In this post, we’ll review the RPA in supply chain and how it can transform your core logistics and supply chain functions.

For businesses in any industry, robotic process automation (RPA) offers cost savings of up to 60%. Because of this, the RPA market has been estimated at $1.7 billion for 2019.

But for supply chain and logistics, RPA offers a unique value: helping businesses execute core processes 5-10 times faster with 37% less resources.

It does this by using software robots to perform redundant and manual-intensive tasks, so humans don’t have to. This reduces costs, errors, and inefficiencies, such as late payments and line rejections.

Given all of these benefits, it’s no wonder RPA is the next step in developing an end-to-end digital supply chain. And if that’s something your business wants to do, here are eight areas where RPA can help.

1. Inventory Management

The backbone of supply chains is inventory. But managing inventory to ensure optimal volumes while tracking data along the way can be extremely complex.

RPA can help continuously monitor inventory, notifying you when levels are low. And when new shipments need to be ordered, RPA can perform the job function of an employee by ordering new shipments at the right time.

RPA also helps with tracking inventory as it flows throughout the warehouse. Manually tracking thousands of items as they move across service areas is time-consuming and prone to error. RPA can automate this process, deploying software robots to track inventory as it flows from receiving to shelves to production to shipping. RPA makes inventory management easier by tracking inventory from the time it enters and exits the warehouse.

2. Supply and Demand Planning

The efficiency of a supply chain depends on the ability of managers and analysts to forecast inventory needs. But supply and demand planning traditionally involves examining complex records and data sets, such as historical sales data, market indicators, and custom orders, to name just a few. And you have to track down and ingest this data from vendors, customers, and internal teams.

This can be time-consuming, tedious and error-prone.

RPA provides a more efficient way to ingest and analyze this data through automation. It does this by gathering and merging information, preparing data for manual analysis, and sharing it with planners. According to a specific set of predefined rules, RPA is then able to analyze nuances and trends in large sets of data and customer purchasing activity that are easy to miss. The findings are then delivered in a detailed report.

This enables managers to efficiently develop more accurate forecasts with less time and resources.

3. Purchase Order Management

The backbone of purchase order management is a thorough review process. But having to manually review every order can be labor-intensive and lead to bottlenecks.

With RPA in supply chain, you can run purchase orders through automated criteria such as pricing, quantity, and regularity of purchase.

When an approval matches optimization criteria, it gets sent through. When it doesn’t, the software bot uses notifications to run the remaining purchase orders through procurement managers for a formal review. By utilizing automated approval workflows, RPA allows you to closely review a smaller number of more important orders.

4. Freight Management

Freight management is driven by time-critical, manual tasks. RPA brings efficiency to these tasks while saving time and reducing errors. Software bots work 24/7, providing an efficient and scalable freight management workflow.

It does this by handling tasks such as transferring information during load matching, making it easier for brokers to match a load with a carrier to transport it. RPA in supply chain can enhance other aspects of freight management, such as route optimization, freight accounting, and freight claim management.

5. Returns and Refunds Processing

Processing returns and refunds is both a high-volume and high-value business. But businesses that rely wholly on human intervention in their processing workflows can quickly be overwhelmed.

Fortunately, refunds and returns are the perfect application for RPA in supply chain. By using rules-based task automation, RPA can reduce the need for human intervention in most cases, freeing up labor to focus on processing that relies solely on human decisions. By reducing human intervention and automating processing, RPA accelerates resolution and reduces the risk of errors.

6. Invoice Management

Managing invoices is vital to the success of every logistics and supply chain business. But without a dedicated system in place to manage all the documents and information this entails; invoices can slip through the cracks.

Manually tracking and entering invoice data is a labor-intensive yet mission-critical process, making it perfect for automation.

RPA in supply chain can make it easier to process invoice documents from vendors and suppliers with less chance of error. RPA speeds up tasks such as extracting information from invoices and validating and verifying information, so you can free up labor while ensuring invoices are accurately handled.

7. Price Lookup and Comparison

The fastest way to cut expenses in supply chain and logistics is to optimize pricing of sourced materials. But manually conducting price lookups on multiple options for hundreds of products can prove unwieldy.

This is why price lookup is a prime candidate for automation. RPA in supply chain can routinely search for pricing data on specified materials and ingest this data in a way that makes conducting comparisons easier. This translates to getting better prices more efficiently.

8. ERP Integration

Handling data entry and migration can become cumbersome, repetitive, and prone to error.

With RPA in supply chain, these processes can be handled automatically and at lightning speed, from invoice data entry to data validation and monitoring. RPA can enhance ERP utilities by increasing information accuracy and reducing costs related to manual data entry

The Bottom Line

RPA is emerging as a cost-efficient way for supply chain and logistics companies to optimize their operations while cutting costs. Now that you have a clearer idea of where you can implement it in your supply chain and logistics operations, the next step is finding a service provider to help make it possible.

Looking to implement RPA for your logistics and supply chain operations? Here’s how we can help.