- Leah Barrier
Should You Be Integrating Supply Chain Automation?
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
It seems only fitting to interject a counter position right when the logistics and supply chain industry is picking up full steam on the train to automation. Perhaps it’s a bit hypocritical, but all seemingly good and progressive things need to be handled and implemented with care. Certain due processes are required to maximize workflow and seamless efficiency.
Should your entire supply chain be automated? Only part of it?
By approaching the topic on a comprehensive scale and compartmentalizing specific sectors such as artificial limitation, cognitive reasoning, and production efficiency, we begin to see the benefit in collaborative workflow without machine totalitarianism.
There is a certain sense of security woven within a business’s supply chain when cognitive reason and personal interaction still play a role. Humans aren’t perfect, but robots aren’t either.
“Just because you can automate something doesn’t mean you should. There are aspects of supply chain that shouldn’t be automated. You can leverage technology to support things, but there are still humans required in decision making and in some processes.” [John Santagate, Research Director for the Service Robotics Market at IDC]
What happens to a robot in a warehouse if you step in front of it? Short answer, it stops. What then happens if a forklift is left in the path of this robot, inadvertently? Short answer, it stops, and so does the corresponding productivity.
Machine learning, automation, and robotics alike all come with restrictions. While improving productivity and increasing efficiency is vital to scaling a supply chain, we must be hyper aware of the limitations. While the automation trend is most noticeable in warehousing scenarios, there is an obvious ceiling at which a robot is simply incapable, thus confirming their primary production in the form of menial tasks.
While this alleviates the workload and allows for the human counterparts to be more effective with primary intention, jumping the gun to complete automation is invariably out of the question for the time being.
This would be both ill advised and premature. The fact of the matter is that artificial intelligence is not advanced enough to replace human interaction and functional reasoning based on real-time alterations or when an unforeseen mission critical crisis arises. Machines do not always have the ability to understand and appropriately adjust to exceptions to the rule.
Just yet another tick in the wrong box for the conclusive adoption of digitization in your warehouse of encompassing supply chain.
The foundation of supply chain management can productively be intertwined with automation, however, exclusivity within the building of processes cannot exist on digitalization alone.
Humans remain the best forecasters, planners, and problem solvers.
“You’re always going to need someone who can read a situation and understand social cues…” [Brandon White, Head of Quality and Regulatory Affairs for Kenco Management Services]
Let us take the COVID-19 crisis of 2020 for instance. If your supply chain had been completely reliant on machine learning and artificial intelligence, how would that have played out?
Would a machine have the wherewithal to adjust operations and offer emergency warehousing and / or pup-up distribution center’s because yours went down unexpectedly? Would your supply chain technology have the relationships and network needed to source emergency medical supplies to the essential worker on the front line? We have seen more times than not that the most beneficial sector of business is the relationship component. The soft skills developed and sharpened by humans.
Our Single Source Global Management System provides the structure, visibility, and support to drive industry leading performance and results from each of our service areas. CLN Worldwide is a cross-functional team of logistics experts helping clients navigate areas of transportation, distribution, Customs, and regulatory compliance.
Our focus is not on an individual product group or piece of technology but rather a comprehensive approach to effectively managing and optimizing the supply chain.
We are a passionate group of logistics professionals with expertise in areas ranging from transportation, Customs, Compliance, distribution, legal, and finance. We understand the complexities woven deeply into the industry. One question often leads to three others. Our team will help you navigate the labyrinth.
If you have any questions about the digitalization that CLN uses to help manage your supply chain needs, please reach out to us HERE. If you have any other questions regarding automation and the future of innovative technology on the supply chain in general, reach out to us HERE. Our solutions team continues to work around the clock for our clients in any economic climate.
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