Businesses around the world are constantly evolving. Thanks to research and technological advancements, they can embrace different systems and technologies to improve business performance. The supply chain industry that involves the distribution of goods and services to consumers, has now adopted the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate repetitive work. This enables human labor to perform tasks that require critical thinking and decision-making.
RPA makes the supply chain processes more efficient. RPA addresses tangled technological elements in supply chain management. With RPA, any changes in the shipping schedules are delivered with efficiency. Therefore, no delays will pop up in the way. Whenever your business must take care of client needs or maybe implement data consolidation or automation, you can also rely on RPA.
If your organization decides to utilize RPA, it will not fail to realize how efficient its supply chain becomes. Unfortunately, a lot of supply chain companies are not convinced about the importance of using RPA in their processes, which is why we will share some benefits of RPA in supply chain management and also 5 top supply chain management RPA use cases.
RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. Mainly, people use RPA to automate repetitive, difficult, and time-consuming tasks. For example, they use RPA to perform tasks such as data entry in a supply chain business. A worker no longer has to do manually this repetitive task.
RPA is also ideal for tasks and processes that do not require any special knowledge. It is almost the same as cognitive automation, whereby AI agents perform tasks just like a human after understanding how a human thinks. The main difference between RPA and AI is that with RPA, human skills are needed to set rules, and manage the bots. Yet, with cognitive automation, humans are replaced, or the number required is minimized since AI uses algorithms and data to understand human functions.
5 RPA Use Cases in Supply Chain Management
1. Initiating purchase orders
The purchase order process can be part of a bigger procurement project, and it is usually a tedious task for any business. It requires a lot of time and effort to manually process purchase orders. This is where RPA comes into play. RPA has the ability to automate the entire purchase order process from start to finish, save valuable time, eliminate human errors, increase productivity, and make the entire process much more efficient and cost-effective for companies.
RPA Implementation in purchase order processing includes:
- Generating automatically purchase order documents
- Submitting the order for multi-level approvals
- Automating data entry
2. Managing orders
This supply chain RPA use case concerns order processing and management. There are a lot of customers placing wholesale orders from different points, and an efficient cloud platform with RPA capabilities is the right solution for your online business. It will automatically process the orders and keep the necessary data before any shipment or invoicing. If your business is B2B, the order management process in your supply chain should be more detailed to handle the heavy traffic of orders. All in all, any supply chain company or department using RPA will be able to automate many processes without a hurdle.
3. Handling support requests and after-sale services
RPA can fully automate ticket management and after-sale services. Instead of any human intervening, RPA will efficiently perform the needed tasks. RPA technology can support the entire support department, by minimizing ticket processing errors and saving your representatives’ valuable time. This will be important to the business as it will become more competitive.
4. Supply and demand planning
Anticipating and reacting to the supply and demand process can be a daunting task especially if you just rely on human labor. To plan the reaction to the process, you will need to analyze reports and data from all corners of the business. RPA performs all these tasks without any mistakes and without wasting time.
5. Enabling data transmission
This is an essential supply chain management RPA use case. Important shipments must be transported and stored efficiently, safely, and quickly. For this to occur, data transmission must be reliable. If not, the business will incur losses because it cannot act on the correct information. RPA smooths out the functioning of analytics. This is accomplished by providing insights that will help to eliminate any clerical roadblocks such as incorrect data formatting.
What are the Implementation Steps of RPA in Supply Chain Management?
When implementing RPA applications in supply chain management, there are a few steps you have to follow:
1. Define the scope of Robotic Process Automation and its objectives
Each business has short-term and long-term goals. Incorporating RPA in your company will assist you in achieving those objectives and reaping the benefits. The most important is to determine the objectives and how they will be measured in terms of business success or failure. Let’s say your sales team receives new order for a customer. After checking the inventory stock, an RPA bot places the order to an ERP system, speeding up the whole process. Will your company have to look at overall productivity or the technology used? It will be up to you to come up with the right answers.
2. Choose the supply chain processes to automate
Not all supply chain processes may be suitable for RPA in the same way. Supply chain processes can be automated in many ways, but it is important to find the right balance between cost and efficiency.
The first process that you should automate is the inventory management process. This way, you will have a clear overview of what goods you have available and what needs to be ordered.
The second process that you should automate is the order fulfillment process. This way, you can make sure that all orders are fulfilled on time without any problems or delays.
The third process that you should automate is the transportation management process. This way, you will know where your goods are at any time.
3. Pick the best RPA solution for your needs
There are many RPA solutions on the market. However, not all of them are good for your specific needs. It is important that you do your research and find out what RPA solution will best fit your needs. A good starting point for an RPA solution is to look for one that provides you with full scalability and integration capabilities. Another important factor is that the RPA software provides the necessary security features and compliance. Above all, it is critical to start by defining your goals and objectives. In this way, you will be more confident with your options and finally invest in a great solution for your company.
4. Define the processes for managing changes
The first stages of using RPA in your supply chain management are manageable. But as time goes on, the process becomes harder. Managing changes is a difficult task for any organization. It requires a lot of time and effort. How are you going to manage it? Well, with the help of some key steps, you can achieve this in an efficient and effective way. Here are some of the key steps to follow:
- Keeping a record that will indicate the changes that occurred and the reasons as to why they occurred
- Responding to change quickly.
- Communicating with stakeholders about the change.
- Focusing on the desired outcome of change.
Following these steps for managing change will assist the project team in making decisions and improving the quality of services and products.
5. Establish an excellence center within your company
The final step involves developing an RPA center of excellence. The ultimate goal of an RPA center of excellence is to create a collaborative and supportive environment that helps the organization grow, innovate, and continually improve. The center of excellence should also be able to deliver expertise, think strategically about the future, and position the organization for success. This will assist team members in improving how they perform their tasks and duties. It will help create a standard that every team will follow and also act as a reference point whenever they want to remember matters about RPA.
What are the Benefits of RPA in Supply Chain Management?
RPA use cases in supply chain management provide lots of benefits to businesses. It is the ultimate solution you need to better your business, whether it is online or offline. Those who have used this approach can attest to many advantages. Here are some typical benefits:
1. Boosts productivity in every department
A supply chain manager keeps track of a variety of activities that can be time-consuming to manage. RPA software and applications work faster and reduce the data workload by half, which benefits the business as a whole. Accordingly, reduced workloads by 50% result in increased productivity.
2. Reduces costs and generates savings
RPA systems correctly work in completing tasks, hence reducing the chances of errors and the need for human repetition. This in return will enhance the speed at which work is delivered and reduce the cost since the business will not have to employ more team members to perform tasks.
3. Improves customer and user experience
Customers are king in any business, and they determine its success or failure. Hence, they should receive enough attention and the best user experience. Since RPA systems reduce the workload in a business, employees can focus more on customers’ needs and deliver exceptional customer experience.
4. Achieves flexibility and speed in scaling up and down
In business, customer orders might increase at any time. This requires more employees for production to occur. Will you have to employ more temporary workers and spend a lot? Instead, you can just make use of RPA systems that can easily be scaled up and down instantly to handle a large volume of work.
RPA is a great solution in supply chain management, and it enables a business to scale up fast. It handles most of the back-end processes and enhances the efficiency and speed of delivery, giving more time for the team members to concentrate on providing better services to customers.