RPA, AI bolster supply chain resilience in times of crisis
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Supply chain bots join the ranks of essential workers
Supply chain resilience is more critical than ever amid unprecedented disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, supply chains are viewed more as lifelines connecting business and society to goods and services -- from personal protective equipment to personal digital assistants -- with robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning pressed into service at an accelerated pace.
Working virtually alongside humans or replacing them, RPA software bots are as essential as the front-line workers who keep the supply chain flowing from product conception to delivery. But the rush to take full advantage of RPA for highly repetitive, time-consuming tasks and AI for more complex supply chain processes is not without roadblocks as companies shift priorities, digitally transform and contend with the aftershocks of the pandemic.
According to KPMG's 2020 Outlook, CEOs surveyed during July and August identified supply chain risk as one of the "greatest threats to their organizations' growth." Nearly one-third of CEOs cited "difficulty making quick technology-related decisions" and 22% pointed to "a lack of insight into future operational scenarios" as their greatest digital transformation challenges. Three-fourths of them said they were prioritizing investments in new technology and digitization, and two-thirds planned to augment human workers with automation and AI.
"Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, supply chains were lauded for their ultra-efficient, single-source and just-in-time capabilities," stated the 2020 logistics report released in June by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP). Calling for "entirely new levels of supply chain resilience," CSCMP recommended that long-term goals include support for demand surges in areas like groceries and e-commerce, reconfiguring supply chains for sectors that have "cratered" and "building in more flexibility to cope with uncertainty."
Just 21% of respondents to a Gartner June 2020 survey said that they have a "highly resilient" supply chain network, but more than half expect to be "highly resilient within two to three years." In doing so, companies need to transform traditional supply chains comprising data silos fed by separate software systems that are dedicated to separate functions.
This handbook examines how RPA and AI are bridging these disparate systems and providing critical end-to-end visibility and scalability of the supply chain with the added help of hyperautomation's ability to reproduce bots. Also, read how major companies are refocusing and automating more of their supply chains to remain competitive during COVID-19 disruptions.