Women walking through warehouse, holding tablet while envisioning elements of supply chain.

Is Supply Chain Automation A No-Brainer?

06-Jan-2023 08:22:36

In 2019, half of all US manufacturing and distribution sales – $8.4 trillion in business-to-business sales – were processed manually, with customer service representatives typing in purchase orders by hand. This method is both tedious and susceptible to errors and fraud, whereas a digitalised process management and automation system can save companies thousands of hours and reduce audit risks and the risk of human error.

Automated supply chain workflows reduce the communication delays and errors common in manual tasks. The typical manual supply chain involves co-ordinating multiple variables and people, often with no visible chain of custody, so it’s easy for details to slip through the cracks. If several employees are in charge of submitting a purchase order (PO), e-mailing it to the supplier, waiting for a reply and making revisions – while managing a queue of other POs and responsibilities – mistakes can easily occur along the way. According to platform usage data from a reference company, the average PO requires information to be exchanged 10 times before completion, has four supporting files and involves 11 different individuals. Managing a critical business procedure such as this, without the aid of an integrated, automated process management system, such as FlowCentric Processware, is incredibly difficult, ramping up the company’s risk significantly.

Most companies have clear standard operating procedures to manage their supply chain processes; however, many of these are still performed manually, using e-mail- or paper-based methods. This practice results in the execution of tasks being slow, inconsistent, labour intensive and susceptible to human error or influence, creating operational risks and increasing costs.

Other companies, although not fully paper-based, are attempting to manage their supply chain using a variety of disparate systems. These systems are typically not connected to one another and, as such, are not able to facilitate seamless automation, frequently requiring multiple inputs of the same data and manual intervention at each step.

In both organisational types, procedures and policies are bypassed because employees simply don’t have the time to search through multiple data sources looking for the information required to onboard suppliers or process transactions. While these occurrences are not unique, they remain a high-risk and high-cost component for organisations in a world where supply chains continue to grow in complexity. Manual processes are simply inefficient and disconnected systems create gaps and vulnerabilities within the supply chain.

So, what’s the alternative?

Correctly incorporating automation into your supply chain minimises the risk of costly errors and frees employees to focus on strategic or creative responsibilities. A more automated workflow allows a company to digitise and share purchase orders, auto-assign production tracking tasks, approve POs, upload quality and shipping documents, pay invoices, track delivery notifications, etc, with the process only requiring human intervention at distinct milestones or when problems arise, thereby moving the process from one requiring continuous manual interventions to one managed by exceptions.

When these systems are correctly implemented and not overcomplicated, they can offer opportunities to accelerate innovation, boost revenue and enhance the customer experience by streamlining consistent outputs.

Resistance To Invest

Why, when results indicate drastic improvements, are automated, integrated business processes used by less than half of all medium to large enterprises?

Many organisations see this task as a daunting and expensive investment. There is concern around how much change such a shift will bring into the organisation and many organisations, owing to historical IT related projects, are virtually allergic to implementing new technologies. The reality is that change can be for the better and digital transformation in this space does not have to be an “all or nothing” exercise before the company can reap the benefits. Its employees, its suppliers and ultimately the client experience will be improved through integrated, automated supplier management. The key is to find a solution that will grow as the business grows and to ensure that the solution can easily adapt to change.

Can the FlowCentric Processware (BPM) platform deliver desired results?

FlowCentric Processware is more than just a typical BPM solution. The platform gives clients the power to build process-driven applications that meet their specific requirements, at their own pace. Every solution is tailored around the client’s precise requirements – irrespective of the industry and complexity of the processes required.

The software is designed to run across departments and existing software systems, making it the ideal tool for organisations intent on enforcing legislative controls, compliance to organisational rules, improving operational efficiency and making their data work for them.

A key benefit of working with FlowCentric Technologies, other than the BPM platform, is the breadth and depth of expertise the company can offer. Regardless of the business software a customer currently uses – ERP, MES, CRM systems, for example – FlowCentric Processware can integrate and utilise data from the current systems to control activities and automate processes, as well as provide a consolidated front-end view for end-users.

“Our intent is not necessarily to replace existing systems. We simply fill the critical gaps and use what already exists to optimise process performance,” explains Odette Pieters, Chief Operations Officer at FlowCentric Technologies. “As the business evolves, it can easily add more processes to the FlowCentric Processware platform, keeping the digitisation momentum going. Supply chain is often critical to an organisation’s success, which means companies cannot afford to invest in a time-consuming implementation period before seeing ROI. Digital and transformation strategies don’t need to be a huge task. With our BPM platform, you can start small and continue automating and improving your organisation’s supply chain processes.”

Supply chain is complex, where should your company start?

“Evaluate which manual processes you can begin to automate to close gaps, improve visibility, prevent errors, reduce time and save money across your supply chain. With the right system, your organisation will quickly see a marked improvement in throughputs, accuracy and speed,” states Pieters.

For the past two decades, FlowCentric Technologies has digitalised and automated numerous supply chain processes, including delivering full-service supplier portals designed to simplify and drastically improve supplier management.


Contact us for turnkey supply chain management systems that will help drive your corporate strategy.

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Topics: BPM, FlowCentric Software, Trends, Digital Business Transformation

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