Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is automating any repetitive and rule-based processes. RPA purpose is to free up employees from repetitive tasks to direct human intervention onto more important tasks that require human intelligence, decision making, communication & interactions. Additionally, RPA enables organisations to not only run tedious processes faster but also more cost effective & accurate manner.
Did you know?
The study shows RPA in any industry’s brought 57% Improvement in customer service, employee engagement & manual errors reduction. 86% increased efficiency, 60% time saving for employees to focus on meaningful and strategic tasks 
RPA implementation used to be very slow in supply chain & logistics, However organisations are adopting themselves quite fast and some industries like automotive, healthcare, retail and manufacturing are rushing into RPA solutions to improve supply chain processes. Moreover, with the emergence of AI & Machine Learning capabilities other complex scenarios that need human judgement in the supply chain can be carried by RPA.
In this article we review RPA opportunities in supply chain & logistics.
Inventory Management optimisation
The core foundation of the supply chain is inventory management. In order to maintain stock availability and fulfil demands on time, it is vital to carefully monitor the inventory. However tracking data manually throughout the process is difficult, time consuming and most importantly subject to human error, therefore RPA helps to record & monitor inventory, notify and reorder products when levels go below a certain threshold.
RPA automates back office to free employees from repetitive tasks, giving them the ability to access inventory levels and assess current needs at all time. RPA makes the inventory management process efficient and fast to track from the time of entry to exit. Moreover, with the help of AI, RPA can enhance real-time reporting to determine and adjust inventory levels based on previous needs and demand patterns.
Purchase Order Management
Purchase order management is a set of repetitive manual processes including order placement confirmation, product selection & payment processing that takes the majority of employees time. However, tracking the end-to-end process manually is prone to human errors such as incorrect information from suppliers, failure on placing orders with prior suppliers & failure in completing required information. Some industries are still underdeveloped in procurement and manual paperworks are in place for processing transactions.
Having RPA on board can help to automate different stages of payments & order processing, such as sending order placement confirmation email or text, in case of any disruption to the remaining purchase orders will be identified & notifications are sent to procurement managers for a formal review, resulting in a smaller number of important orders closely reviewed. Automating the entire back office process frees employees time from tedious tasks & directs employees focus onto quality tasks that require human capability.
Invoice processing automation
Invoice processing is a repetitive labour-intensive but mission critical task for the supply chain in organisations which needs serious attention to minimise error. However, manually tracking the entire process would be prone to error and less time efficient, fortunately the whole process is repetitive and rule-based, therefore RPA can be a perfect solution for invoice processing automation.
Invoice management plays an important role in supply chain & logistics’ success, RPA can help automatically extract relevant information, validate & match invoices against data files e.g. the supplier name, amount & purchase order to verify they match the original order.
Automation in Supply and Demand Planning
Supply and demand planning requires investigating different complex data sets such as custom reports, market indicators, historical sales data and etc. to aggregate required data from different vendors, customers, and internal teams in order to extract relevant data, analyse and prepare invaluable & actionable insights in a well representable format for strategic planning.
Moreover, leveraging AI is adding new capabilities to RPA which results in advanced analytics such as trend analysis, customer activities analysis, demand prediction and helping for unexpected demand preparation.
With Automation in supply chain (from front desk operations to building and managing client relationships) managers intervention can shift into more planning than gathering and extracting relevant data for accurate forecasting while allocating less time and resources.
Another area that automation can bring a lot of value and help to save money & time is price comparison. Price comparison for materials in supply chain & logistics can cut the expenses however, it is time consuming and subject to human error to manually track all the possible options for so many products.
Moreover, to get good results and keep the price comparison optimised, it needs to be done quite regularly. For that reason RPA can be the best solution to keep running price comparison 24/7 in order to reach the maximum optimisation capacity and give the leverage to the organisations to get the best possible prices.
Automation in Returns and Refunds Processing
Returns & refunds processing involves time consuming tasks, manually tracking the end-to-end process is prone to human error, it could decrease customer satisfaction and lead to weaker customer retention in industries such as retail and manufacturing.
Since returns & refunds processing involves labor-intense repetitive tasks in high volume, automation is a suitable and highly accurate solution, freeing human intervention in most cases and directing their focus onto more important processes that need human touch, increasing efficiency in organisations.
Automation in Freight Management
Freight management relies mostly on some time-critical manual tasks, making freight management the best area to implement RPA in order to significantly increase operational efficiency, reduce errors, save money and time. RPA bots can run 24/7 to optimise the workflows such as transforming information to match a load with a carrier during the load matching.
RPA enhances some aspects like freight claim management, accounting and route optimisation. For instance RPA can improve carriers performance tracking(time of delivery-delay-quality of service), enabling companies to identify which carrier has the most complaints from customers in order to optimise claim management and to give the ability to either claim compensation or switch to another vendor. RPA also helps with the price comparison between different vendors to help get the best possible deal with the lower price from suitable vendors.
Contract management optimisation brings great value to an organisation however, the process involves some tedious tasks like approval and notifications that requires a lot of manual work. The entire tedious processes can be automated using RPA in order to save more time for contract managers, increasing efficiency and productivity.
Additionally combining AI & Machine Learning with RPA are pushing the boundaries and bringing new opportunities to unlock potentials, enhance operational efficiency and decision making to meet corporate legal requirements, however not much AI implementation in contract management yet.
Vendor selection consists of a set of manual tasks that can be automated, directing the human intervention onto other phases like negotiations, projects specifications & vendors list generation.
RPA can also increase efficiency and productivity by enhancing other areas of vendor selection such as:
- Preparing quotation requests (RFP/RFQ) and sending it to vendors
- Evaluate and credit check vendors
- Analyse, finalise and short listing the vendors.
All of the above will be possible once a suitable RPA solution is integrated.
Most of the companies have an agenda to implement RPA as a cost-effective approach to enhance operations in supply chain & logistics. However achieving desired results relies on a suitable end-to-end solution implemented by an expert team.
If you are seeking a specialised team for RPA implementation for your supply chain & logistics operations or need consultation from an expert?
We are here to provide practical help in automating processes and tasks in your organisation, contact us today to start.