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Robotic process automation streamlines logistics

Posted: 14 Apr 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:AI? robotics? robotics process automation? AI? RPA?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) aims to streamline and transform today's supply chains and logistics operations. This emerging technology is in line with the idea of bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workforce, thus projecting increased productivity.

Today's supply chain and logistics operations are undergoing a series of dramatic changes that are delivering a more agile supply chain. Using human workers for updating customer web portals with current load status and estimated time of arrival (ETA), scheduling a delivery, or tracking a trailer has become an inefficient and costly use of resources. Instead, electronics OEMs can benefit from the deployment of RPA.

Robotics Process Automation is better deployed to complement existing automation initiatives. RPA, therefore, is ideal for adding efficiency to the supply chain by:

* Eliminating manual data copying from internal systems back into business-to-business portals;

* Automating the scheduling of 100,000+ appointments, to let customer service representatives to focus on higher value work;

* Deploying intelligent software robots to read 500,000+ emails annually and update trailer portals more frequently, to capture productivity gains and deliver better service.


Figure 1: Electronics OEMs can benefit from the deployment of RPA, being designed to complement existing automation initiatives.

Use Case: Efficiently-Integrated RPA Exceeds ROI Expectations

To automate business activities that are core to logistics operations and business interactions such as internal systems, Websites, and partner portals, Crete Carrier, one of the largest privately owned trucking companies in the U.S., has recently deployed software robots through a no-coding integration and automation approach. The company focuses on providing low-cost quality transportation and logistics services.

During a recent webinar, Transforming Your Supply Chain And Logistics Operations with Robotics Process Automation, Matt Schnake and Jim King, website integration administrators at Crete Carrier, revealed how deploying robots in 15 different terminals across the U.S. helped the company achieve their goals.

Crete Carrier used RPA for key processes such as appointment scheduling, B2B integration, and trailer tracking. "Our initial business use was for appointment setting," said Schnake, who explained that for B2B integration they wanted to fully integrate two of their vendors, Travel Centers of America eShop (a Web interface company) and Cetaris (a fleet software provider).

King explained they were also looking to decrease the time needed to set appointments as well as to improve transit, which they did by 7.14%. They also saw a slight gain on on time deliveries. "Robots can begin setting appointments within minutes of being into the system," said King, "we saw a ten-fold improvement of time to appoint; that has been a dramatic increase."

B2B was fully integrated as results of deploying RPA and everything exceeded their expectations, including Return on Investment (ROI).

King went on to explain how, after implementing RPA, the company could efficiently automate data mining, focus efforts of trailers process groups, increase frequency, and supplement GPS tracking. "From the end of 2014 to the end of 2015, the results skyrocket," he added. "Nearly 90% of the 30.000 trailers were updated to using RPA. This resulted in a lot of savings. There was a significant decrease in profit loss."

Constantly collecting data and keeping track of changes translated into a more efficient business process. They didn't require any human intervention for updates. "We have a robot than monitors robots," said Schnake, adding they can deploy a robot within a week or two. "A typical robot takes us three to four days to build and deploy."

In summary, 311 unique robots were rolled out in 2015, and now that figure has reached "more than 400 robots deployed and the number will continue to grow," says King. Crete Carrier increased efficiency, productivity, and speed.

To implement this kind of system, OEMs should look for a product that is flexible, adaptable, reliable, and scalable when adopting RPA technology, King said. "The software pays for itself within a year," he added.

RPA will undoubtedly become more and more common in the future of the supply chain. What's your organisation's view on this trend? Have you already adopted RPA, or are you considering putting it on the next board meeting's agenda?

- Susan Fourtane

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