Technology is helping to drive innovation across the supply chain. End customers expect more personalised products more rapidly, leading to manufacturers automating their order fulfilment, production and, where possible, supply chains. And as other partners face greater regulation, such as banks’ reporting requirements or partners’ sustainability certifications, commodity traders need to ensure the accuracy and auditability of their systems as well as their efficiency. Commodity businesses are therefore experiencing pressure to create more efficient operations to keep up with both competitors and with increased consumer demand for supply chain convenience, resilience and transparency.

Automation in commodity supply chains

Supply chain automation amongst manufacturers is often associated with robots picking consumer goods from large warehouses, an image that commodity trading businesses may not find relevant for themselves. However, now is the time for commodity businesses to invest in their own logistics automation – a type that makes their desk-based logistics processes easier, faster and lower-risk.

Logistics automation can be a key differentiator for commodity businesses looking to improve their customer experience, increase contract processing speeds, improve governance and increase profitability. Commodity management apps such as Gen10’s allow businesses to accelerate and automate their logistics processes, from assigning stock to contracts, to managing inspections and shipping documents, to invoicing and accounting.

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One of the main advantages of using automated commodity management apps to power your logistics function is that it means your people are all working online from the same data, reducing the risk of duplicated work, missed actions and incorrect data being copied across offline documents when mistakes do occur. Commodity management apps give a complete view of all the data people need to be able to do their jobs better and faster. But equally importantly, the automated workflows and notifications mean that fewer mistakes are made, and operational risks are reduced.

We have previously discussed the ways automated workflows can be used to accelerate processes at the trade desk, but automation can also play a significant role in accelerating logistics operations.

Logistics automation in action

Commodity management apps can automatically create a wide range of documents based on information already entered as part of the contract creation process. These automated workflows are tailored to your organisation, for example, specifying which individuals or teams are needed to approve each document, including whether there are multiple approval stages.

For example, if a request for release is needed for a bank-financed transaction, the user clicks a button to trigger the workflow, which notifies the approver by email, followed by any subsequent approvers once this is granted. Once approved, release emails can be generated and sent from within the app, creating a complete audit trail for reporting and meaning that operators can instantly identify whether actions have been carried out or are still outstanding.

Workflows also ensure that all deals are carried out in accordance with your internal processes, ensuring that further actions cannot be taken until approval has been granted. For example, the transition that allows users to declare a shipment will not be available until a Bill of Lading date has been input, reflecting the real-world process that requires a Bill of Lading before shipments can be declared.

Automation empowers logistics experts

The purpose of logistics automation is to make operators’ tasks easier, and the smart automation in Gen10 apps supports operations in their decision-making; allowing them more opportunity to add value to every deal.

For example, when allocating stock to a sales contract, operators or traders are presented with all the information they need on your positions in one screen so that they can make the best choices based on completely real-time information. Automation supports their decision by ensuring that stock is of the correct grade, and operators can filter stock by assays if needed. The remaining weights are also automatically calculated if one virtual lot does not fulfil the allocation, with warnings if the allocations are beyond your weight tolerances, and lots can easily be split if needed.

Multimodal shipping is also supported, with automation powering documents and processes, including supporting the transition from ocean freight to inland final destinations. Transport requests can be generated within a Gen10 app and sent to the warehouse, automatically populated with information such as vehicle numbers if these have been input elsewhere.

Automated logistics continues whilst vessels are at sea, with APIs to vessel tracking software and shared calendars of upcoming tasks. When setting up your automated workflows you can specify what tasks need to be carried out next, and by which teams, to automatically create a new task in the calendar. Deadlines for these automated task reminders can revolve around and be dependent upon other dates, such as automatically creating a task to send an Ocean Bill of Lading 10 days before a vessel’s estimated date of arrival in port. If a key date changes, its associated tasks and deadlines can also be updated. And if applicable, any relevant cash flow data will update automatically too.

Automation in commodity logistics can speed up processes and make it easier than ever for operators to add value to your organisation. Automation allows operators to make better decisions with less risk of errors and allows businesses in commodity supply chains to rise to consumer demand for a faster turnaround, greater traceability and better service.

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