How intelligent automation will impact and revitalise global supply chains

The idea of automation in manufacturing and the supply chain is nothing new – since the earliest days of the industrial revolution we have sought to automate tasks with machines, and lower the cost of manufacturing processes.

In countless cases, the application of machines, and more recently software, has meant improvements in the consistency of products, facilitated near 24/7/365 production and has meant staff can be focused on higher value tasks in their company.

Yet the use of technology in the industry may not be fully understood; a recent Capgemini survey showed that nearly half (48%) of UK office workers are optimistic about the impact automation technologies can have. However, while respondents to the survey had a general idea of the benefits that might accrue, they were less clear as to how these technologies could be applied to their specific area of work. And worryingly, only 20% said they felt their organisations were currently benefiting from automation – clearly the industry is missing a trick.

However, as utilisation stagnates for certain companies, the market is maturing. Automation is now reaching far beyond simple process software and mechanisation. Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cognitive computing, advanced robotics, Digital Fabrication and blockchain are becoming increasingly popular, bringing together the power of automation and analytics.

Yet other areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, which are proven enablers for new ways of optimizing the supply chain and manufacturing processes, are less understood. It’s agile, forward-thinking businesses that are able to utilise these technologies in a thoughtful way that will reap the benefits.

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