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Process Automation
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Key Areas of Focus for World-Class Wholesale Organisations, Part 4 – Automation and Control (1/2)

Adam Cavanagh
Published on:
February 18, 2021
Based on our work with clients; analysis of the wholesale and distribution sector; and input from expert consultants; we’ve identified the characteristics that define world-class wholesale organisations. This set of capabilities forms an anatomy that sets apart those businesses who are best placed to succeed as we move forward from the turbulence of 2020.

We have formulated a model for potential, based on what we see as the strongest indicators of organisational health across 6 key areas. Strength in each of the elements gives an organisation both resilience (to absorb and manage market and economic pressures) and strength (to outpace/out-manoeuvre competition and act on opportunity).

We’ve looked at the importance of a data-driven approach; the use of advanced forecasting and methods of intelligent replenishment. The next defining feature to consider is automation and control.

Free your team

This area of the anatomy is closely aligned with that of intelligent replenishment. The focus is on allowing people to use their knowledge, ability to innovate and capacity for making judgements rather than spending all their time on data management.

Ultimately, successful customer service (and higher sales) through inventory optimization relies on those making the decisions having the right information. The team managing your supply chain can only maintain the complex relationships involved if they have access to the basis for the right answers, without spending unnecessary time carrying out manual tasks to extract the data. 

If people have the freedom to only step into processes when human intervention is necessary, they are released to spend time making and acting on decisions that will have a positive impact on the organisation. Organisational resilience relies on the capability and flexibility provided by automation and being in control of all the data.

Key characteristics

Within each area of the anatomy of a world-class wholesale organisation, we have outlined a series of defining characteristics. When considering automation and control, these traits are as follows:

Automation: Our core systems feed our inventory management team with the information they need to make decisions and interventions. This enables them to execute their roles without the need for spreadsheets and data wrangling.

The organisations best placed to succeed have removed all unnecessary manual tasks from the data gathering process.

Control and flexibility: Our buyers can easily apply constraints such as days’ cover, container optimization or minimum order values. This provides the team with both control and the flexibility to adapt.

World-class organisations manipulate their supply chain and order conditions in such a way that leaves them both in control and capable of agility. (We are going to consider this characteristic in more detail in a separate post.)

Why it makes the difference

By its nature, supply-chain, logistics and inventory management is all about decision making. But not all decisions require the creativity or innovation of human involvement. Those that can be rule-based should be automated.

Quality human interactions and relationships are invaluable in managing supply chains. Releasing team members to spend their time developing and maintaining these relationships will build strength and resilience along that supply chain.

As much as people matter, so does knowledge. The ability to make decisions requires quality information. But data-wrangling is time-consuming and this leads to infrequent snapshots being taken. Outdated information therefore drives decision making and can lead to sub-optimal results.

An automated approach that can produce quality information in near real-time provides a reliable driver for decision making and taking action. This then creates an optimal environment for supply-chain, logistics and inventory management, with a focus on doing the right things at the right time.

In our experience, it’s difficult for organisations to self-diagnose the key areas where change would have the biggest impact. The diagnostic tool we have created gives you the opportunity to pinpoint priority areas for attention, highlighting specific activities to help you enhance business performance and resilience.

What is the strength and resilience of your organisation? Try our self-assessment tool today.