Supply Chain Automation: How a TMS Maximizes Resources by Automating Processes

How A TMS Maximizes Resources by Automating Processes

Automation is not a new supply chain buzzword. According to Matt Leonard of Supply Chain Dive, approximately one-third of supply chain professionals are actively involved in the use of supply chain automation technologies. However, the use of supply chain automation consultancy services is increasing. Such increases allude to a growing demand for automation, but again, it comes with a caveat. Poor use of automation can lead to higher costs. To maximize ROI, supply chain leaders need to know a few things about how a TMS can automate processes and allow logistics providers and shippers to leverage resources more effectively.

Where Do Companies Go Wrong With Automation?

The problems with automation in the supply chain often derive from a limited data pool and siloed systems. In fact, the problems with poorly connected systems and automation can cost well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to Supply Chain Dive, Asos experienced such a problem in 2019:

“Near the end of July 2019, with peak season starting to come into view, e-commerce-driven fashion brand Asos told investors a major problem with its warehouse technology had cost the company millions. The problem centered around warehouse management software intended to register what was in the warehouse and update availability on the company’s website.
Asos is a highly trend-driven brand, with 85,000 total SKUs, adding 5,000 SKUs per week, according to company statements. The automated system was adequately sending inventory out to complete orders, but not taking any in — new items, replenishments and customer returns — possibly for weeks.”
Without the right controls in place, supply chain automation efforts will inevitably fall short.

Supply Chain Automation Must Include the TMS

As demonstrated by the Asos catastrophe, deploying automation without considering the full impact of changes on the supply chain will cause problems. However, deploying a TMS that integrates data from across the supply chain network—relying on information from manufacturers, creating intuitive scenario planning steps, and enabling real-time route optimization—can help avoid such problems in the future.

As reported by Supply Chain Game Changer, “The benefits of an automated Transportation Management System solution are clear. The electronic, and automatic, communication that a TMS solution will facilitate will dramatically improve your productivity, speed, service levels and visibility. But to many companies the prospect of change can be overwhelming. Some employees may see a loss of control when they can’t do things manually.

It is important for the Supply Chain leader and the Transportation Management System service provider to recognize this. You certainly don’t want anyone sabotaging a new system implementation. It is important to make everyone comfortable with this kind of change and make the effort to address the impacts through proactive change management.”

How to Maximize Use of Automation With a TMS

Finding the right way to balance automation and the use of a TMS is not always clear. Fortunately, you can increase your TMS ROI by following these steps:

  1. Consider the scalability needs of your operations—using a cloud-based TMS that grows with your business.
  2. Take advantage of connected sensors—the IoT—to track and capture data across your full supply chain.
  3. Connect the TMS to your suppliers and partners through API and EDI integrations.
  4. Reduce the workload of managing exceptions and freight processes, including freight settlement, with the use of robotics process automation (RPA).
  5. Conduct a complete ROI analysis to determine opportunities for automation and review costs of TMS use.
  6. Measure success by tracking KPIs and encouraging continuous improvement throughout supply chain automation deployments and use cases.
  7. Leverage third-party expertise to help with the creation of freight rate indices, and consider the use of third-party generated freight rate indices in making shipping decisions.
  8. Review available robotics options, including automated sort and retrieval systems or smart conveyors, to streamline operations.

Maximize Your Use of Automation With an Advanced TMS

Supply chain automation through the enterprise-wide deployment of a TMS is perhaps the most significant opportunity to maximize use of resources and speed supply chain processes. Shippers and logistics service providers need to start thinking about how automation can reduce labor expenses, prevent disruptions from errors, and build better customer experiences now.

Request a demo of the MercuryGate platform in action to get started.

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