The key to resilience in the supply chain and logistics industry is agility and adaptability. Challenges like reduced labor supply and increasing competition shrinking the already razor-thin margins are continuing in 2020 as well. Other challenges include excessive dependence on legacy systems, error-prone and time-consuming manual processes, expensive logistical operations, and a lack of Data Insights.

It’s high time companies build agility and redundancy into their supply chains through automation with Robotic Process Automation(RPA). The rapidly growing and changing supply chain industry has already started adopting technology enhancement with RPA to ensure that they store, transport, and deliver items correctly and efficiently.

RPA’s intelligent bots work side by side with employees and act as a digital workforce, thereby improving business operations, reducing costs, and increasing productivity. They increase the efficiency of the supply chain and logistics industry by automating repetitive and mundane tasks.

RPA Use-cases in the Logistics, Transportation, and Supply Chain Industry

  1. Managing inventory
    RPA robots keep a complete track of inventory right from its entry to the warehouse to shelves, production, shipment, and finally, its exit. They monitor hundreds of items at every stage and notify if the inventory level of any item is low.
  2. Support in complex decision-making
    RPA plays a significant role in helping managers plan demand and supply by procuring crucial data from vendors, customers, and internal teams. It also helps in examining complex data sets, such as historical sales data, market indicators, custom orders, etc.

    RPA’s intelligent robots gather and merge information, preparing data for manual analysis, analyzing nuances and trends in large data sets, tracking unique customer purchasing activity, and sharing the findings with planners in the form of a detailed report.

    Toyota Motor NA uses RPA bots to collect and compile information for use by warehouse and transport planners and to free its staff to prepare longer-term strategies.

  3. Managing orders
    RPA automates the review process in Purchase Order Management by approving purchase orders using predetermined criteria such as quantity, the regularity of purchase, pricing, etc. It notifies only those orders to the purchase managers for manual review that do not match the criteria. Thus, RPA bots reduce the workload of employees and help them focus on only those orders that need special attention.
  4. Managing shipment details
    Scheduling and tracking shipments require high volume tasks such as monitoring pick-up requests as well as checking and reporting shipment status between portals and the company’s internal systems. RPA bots extract shipment details from incoming emails, log jobs in the scheduling system, and enter accurate pick-up time in carrier and customer portals.
  5. Accurate and timely communication with the customers
    In this competitive scenario effective communication is crucial to retain customers. RPA software automatically sends notifications to the customers giving details about when their order is processed, shipped, etc. It also promptly informs them about any delay in the process and also explains the reason behind it.
  6. Managing loads
    Third party carriers and suppliers for less-than-load (LTL) shipments help in expanding the logistics business. But it requires keeping track of multiple systems to research, capture, and close-out loads. RPA bots integrate with third-party carriers and suppliers and work across systems to automate the management of loads.

    Ryder, a large logistics service provider, uses RPA for transportation planning optimization with its legacy Transportation Management System as well as for appointment scheduling involving examining of carrier websites.

  7. Processing of invoices
    Invoice processing is a tedious task, prone to mistakes. However, RPA bots carry out this repetitive task without getting bored and with utmost accuracy each time. They eliminate errors, drive efficiency, and improve customer responsiveness by automating this repetitive yet critical process.
  • Managing credit collection, returns, and refunds
    RPA bots integrate with different types of systems, including the portals associated with the commercial transportation of goods. Using rule-based task automation, they streamline and process returns, refunds, and sending out claims for receivables after fulfilling a job. Hence, they complete the processes accurately and timely with the least manual intervention.
  • Assistance in vendor selection
    RPA bots make tasks like preparing a quotation request, analyzing vendor documents, and cross-checking the vendor’s credits, more efficient and productive. The employees only need to focus on the initial phases of project specification, vendor list generation, and face-to-face negotiations.
  •  Helps in optimizing pricing
    RPA bots search and keep a record of periodic pricing data for hundreds of products allowing employees to efficiently get better prices for materials and cut expenses in supply chain and logistics.
  • Automating data migration
    As companies use different systems like ERP, SAP, CRM, etc., updating them becomes a cumbersome and repetitive task, prone to error. RPA bots automate and speed up data entry, validation, and monitoring processes, making them cost-effective and accurate.

Benefits of RPA in the Supply Chain and Logistics Industry

  • Enhanced customer service
    In contact centers, tasks automated by RPA help improve TATs and increase efficiency as well as customer satisfaction.
  • Higher employee productivity & efficiency
    As RPA automates all the tasks, employees are free to spend more time on strategic tasks resulting in increased productivity.
  • Improved audit processes
    RPA implementation reduces errors and brings accuracy to business processes, resulting in better audit processes.
  • Guaranty of process compliance of rules
    As RPA facilitates accurate and well-audited processes, it leads to better compliance of rules & regulations as well as notable improvement in workflows.
  • Reduction in the cost and time to complete a workflow
    RPA Automation requires only a few bots or software, reducing the overall cost of the workflow. Since the software can perform monotonous tasks without any errors, the time it takes to complete a workflow also reduces.

    The vice-president of global automotive business development at QAD, Tom Roberts, believes that Machine Learning and RPA are essential to fill the skills gap facing the Supply Chain and Logistics Industry.

The takeaway

RPA has truly transformed the Supply Chain and Logistics operations, its intelligent bots capable of Machine Learning have automated end-to-end processes, while serving as a cost-effective and efficient solution.
If you wish to implement RPA solutions to your Transportation, Logistics, and Supply Chain business, get in touch for expert advice.

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