The warehouse of the future: Digitise the back office

9th July 2021
Lanna Deamer

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies across all industries to adapt to a new landscape or risk being left behind.

By Attar Naderi, UK Business Manager at Laserfiche

With technology playing a crucial role in helping society become more resilient in a crisis, it is no wonder that leaders have needed to accelerate their digital transformation plans, and the manufacturing and logistics sector is no exception.

Given the continued disruption to the UK manufacturing industry, the need for rapid digital solutions continues to be high on the agenda for manufacturing and logistics leaders who are now turning their attention on staying ahead of the competition and how to best serve their customers. One thing is clear: With customers going digital, businesses need to get there faster - digital can no longer be a “nice to have.” 

Yet, no matter how high-tech the front end is, if businesses have not got their back-end operations in order, customer experience will undoubtedly suffer. This means leaders will be looking to adopt the right automation technologies to digitise their warehouse operations. 

360° View of Operations

Today, customers are more tech-savvy, demanding a smooth experience and responses in real time - that’s why logistics and manufacturing leaders need to invest in digitising their back-office systems to enhance front-line interactions.

However, prior to investing in digital solutions, businesses must look towards understanding how their processes and workflows are currently operating. Companies are struggling to fully realise the potential of their digital transformation initiatives because they don’t have visibility into their business processes. By using workflow automation and AI-driven technologies, manufacturers can spot bottlenecks and delays in their operations, which will help them better allocate resources and optimise processes. 

According to market intelligence firm IDC, digitising and optimising workflows can reduce costs by more than 30% - this would be beneficial in the process-heavy logistics industry. An example of this is the finance teams in warehousing services which face several logistical issues, and without technology, this can become burdensome. Staff manually review paper invoices and purchase orders which would need to be manually inputted onto the accounts payable software.

These time-consuming, mundane tasks could easily be automated and could free up time for staff to put their focus on more pressing tasks like meeting customer expectations and ensuring operations run smoothly. This will not only ensure manufacturing professionals are keeping up with consumer demand, but it will also ease the burden of manual tasks for staff – a win-win situation. 

Optimising Front-end Interactions

While it’s true that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these plans for manufacturers to reduce their reliance on sub-optimal warehouse processes and manual tasks, just investing in technology is not the end of a business’s automation story. The focus must be on which technologies will benefit customers best. Businesses must investigate beyond just AI when choosing which technologies to invest in. Leaders should look towards investing in a combination of technologies that work together as part of an integrated strategy - a combination of RPA and business process automation is just one example.

Logistics companies and fulfilment centres on the digital frontier already rely on software bots or Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to facilitate operations. In some cases, organisations have integrated their systems to auto-order inventory when product is low. These companies should also look towards investing in business process automation which will help accelerate how work gets done. RPA software can help organisations with key activities including inventory tracking, automatically notifying a supplier when inventory is running low, ordering and shipping processes, and regulatory compliance.

With the right technologies in place, businesses can have a better understanding of their customer needs to gather insights and have more valuable conversations with their customers. With numerous companies competing on providing next-day and even same-day deliveries, keeping the business streamlined and understanding the customers’ demands will be crucial. 

Innovating for the Future of Manufacturing

In today’s competitive business environments, fast and seamless warehouse operations is increasingly important.  

While a fully automated warehouse remains a long-held goal for the manufacturing and logistics industries, the increased use of software, automation and digital solutions is certainly a step in the right direction. The focus for businesses will increasingly shift towards how innovation can drive improvements across business operations. The warehouse of the future enables companies to make operations more efficient and accurate. 

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