Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed supply chain weaknesses, including supplier shortages and factory shutdowns, along with numerous challenges that affected the workforce. Combine that with rapid globalization, and even the most experienced supply chains were left scrambling for solutions under mounting pressure.

The last 12 months have been a complete game-changer for the supply chain industry. Intelligent automation (IA) was once a nice-to-have technology. However, organizations are beginning to realize that it is now a must-have, as technologies like IoT and machine learning are becoming customary in supply chains across the globe.

Businesses that are leveraging IA are prepared to handle remote teams alongside supply chain and customer service disruptions.

However, technology should not be a replacement for talent. Companies need to ensure that they strike the right balance between the two, and empower their employees with the tools to make their jobs easier.

While it is tempting to dream of installing IA and then walking away, it is important to remember that automation is not a 1:1 replacement of employees.

When implemented correctly, IA should enable your existing team to get more done. These are tools that should be used to automate repetitive tasks from work routines, including computational tasks like crunching numbers and increasing accuracy while removing human error.

By leveraging the power of robots to optimize rote tasks, IA enables supply chain professionals to focus more on strategic work. IA can aid employees in making better-informed decisions or have better visibility and traceability of shipments by implementing IoT sensors.

The benefits of IA include improving processes with the combination of machine learning and data science. By implementing IA, companies will be able to refine their workflow over time and, in turn, make better long-term business decisions.

The introduction of IA should not be something that should intimidate your current employees. Rather, Intelligent Automation should be viewed as a solution that can help your employees work smarter, not harder.

The right technology can attract and retain highly skilled employees. The truth is, procurement and supply chain professionals are not looking to work with outdated technology. This is why businesses must invest in technology that will ultimately enable their employees to be more efficient.

By allowing skilled employees to flourish by automating mundane tasks and enabling them to put their competencies to good use in the workplace, companies will create a better employee experience.

A higher-quality experience often leads to higher employee productivity and satisfaction. Higher employee productivity and satisfaction not only boost morale but can also have a positive impact on the company’s success.

Due to rapid technological advancements in IA, companies should explore what automation can do for their employees as well as their customers.

The Future of IA

It is important to note that human employees are still critical to the success of a business, even if the business is fully automated.

Contrary to popular belief, IA will not result in mass job losses, but rather a change in job style thanks to evolving technology.

The job market is only getting more and more competitive, particularly in the procurement and supply chain sector. Technology has the power to create win-win opportunities for both employees and businesses. The companies that choose to invest in Intelligent Automation and empower employees to take on new challenges will ultimately be the ones that come out on top.

Chase Flashman is Founder and CEO of ShipSights.

This article originally appeared in the May/June, 2021 issue of PARCEL.