Robotic process automation (RPA) in logistics is set to optimize specific areas of the supply chain and help gain higher ROI.
RPA is automating manual administrative processes, drafting emails when required, generating reports in real-time, checking inventory and reordering products.
1. THE EVOLUTION OF LOGISTICS
The concept of logistics came into existence long ago, during the period when the ancient Roman and Greek wars took place. Back then, Rome developed an efficient logistics system that enabled the safe movement of military resources to the personnel on the frontlines. While logistics is still used for military purposes, it is also widely used for producing and delivering commercial products or services today. Put simply, logistics refer to the transfer of goods or services to the destination at the right time and in proper condition. Logistics management involves devising and appropriately executing transportation and warehouse activities to ensure timely delivery. Logistics managers need to actively track the movement of the goods, right from its origin to the destination, to control the overall processes effectively. In addition, they are also expected to look out for prospective merchandisers for enabling efficient management of logistics operations. And, as the prime goal is to satisfy customer needs and expectations, the logistics landscape has become even more challenging and complicated today. The success of logistics management depends on how well the administrative work is carried out. Every stakeholder needs to be on the same page, which means that every detail should be updated and taken care of in real-time. Though it seems pretty easy, managing all these processes is quite complex. Especially because a majority of logistics companies still rely on paperwork. The manual method of taking care of back-office processes is not only repetitive but also cumbersome. Plus, humans can cause unwanted or unexpected errors while performing their tasks. And these human errors can potentially harm a logistics company’s bottom line. Now imagine -- what if logistics companies automate their labor-intensive processes with the help of modern-day technologies? One such technology that has proved its ability to automate manual operations is RPA. Implementing RPA in logistics can be a feasible solution for the industry, enabling companies to get rid of their paperwork.
2. BENEFITS OF RPA
Before we jump to the idea of how exactly RPA makes sense to logistics, let’s first clarify what RPA is and what benefits it offers in general.
3. POTENTIAL OF RPA IN LOGISTICS
To begin with, this sophisticated tool, RPA, acts as a virtual workforce, benefitting logistics companies to streamline operations like scheduling and tracking shipments, report and invoice generation, and customer service. Several back-office operations when automated will help logistics stakeholders to bring down operational costs, increase efficiency, and enable timely deliveries.
Scheduling and Tracking
For having a comprehensive view of the flow of goods, right from the receipt of the purchase order to delivery, every stakeholder should update the required details on the portal in real-time. On receiving emails from these stakeholders, the data entry operators are expected to read, understand, and then enter the data into the portal. All of these activities take up a lot of time and effort from the workers, while also being error-prone. On the other hand, by leveraging RPA, the logistics companies can automate these activities. The tool can extract shipping details from internal systems like emails, purchase orders, shipment notices, proofs of delivery, and so on. The retrieved information will then be automatically entered to the portal by RPA tool. Everything will be automatic, which will allow distributors, suppliers, and retailers to stay updated without delays.
Using RPA tools can also add efficiency in the business reporting process. Report generation is a vital but time-consuming activity. Several man hours are spent by employees to generate daily reports. If RPA takes up this responsibility, employees can save a lot of their time and redirect their focus to do something more productive. By extracting information from internal systems, the tool will automatically comprehend and add the essential information that should be mandatorily included in the report.
A research report from Aberdeen Group states that it takes 4.1 to 16.3 days to process an invoice from receipt to approval. The regular follow-ups until invoice processing is time-intensive and actually quite boring. With RPA, the logistics company can carry out this important function conveniently and accurately. The RPA tools can monitor the files and folders for pending invoices, read the invoice details, extract the necessary information, and then make payments automatically. These software robots then send an email to the concerned employees and also the client for future reference.
RPA can be used to set up an automated platform to handle email communication. If the tool is powered by AI, it can easily comprehend the details written in the mail body and can send a relevant and coherent response to the sender. Likewise, updates on customer order details can be automatically sensed by the tool. It can then draft an email to customers notifying them with updates, which can help the logistics companies build brand loyalty and customer relationships.
The logistics companies can leverage the software robots to provide customers the best service possible. The companies can link the data from warehouse systems to the RPA tool such that customer questions can be acknowledged as quickly as possible. This way, companies can build a powerful brand reputation which will, in turn, help them to attract more customers, drive more sales, and maximize their ROI. Thus, in this age when the logistics companies are piled with the pressure to deal with customers asking for goods at a lesser price and go-betweens charging higher and higher for their services, the introduction of RPA tools can give them much-needed respite. In fact, the use of RPA in logistics can even help them thrive in this competitive market.