Supply Chain Automation: Making the Transition from Spreadsheets to a Digital Scheduler

Supply chain automation can provide numerous benefits for businesses, including increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved customer satisfaction. However, before embarking on an automation project, it’s important that leaders consider three primary factors:

  1. Alignment with Business Strategy
  2. Technology & Integration
  3. Change Management & Workforce

In this two-part blog series, we’ll examine how Profit Point helped one customer navigate associated challenges with the above considerations while they transitioned from spreadsheets to manage their supply chain to a digital scheduler, Aspen Scheduling Explorer. Here, we’ll look at business strategy and technology integration.

Business Strategy Considerations for Supply Chain Automation

Before automating any aspect of the supply chain, it’s crucial to ensure that the automation strategy aligns with the overall business strategy. Consider how automation will help achieve your business goals, whether it’s reducing costs, accelerating time to delivery, or expanding into new markets. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of the expected outcomes and how automation supports the broader vision.

Before making any recommendations, Profit Point spent time with multiple cross-functional leaders to understand the current pain points, what they were already using in terms of spreadsheets, and what they were looking for in terms of improving and simplifying existing processes. This particular client’s primary concern was automating scheduling for a large number of storage tanks of various volumes and capabilities. Their unique requirements included holding materials at the right storage temperatures while also considering the available linkages from production to storage tanks, and then from tanks to trucks.

“We were very cautious to understand the background of the situation and get them on board with the project,” said Mark Gracey, Application Developer at Profit Point. “Then we really put our heads together to start building-out the right-fit solution to accommodate the business’ unique demands.”

Another tactic Profit Point employed to confirm the project’s alignment to business strategy was to pilot a roll-out at a single site, vs. a broad-based program launch. Piloting at a single location enabled the team to test the solution and make tweaks as needed while eliminating the possibility of widescale disruption to the business.

Technology & Integration Considerations for Supply Chain Automation

It’s important to evaluate technology solutions required for automation and how they’ll integrate with existing systems, including factors like compatibility with current software, hardware, and data sources. Integration challenges can be a major obstacle, so it’s essential to plan for a seamless transition and ensure the chosen technology can scale as the business needs change and grow as well. Additionally, data security and privacy should be considered, especially when dealing with sensitive information in the supply chain.

In this situation, the primary goal was to move the client away from using spreadsheets. After conducting a thorough health assessment of existing data and systems, it was determined that just plugging-in any scheduler would not suffice as a solution. The key was to get the data where it needed to be and provide a sound platform for collaboration. Profit Point chose tools from the AspenTech Supply Chain Management solution suite because they provided the kind of data visualizations and custom functionality the client needed to support their business.

Another key challenge the project solved was empowering the client to know how to adapt to change and maximize the benefits of the scheduling solution over time. Previously, existing systems were abandoned or used improperly due to the loss of knowledge and expertise from attrition or organizational change. With the new, automated system, the client would be able to effectively track, change, and manage data in a centralized location while minimizing operational risk.

After analyzing how the data and processes could be optimized, we shifted our focus towards people and change management. Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series, where we’ll examine the tactics and output of getting the full organization on-board to accept our technology and process recommendations.

If you’re considering embarking on a supply chain optimization project, check out our proven methodology and see how we can help.

This article was co-authored with Jackie Graver

About Mark Gracey

Mark has 20 years of experience as both an Analyst and Developer of enterprise-wide and tactical solutions to help manage, optimize and improve operations in the Manufacturing Supply Chain.

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