RPA, or Robotic Process Automation, is a technology that automates repetitive and rule-based tasks using software bots. These bots mimic human actions and interact with digital systems to perform tasks like data entry and report generation.
RPA enables the automation of tasks such as order processing, shipment scheduling, logistic management, and invoicing, leading to improved logistics performance and cost reduction.
The Advantages of RPA for Modern Supply Chains
RPA use cases in supply chain management provide lots of benefits to businesses. It is the ultimate solution to improve your online or offline business.
Some of the specific benefits are:
- Enhanced Accuracy: RPA eliminates the potential for human errors in data entry and processing. Bots follow predefined rules and perform tasks consistently, improving data accuracy and reliability throughout the supply chain.
- Improved Productivity: By automating routine tasks, RPA boosts productivity by reducing the time and effort required. It enables supply chain teams to handle increased workloads, meet tight deadlines, and achieve higher output levels.
- Scalability: RPA can quickly scale to accommodate fluctuations in demand or business growth. RPA helps supply chains handle increased volumes without the need for significant additional resources.
- Cost Savings: By automating manual tasks, RPA reduces labour costs and decreases the likelihood of errors or rework. It also optimises resource utilisation, leading to cost savings in the long run.
RPA-Automated Supply Chain Processes
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has revolutionised various industries by automating critical processes in the supply chain.
Let’s see how RPA has aided in automating processes across different sectors:
- Order Processing and Payments: RPA streamlines order processing by automatically extracting sales order data from multiple sources such as emails, faxes, and EDI. It eliminates data entry errors and simplifies order entry and fulfilment by managing complex business rules.
- Onboarding of Partners: RPA simplifies the onboarding process by creating intelligent bots that synchronise and automate the onboarding of new goods and services from partners. It helps streamline the integration and collaboration with suppliers and other business partners.
- Shipment Scheduling and Tracking: RPA automates scheduling and tracking shipments by automating data entry, applying relevant conditions for scheduling, and assigning unique IDs for tracking purposes. It improves efficiency and accuracy in managing the shipment process.
- Invoicing: RPA facilitates invoicing by automating data entry, extraction, and calculation tasks. It ensures accurate and efficient invoicing processes, reducing manual errors and improving overall efficiency in financial transactions.
- Procurement and Inventory: RPA automates procurement and logistic management processes by automatically updating data entries and utilising unique identifiers to track and manage goods efficiently.
- Supply and Demand Planning: RPA supports supply and demand planning by automating data updates and streamlining the process of managing new goods entries. By leveraging RPA, organisations can forecast demand more accurately and efficiently, improving customer satisfaction.
- Customer Services: RPA improves customer service by enabling quick and efficient responses to customer requests and demands. By automating receiving and addressing customer inquiries or interest changes, organisations can deliver timely and attentive service, enhancing overall customer satisfaction.
Implementing an RPA Program in Your Supply Chain
Implementing an RPA program in your supply chain can bring numerous benefits, such as increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved accuracy.
Here are the key steps to consider when implementing an RPA program in your supply chain:
Identify Suitable Processes
Start by identifying the supply chain processes that are repetitive, rule-based, and prone to human errors. These processes are ideal candidates for automation through RPA.
Conduct Process Analysis
Analyse the identified processes to understand their steps, dependencies, inputs, and outputs. Document the existing workflows and identify any pain points or areas for improvement.
Prioritise the processes based on their potential impact, complexity, and feasibility for automation. Begin with smaller, less complex processes to gain experience and build momentum before tackling more critical or intricate processes.
Involve key stakeholders from IT, supply chain, and relevant departments in the implementation process. Seek their input, insights, and buy-in to ensure the successful adoption of RPA in the supply chain.
Select RPA Tools
Evaluate and select suitable RPA tools that align with your supply chain requirements. Consider factors such as ease of use, scalability, compatibility with existing systems, and support for process integration.
Develop RPA Solutions
Work closely with RPA developers or experts to design and develop automation solutions for the identified processes. Collaborate to create bots to perform the desired tasks, integrate with relevant systems, and handle exceptions effectively.
Test and Validate
Thoroughly test the RPA solutions to ensure they function as intended and deliver the expected results. Validate the automated processes' accuracy, reliability, and efficiency before deploying them in the live environment.
Train and Educate Employees
Provide training and education to employees who will manage and oversee the RPA program. Help them understand the benefits, purpose, and functionalities of RPA and address any concerns or misconceptions.
Monitor and Optimise
Continuously monitor the performance of the implemented RPA program and gather feedback from users. Identify opportunities for further optimisation, refine processes as needed, and make adjustments to maximise the benefits of RPA in your supply chain.
Scale and Expand
Once you have successfully implemented RPA in selected processes, consider scaling and expanding the program to cover other functions in your supply chain. Use the insights and lessons learned from initial implementations to guide future deployments.
Supply Chain Challenges for RPA
Supply chains encounter several challenges when implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Some of them include:
Data Integration: Integrating data from several systems, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) and logistic management systems, can be complex. RPA installations need seamless data connectivity for decision-making and automation to guarantee accurate and current information.
Exception Handling: Supply chain processes often encounter exceptions or deviations from the standard workflow. Handling these exceptions and developing automation solutions to address them can be complex, as they may require human judgment and decision-making.
Change Management: Introducing RPA in the supply chain requires change management efforts to address potential employee resistance. It involves educating and training employees on the benefits of automation and addressing any concerns about job security or changes to their roles and responsibilities.
Process Standardisation: RPA implementations work best when processes are standardised and well-defined. In cases where supply chain processes vary across locations or departments, standardising procedures may be necessary before implementing automation.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) holds immense potential in transforming procurement and supply chains. By leveraging RPA, organisations can achieve increased efficiency, enhanced accuracy, improved productivity, and streamlined processes.
RPA plays a crucial role in logistic management, enabling supply chains to optimise operations, respond to customer demands, and gain a competitive edge in the market.
To further enhance your expertise in Supply Chain Management and understand the application of RPA in procurement and supply chains, consider enrolling in Imarticus Learning’s Digital Supply Chain Management With E&ICT, IIT Guwahati course.
This Supply Chain Management certification course offers all the necessary knowledge and skills that you will need to excel in the digital era. Visit Imarticus Learning for more information.