The COVID-19 crisis sent shockwaves through global supply chains. As a report from Deloitte lays out, the disruptions created by curtailed transportation, volume stalls, and delivery delays “exposed the vulnerabilities of many organizations.” Lots of businesses, it transpires, lack business resiliency. As the Deloitte report correctly concludes, into the future, businesses need technologies that “dramatically improve visibility across the end-to-end supply chain, and support companies’ ability to resist such shocks.”

One of the ongoing challenges created by the pandemic is that of remote and distributed workforces. Management teams have been faced with a new challenge: How can they bring unity and connectivity to a workforce that is spread across multiple states and locations, and that faces fluctuating amounts of office access? As shelter in place orders come and go, how can they selectively apply organizational change, and build agility and flexibility into their supply chain operations?

This is not a short-term challenge. Future viral “spikes” and “waves” are a real possibility. New types of legislation could arrive. The unpredictability could persist for years, and could look very different for different regions. Leaders will need to unilaterally manage these constant changes across their company, and absorb supply chain shocks.

Automation is the key to building resilience amid this uncertainty. Mundane data entry tasks are non-value-add in good times. In turbulent times, they are even less efficient. To improve remote work conditions, teams need to be freed from mundane work to focus on tasks that build business resiliency.

Take manual order processing. Our organization has uncovered that, on average, CSRs (customer service representatives) spend one third of every workday manually keying in the purchase orders they receive from customers. The majority of wholesale manufacturers and distributors rely on this traditional, by-hand method. This manual process was always slow and prone to error. Purchase-order backlogs would sit overnight, and cost overtime to process. The unnecessary cost, our research shows, is often as high as $26 per order. And right now, with supply chains strained, the cost inefficiencies of this dated approach are made even worse.

When managing a disrupted, remote workforce, leaders need to do everything they can to alleviate their teams from the burden of manual processes. For example, sales order processing can be automated. Using custom-built software, a company can automatically convert emailed purchase orders into sales orders in the ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. No intervention by a CSR is required. Order processing is sped up from hours to moments, and it becomes possible to achieve 100% data extraction accuracy.

Sales order automation significantly accelerates the sales order process, helping companies win back thousands of staff hours—hours that disrupted, remote teams badly need! Those hours can then be redeployed on tasks that help the organization weather supply chain disruptions, such as high-quality customer service.

As a recent report from the World Economic Forum put it, “the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the business environment for many organizations around the globe, and has highlighted the importance of being able to react, adapt, and set up crisis management mechanisms in order to weather situations of uncertainty.” Weathering situations of uncertainty, and ensuring the continued success of your teams, requires building resiliency into your business. Trading the dated for the modern, and automating as many business processes as possible, rapidly generates this resilience. Carry out this digital transformation work now, and an organization is better set to ride out any future supply chain crisis.

Joining Conexiom in 2019, Ricardo Craft is the EVP of product management and product marketing. He leads his team in developing the product strategy, product roadmap, positioning, and messaging for all Conexiom solutions as well as their packaging and delivery into the market.