In a recent blog post, we explored seven things that small and medium-sized companies often get wrong in their supply chain operations. Among the topics covered, we mentioned the importance of eliminating process control by paper in your supply chain operations.

As a follow-up to that, this post elaborates on why paper workflows need no longer be used and how paper in your supply chain (if you currently maintain paper-based workflows) is basically bad for business.


There’s Only One Place for Paper in Your Supply Chain

Given that the average household pays bills without paper, communicates without paper, shops without paper, and conducts pretty much every transaction without paper, your employees probably wonder why there is any paper in your facility circulating outside of the bathrooms.

In an age where paper is to considered by many to be useful only for certain cleaning and hygiene practices, it’s surprising how many logistics operations still use paperwork to control warehouse picking, goods-receiving, invoicing, proof-of-delivery and other critical processes.

While automating physical processes can be unrealistically costly for smaller businesses, the cost of paperless electronic process control should no longer be a barrier for any organisation, large or small. Quite simply, if your company can afford to pay for all the paper it’s consuming on a daily basis, it shouldn’t struggle too much to replace that paper using affordable, cloud-hosted IT applications.


Why Paper-based Processes are Bad for Business

Our earlier post mentioned paper documentation as an obstacle to process efficiency, yet that’s far from the only way in which paper-based processes handicap supply chain performance. Others include:

  • The costs of paper and printing
  • Supply chain delays and errors resulting from lost or misplaced documents
  • Lost storage space (many documents are required by law to be kept for a number of years)
  • Negative connotations for environmental footprint and corporate social responsibility
  • Excessive time taken to execute processes compared with direct data entry methods
  • Detrimental effects to customer service and experience (especially consumers, most of whom have already gone largely paperless)
  • The risks of errors caused by poor readability (unreadable writing) or incorrect data entry from paper to computer

There are probably more negative impacts of paper-based processes that could be mentioned, but the list above should serve as plenty of incentive to eliminate paper in your supply chain.

It’s not hard to see how some relatively modest software investment could pretty much ensure a return, and that every process from which you eliminate paper documents is sure to become faster, more efficient, less expensive, less error-prone, and better for your customers.


From Paper-based to Cloud-based

Seriously, if you want to improve process efficiency within the parts of the supply chain under your control, investigate the possibilities of a WMS solution for your warehouse/s, EDI or web-based procurement applications, and electronic proof-of-delivery systems for your last-mile distribution workforce.

Naturally you may need to spend some money on terminals, scanners, and other hardware items, but even these can be had for a fraction of what they cost a few years ago. IT infrastructure costs should be minimal if you opt for cloud-computing services.

IT applications in the cloud are available for most supply chain management components, can be paid for on a subscription basis, and require little more than desktop or laptop computers and an internet service to access their functionality.

The beauty of these solutions is that you don’t have to limit process efficiency improvements to the internal parts of your supply chain. Many of them facilitate integration with the systems of your suppliers, partners, and customers too, so you can build greater process efficiency into the extended supply chain.


Time to Let Go of the Paper in Your Supply Chain

It has been said that technology is transforming supply chain and logistics activity more than any other area of industry. At the same time, there is always the temptation to assume technology will solve all ills, which really it won’t.

However, when it comes to using digital information flows to replace paper in your supply chain, the time has come to fall into line.

Soldiering on with inefficient, costly, and error-prone paper process-control will only prove detrimental to your business.  So given the time of year, why not consider paperless supply chain as a candidate for your company’s 2017 New Year resolution? It could be a small price to pay for a large leap in supply chain efficiency.