I hear a lot of talk these days around robotics and automation in the warehouse - especially in picking and fulfilment tasks.
While there can certainly be big payback here in terms of speed, accuracy, reliability and labour costs…. there is still a fundamental flaw.
If a part of the supply chain journey is improved (in this case pick and fulfilment), this process still can’t run efficiently if the process(es) that feed it haven’t been optimised themselves.
Manual order entry processes are still widespread across many organisations. These processes are inherently inefficient, and cause bottlenecks at the outset. If you haven’t FIRST invested in an AI order processing solution to get that demand into the warehouse and ready to pick (instantly), your beloved robots will sit there idle… and there’s nothing worse than a robot on a smoke break.
Warehouse robots must be FED before they can do their job.
The Order To Cash cycle, as with all others, is governed by process flow; constraints will reduce the speed through that pipeline.
Harking back to Alex Rogo’s learnings in ‘The Goal’ - you can optimise one part of a process all you like, but if there’s a bottleneck preceding it, there’s very little point.
Modern supply chain professionals need to look at a ‘basket’ of solutions - AI order processing and warehouse robotics can work beautifully in tandem, tuning the supply chain to remove weak links and boosting DIFOT (delivery in full, on time).
But it’s important to resist the urge to put the cart before the robot.