“In most cases, RPA is being used in conjunction with other digital levers such as IoT, intelligent document processing, chatbots, mobile applications and even blockchain to reimagine workflows to address bottlenecks and other significant business challenges,” said Shirley Hung, vice president at Everest Group, a management consulting and research firm in Dallas.
Here are seven ways companies are weaving RPA into logistics and supply chain workflows.
1. Data entry automation
Lack of integration is a critical issue for almost every business involved in shipping goods, and RPA software can help close some of the gaps.
2. Predictive maintenance
Maintaining equipment is an important aspect of supply chain management, and RPA — working with other technologies — can help by facilitating predictive maintenance efforts.
3. Logistics management
In these cases, RPA bots monitor orders and update the order handover details across all relevant systems, Hung said. They can also work in conjunction with AI-based intelligent routing systems that coordinate between multiple logistics partners, such as road freight, cargo ships and air freight. The bots are capable of automatically assigning a delivery partner based on the location of the products.
4. After-sales service
What happens after a sale is becoming increasingly important, and RPA can work with several other technologies to improve that aspect of supply chain management.
For example, when a customer places a service request using a mobile app, an intelligent virtual assistant or chatbot can interact with customers and then place requests in the system, Hung said. Intelligent document processing applications can read data from various service request document formats and then coordinate with RPA bots to capture and maintain service ticket data.
6. Order management
Automations for routine and repetitive manual tasks, such as load matching with transport availability and order management, can be difficult to implement directly into the existing ERP. Robotic process automation technology can make this easier to accomplish.
7. Supply chain diversity
RPA can help companies build a more resilient supply chain in the wake of COVID-19 by bringing automation to supplier relationships.
Business leaders should develop a resilience automation strike team and a roadmap to scale up any processes using automation, which makes them more resilient, said Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.