Will ‘hyperautomation’ determine retailing success from this point forward?
There is no doubt 2021 is shaping up to be memorable for retailers and consumers alike. It’s not the happy kind of memory either, with once-in-a-lifetime disruptions rippling through supply chains causing costly delays, shortages and capacity problems that highlight a lack of collaboration and visibility among stakeholders.
That’s a big nut to crack that will take both time and a hearty constitution to overcome, so what can be done now to stem the losses?
The success of functions including sales, operations, procurement and shipping depends on retailers’ ability to apply analytics at scale towards developing better insights and responses to consumer demands.
With stress at a fever pitch heading into the holidays, retailers are bolstering nascent last-mile, omnichannel capabilities such as buy online and pickup curbside or in-store, plus more timely delivery options like intra-day. All of these align with front-office, CRM-led investments focused on customer experience.
Some make the mistake of separately pursuing improvements in back-office supply chain functions, like demand planning, procurement, transportation and shipping. Consumers minimally expect that inventory presented online syncs with what’s available in-store. That’s table stakes.
Weaving everything — front to back — together with better automation, analytics and data offers a near-term path with long-term legs. The digital transformations that began last year will require further transformations as course correction becomes a matter of survival.
The term “hyperautomation” may sound fantastical, but its implications promise improvements to supply chains that will come to define successful retail in 2022 and beyond.
Gartner named hyperautomation, which blends machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI), as the top supply chain innovation of 2021.
“The key principle of hyperautomation is that everything that can be automated will be automated,” according to the report.
As you might expect, organizations rushing in to adopt hyperautomation are making mistakes. Gartner says such initiatives “are too often disparate or siloed and are either not aligned to business outcomes or not coordinated with business objectives across functions.”
There are fixes, however, such as aligning supply chain decisions to their impact on the complete consumer experience. Leveraging outside data sources to illuminate blind spots concerning consumer needs and supplier viability is another, as is developing a unified hyperautomation use case roadmap to achieve immediate goals at minimum cost. Ideally unify RPA with AI to address the most urgent needs first to set the stage for scaling value.
- The CSCO’s Guide to Supply Chain Technology Innovations – Gartner
- The Supply Chain 2035 Roadmap – Gartner
- The 10 biggest retail bankruptcies of 2020 – CNBC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think was the top supply chain innovation of 2021? What role do you see hyperautomation playing in the retail industry in the short and long-term and what are the keys to getting it right?