Robotic Process Automation or RPA refers to applying technology to automate various business processes governed by business logic. It is an application technology for deploying intelligent bots powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate routine business processes. RPA helps capture and decipher existing applications to process transactions, manipulate data, trigger responses, and communicate with other digital systems. Through RPA tools, enterprises can capture data to process various types of transactions, manipulate and analyze data, send responses, and communicate with other systems.
Today, most organizations are using automation tools and platforms to support their functions, and the supply chain management industry is no exception to this. Supply chain players heavily use robotic process automation (RPA) to accelerate their tasks, which were once performed manually, maximizing productivity while cutting costs. In addition, organizations are utilizing RPA to automate data-driven activities, not just automating redundant tasks.
But how does RPA impact or benefit supply chains that operate traditionally?
Benefits of robotic process automation (RPA) in supply chain operations
RPA can improve supply chain management and logistics by helping companies in Order Processing and Payments, Risk Mitigation in Procurement, Warehouse Management, Supply and Demand Planning, Inventory Management Automation, etc. It offers multi-fold benefits:
- Eliminates the manual work involved in order placements and processing and several other tasks involved in supply chains
- Increases the return on investments (ROI)
- Reduces, and sometimes, eliminates, the human errors from the tasks
- Identifies and enhances efficacy across the supply chains through analytics and automation
- Enhances customer service by responding faster to quotes and queries by leveraging the power of AI and machine learning
- Reduces the total costs by automating processes
Initially, when experts had just started using RPA, it could not manage skill-based interactions of complex chains that needed human interactions. But with continuous improvement and advancement of technology, enterprises could see RPA has enormous potential in the supply chain management industry. What had started with simple automation is now seen as cognitive, knowledge-enabled processing.
Today AI-based chatbots are acting like humans. RPA is intelligent automation that uses knowledge-based capabilities to analyze data. As a result, supply chain players are increasingly adopting robotic process automation, mimicking some of the tasks that humans have been managing, such as processing data, capturing information, interacting with customers, and so on. The bots learn from past actions and use this knowledge to recognize patterns, make predictions and help drive decisions.
Use cases of robotic process automation (RPA) in supply chain operations
RPA can be used to predict outcomes and aid complex decision-making. For instance, order processing in supply chain management still relies on conventional manual paperwork to process transactions. This can be automated so that the data is directly fed into the company’s database, the amount is processed, and confirmation is sent via email or text message. Similarly, vendor selection, usually a manual process, can be transformed and improvised with RPA. Completing tasks such as preparing quotations, communicating with vendors, documentation, evaluating vendors, and finalizing them is time-consuming and labour-intensive. With RPA, all these tasks can be automated to make tasks more productive and quicker. Here are some of the critical use cases of RPA in the supply chain operations:
Order processing and payments: This part of the supply chain comprises manufacturers, retailers, and distributors and handles functions such as entry of customer information, payment processing, product selection, etc. Since all these tasks are heavily manual, these are great candidates for automation. Leveraging RPA tools can help automate these back-office tasks, reducing manual labour and enhancing productivity.
Shipment schedule and tracking: This involves shipment goods and tracking them, which is again a manual process. Automating the scheduling and monitoring them through unique IDs can make the job simpler, better, and faster.
Inventory management: Another critical task that ensures enough stock to meet the business demands. RPA for inventory management automatically notifies the teams when the stores are below the mentioned levels. In some instances, bots can even help place the order of these products as soon as the stock goes below the threshold level. This helps in maintaining optimal inventory levels.
Logistics management: A core function in supply chains, logistics involves preparing, executing, and managing the storage of products and taking care of customers’ needs. RPA can help automate these tasks, ensuring real-time tracking of shipments.
However, not everything can be automated. Therefore, enterprises should always focus on critical parameters before implementing RPA into the supply chain operations. Here are the key considerations:
- Analyzing the operations and discovering the focus ones that can be picked for automation
- Analyzing metrics and finding the ones lagging performance
- Finding the operations that face struggles with complexities between customers and manufacturing unitsModernizing your business with AI-based platforms can connect you with your customers better and tighter and help you make better business decisions. Therefore, RPA can help supply chains see tremendous improvement in order fulfilment accuracy, enhanced order quantities, better forecasting through inventory management, resulting in improved productivity, efficacy, and customer satisfaction.For more information on how you can leverage robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline your supply chain operations, talk to our experts.