Coronavirus (COVID-19) could become the most significant epidemic or natural disaster to affect humans and businesses in recent times. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the only one. Remember the SARS outbreak of 2003 and all the earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, etc. within the last 10 years?
These unforeseen global events always tend to disrupt business supply chains. For example, factories in China have temporarily closed as a result of COVID-19.
China is, in all practical sense, the world’s discrete high-tech manufacturing hub. It produces approximately half of the world’s TVs and laptops, and the majority of smartphones and tablets. Many of world’s leading automakers have plants there as well. Consequently, a lot of device suppliers and auto original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have set up plants in China.
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused many of those manufacturing plants to shut down operations. As a result, fewer products are being manufactured and shipped out to the world.
Of the leading high-tech companies, Apple has been one of the most impacted by COVID-19. Foxconn, Apple’s leading manufacturer of the iPhone, has been operating below capacity because of the virus. That could mean up to 10% fewer iPhones for the world market this quarter, according to The Economist. What’s more, Apple may be forced to delay the launch of its next-generation iPhone.
How can you safeguard your business and supply chain from unplanned global events such as an epidemic outbreak or natural disaster? Your organization may have already taken steps to mitigate risks, such as diversifying your supply chain pool with multiple suppliers and geographies. If not, that should be an immediate step.
You should also consider what scientists are exploring to identify treatments of COVID-19: artificial intelligence (AI). It’s being looked at to handle businesses as well. Artificial intelligence with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), or intelligent automation, can help you build a resilient supply chain and provide better access to insights about your operations (see Figure 1).
Let’s assume an unforeseen disaster is threatening to disrupt your manufacturing supply chain and you need to execute a contingency plan. You’ll have two critical challenges at hand that need to be managed simultaneously:
If your organization has an intelligent automation strategy in place and your supply chain processes are automated, it can greatly ease the pain of getting your supply chain back on track and generate incredibly valuable business insights along the way. These insights, coupled with advanced AI, can help ensure a strong supply chain for any future unforeseen events.
Let’s explore these challenges in detail and how automation can come to your aid:
Once the disrupted situation is contained, you’ll realize that the automation has created business insights around your supply chain. These are valuable to inform you how your supply chain worked, its response times, and supplier performance. If you have an AI program, this information can be golden for your data models.
In any unforeseen crisis, intelligent automation allows you to respond faster, in an accurate manner, without adding a whole lot of manpower — and it can save significant downstream cost that could result from service-level agreement penalties and expedited freight, etc.
The same virtues of automation ring true for everyday supply chain operations. Intelligent automation can help eliminate manual processes that lead to human error and duplication, resulting in higher accuracy and productivity. It will have a big, positive impact on the bottom line of your business.