Home 5 Blog 5 How to Transition Your Supply Chain From Manual Processes to AI-powered Solutions

How to Transition Your Supply Chain From Manual Processes to AI-powered Solutions

by | Nov 15, 2023

The impact that supply chain leaders have on their respective businesses is predicated on the supply chain management systems and especially supply chain planning systems that they have in place. While many have already adopted some tools to support market demands — or at least have plans to — these tools are often cumbersome, disconnected or subsidized with spreadsheets. In fact, according to a 2020 survey conducted by 
Modern Materials Handling, a staggering 45% of supply chain professionals reported they are using mostly or entirely manual processes. The bad news is, those who continue to rely on manual planning will likely fall behind. But, the good news? Transitioning from spreadsheets to digital planning supported by AI-powered planning solutions is very much within reach. 

In this blog, we’ll explore these areas:

  • The risks of spreadsheet-based planning
  • The benefits of AI-powered planning solutions
  • How you can transition to a digital supply chain

The risks of spreadsheet-based supply chain planning

To put it bluntly, using spreadsheets to manage your supply chain is a slow-moving, time-consuming, and error-prone process — especially when compared to digital methods. Take a look at the risks listed below, related to spreadsheet-based planning. You could be familiar with some of them, and others you may not even realize are impacting your business. 

  • You can open your supply chain up to errors that require remediation efforts
  • You spend more time on the tactical aspects of planning than the strategic impact
  • You are not able to collaborate cross-functionally to generate consensus plans
  • You are not leveraging valuable data that is available to you
  • Your (slow) reaction time might be damaging customer experience
  • You don’t have reliable performance metrics to rack your progress

To learn more about the risks of spreadsheets, check out our blog, The Hidden Threats of Spreadsheet-Based Supply Chain Planning

The benefits of AI-powered planning solutions

When you compare digital supply chain planning against more traditional methods, the benefits are clear. Below are just some of the reasons supply chain executives have made the strategic decision to shift to digital solutions. More details about these can be found in our recent AI benefits checklist here

  • Increase revenue 
  • Improve the accuracy of your forecasting
  • Leverage important market signals
  • Optimize your inventory 
  • Make better decisions more quickly
  • Enhance collaboration across your business
  • Create a better customer experience

All of these advantages add up to better outcomes and greater confidence, not just for your supply chain but for your business as a whole. You can dig deeper into these benefits in our recent blog, The Benefits of Shifting from Manual to Digital Supply Chain Planning.  

How can you shift from spreadsheets to digital solutions?

Shifting from manual supply chain planning to the use of digital solutions gives you the power to improve and accelerate your decision-making, unlock profitable growth opportunities, reduce risk, and efficiently scale your business. So, how can you make the shift? We’ve outlined a few steps you can take to begin your transition. 

1. Identify your business goals

Think about these as they relate not just to your supply chain, but to every part of your organization. How will meeting your short-term and long-term supply chain goals help to fulfill the goals of your business cross-functionally?

2. Identify your business challenges and opportunities

Perhaps you’re dealing with some or all of the risks of manual supply chain planning that we highlighted earlier, and you’d like to address those head on. Or maybe you anticipate a broader scope of opportunities that could be better served by the enablement of digital solutions. Think about what you can address now, and into the future. 

3. Find a AI-powered planning solutions provider that fits your business needs and knows your industry

As you assess your goals, challenges, and opportunities, you’ll need a digital solution partner that can help you develop a strategic roadmap that will address the full vision of your organization and provide industry insights. Look for a partner that offers trusted expertise, flexibility to evolve with your business, and scalability of solutions and support that can empower your growth.

Questions to ask potential supply chain software providers

As you do your research into solution providers that could be the best fit for your business, outside of inquiring about initial and ongoing investment, you might consider asking these questions during your conversations with them.

  • How can your solutions address our business challenges and goals?  
  • What is the anticipated timeline for onboarding with your solutions?
  • What roadblocks or challenges have you experienced in the past for other businesses during implementation? Should we expect the same? 
  • What can be expected in terms of both initial and ongoing support?
  • Do you have case studies to share that are applicable to our business?
  • What ROI should we expect and how quickly can we feel the benefits?
  • How do we get our team to embrace and adopt the solution?

4. Facilitate alignment across your organization

Once you’ve selected your ideal digital solutions partner, it will then be critical to facilitate collaboration on the decision and next steps across every impacted function of your business. Get every department leader and executive onboard to ensure full alignment in preparation for the initial implementation and ongoing transitions of your digitalization roadmap.  

Meet an AI-powered planning solution ready to accelerate your digital transition.

Among the industry leaders guiding supply chain professionals through their digital journey is Firstshift.ai. Firstshift offers both transformative AI-powered planning solutions and supply chain planning expertise. It’s a powerful combination of services that empower businesses to: 

  • Ditch the manual, time-consuming, and risk-prone spreadsheets
  • Leverage external data to address relevant market signals (and ignore the noise)
  • Accelerate the transformation of data into actionable insights
  • Leverage predictive analytics to align future performance
  • Use prescriptive analytics to automate, wherever possible

To discover if Firstshift is the right partner for your shift to AI-powered planning solutions, schedule your free demo.