December 3, 2021

A few benefits of digitization you haven’t thought about. Yet.

You may have heard about the compelling ways digitization will benefit your business. It’s going to help you accumulate and analyze data, automate processes, manage inventory, coordinate shipping, etc. And it’s easy to see how all of these can and will have a direct impact on your bottom line. But there are other benefits, as well. Some of which you may not have thought of but address some pretty important issues.

Digitizing and automating your supply chain processes can actually boost employee morale and reduce stress for a great many people in your company. It can help you counter the effects of inflation, which is becoming more and more of an issue each day. And believe it or not, such an initiative can have a tangible impact on your dreams.

Happier, More Motivated Employees

Burnout is nothing new, but today, a new condition is getting attention. In an article on BBC.com, Bryan Lufkin refers to “boreout” as what happens to people who are so bored at work, they feel like their jobs are meaningless.

Today, in every industry, along supply chains all over the world, you’ll find employees toiling away, old school, in very basic roles. They’re keying in orders, creating and distributing invoices, calling and negotiating with different shipping vendors, etc. The tasks they perform are vital, but not sexy. They’re tedious, even mindless. The people in these roles are not likely getting lauded for making the company a success. In fact, the only time they ever get any attention from up high is when something goes wrong. And inevitably it does.

Monotonous, mundane tasks are, at best, tertiary sources of job dissatisfaction. At worst, they are soul-crushing chores that diminish motivation, dilute performance and make people feel like they’re not much more than robots. If you want machine-like precision and consistency, forcing employees to become task-centered automatons is not the way.

Digitization and automation are what you want for error-free production. Want to boost employee morale? Eliminate such chores from your staff’s to-do list. And the way to do that? You guessed it. Now you can take those minds you’ve just refreshed and put them to more valuable, more rewarding work. In some ways it’s like having additional staff without having to hire anybody.

Aside from the mundane, another thing employees struggle with is stress. We all know there are many sources workplace stress. But for folks grinding away in some supply chain capacity, it’s often one of three things. You’re worried because (a) you might’ve made a mistake that’s going to cost the company money, miss a deadline or lose a customer; (b) you’re afraid you’re about to make a mistake that causes the above; or (c) something’s going to go wrong that you have absolutely no control over.

Have you or anyone you know awakened in the middle of the night scared you might’ve made a mistake that, at best, might cost your company tens of thousands of dollars? Or more? It happens to the best of us. We’re only human. This kind of anxiety is common. So much so that one might even consider it an inescapable reality of having a job. But it doesn’t have to be.

When you digitize and automate your supply chain processes—whether it’s order-to-cash, procurement, inventory management or shipping—the risk of error drops dramatically. Everyone can feel more confident that processes will go more smoothly. That orders will have the correct items in the right quantities. That inventory levels will be maintained properly. That the best carrier, at the best price, will take the most expedient route and deliver on time. And these will happen automatically.

Consequently, stress levels drop. For everybody.

Countering Inflation

Inflation is a hot topic these days. The COVID crisis, supply chain bottlenecks, shifting purchasing habits, workforce shortages, these are all combining to push prices up. Increases on fuel, packaging, raw materials, chemical feedstocks, shipping…are all obstacles to profitability. In light of this, lowering costs wherever possible is a must.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review addressed tactics and initiatives companies could employ to deal with inflation. Gaining “high-resolution spending visibility” was the first thing mentioned. And you know what helps companies gain visibility into their spending, among other things? Digitization and automation. The authors of the HBR article went on to specifically recommend automation.

“Our research found that companies that had invested more in automation before the pandemic have weathered the crisis better than others.” And that, “they’ve generated higher revenues and see fewer disruptions to the supply chain, workforce productivity, and demand.”

Anywhere and everywhere a company can find efficiencies will be critically important during this time, and digitization and automation can help on several fronts. Automation of order-to-cash processes can significantly reduce the cost to generate an invoice. Inventory management automation can help you avoid stock-outs, reducing the need to order from other, sometimes more expensive vendors. Or have to pay for expedited shipping because of a mistake in the ordering process.

The Better Data Dream Weaver

You know those big ideas you have that will take your business to the next level? Those if-I-only-had-more-time initiatives you haven’t managed to get around to? The in-a-perfect-world dreams that have seemed too lofty to even hope for? They may not be too lofty after all.

The new and better data you produce thanks to your digital transformation effort can help you make those dreams a reality. Perhaps that’s from now knowing you have the infrastructure and manufacturing capacity to begin offering a new product line. Maybe you will have automated enough tasks and freed up enough brainpower to refocus it on developing an additional revenue stream. If you can dig into the data to gain a deeper understanding of your current customer’s buying habits, you can more efficiently target marketing efforts to potential customers with similar characteristics and needs. Or by gaining more visibility into your transportation and shipping process, utilizing location data, traffic patterns, etc., you can streamline those areas and free up additional resources to invest in innovation. Or now that you’re connected to some additional vendor partners via your expanded digital network, you see the possibility to make headway into an entirely new market or industry. And those are but a few examples. Opportunity is likely nestled in many areas throughout your operations.

Digitizing and automating your supply chain processes will likely be one of the most important initiatives you’ll take on in the coming weeks, months or year. It will have a significant impact on you, your company and your people. Probably in more ways than you know.