chain automation?
To match the challenge of our times, companies have had to utilise technology and automation to reduce their carbon emissions. Companies’ environmental footprint is becoming a key metric in how companies are perceived and how they operate internally. By moving away from manual and paper-based operations, organisations can reduce the amount of carbon they emit. As of 25 November 2021, automation has helped B2BE to save organisations:
- 153,334,447 in documents no longer printed
- 18,400 in trees not cut down
- +404,805 in CO2/KG emissions reduced
- +100 in specific document types no longer printed
Since automation also results in more accurate data, this will make it easier for companies to accurately track their carbon footprint, as well as smartly planning ways they can continue reducing it.
Using B2BE’s Carbon Footprint Calculator, companies can calculate the extent to which automating their documents would result in carbon reductions and the number of trees saved.