If you work in transportation and logistics, technology may sometimes seem like the bane of your existence. The implementation of different kinds of software applications meant to elevate and simplify your business may, in fact, have the opposite effect.

Your employees may experience “portal fatigue,” trying to manually piece together a workflow involving a lot of copy-and-pasting among five or more technology platforms. The work can be mind-numbing and overwhelming. When is the paperless, seamless digital future we were promised going to become a reality?

Fortunately, help is on the way.

Robotic process automation is an affordable, flexible way to manage different software solutions. RPA uses a blend of artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing to learn and mimic repetitive, time-sucking workflows. The result of this automation is a more integrated process that optimizes your existing technology, saves time and resources, and generates significant gains for your business. RPA can also improve the user experience for your employees, eliminating redundancy and busy-work from their 8-to-5 lives.

“In our industry, portal fatigue is becoming rampant,” said RPA Labs CEO and co-founder Matt Motsick. “Automation means fewer portals, and more interconnections.”

RPA and Logistics

While RPA isn’t exactly new, it is just starting to have an impact on transportation and logistics. Freight forwarders, carriers, freight brokers and other logistics companies are beginning to see how automation can improve their supply chain solutions.

Here are three key areas in which RPA is having an impact on logistics companies today:

Report Generations – RPA uses machine learning and natural language processing to automate repetitive workflows like creating shipment orders, re-keying information from documents to databases, downloading reports, and inputting valuable information into CRM or ERP systems. RPA bots can also scrape relevant data from emails, texts, social media and other digital sources to identify market trends and insights.

Document Automation – Whether a company is a domestic freight broker, an international freight forwarder, an ocean carrier or a trucking fleet, they probably rely on employees to do all the data entry, migration and document indexing manually. Handling all these tasks – in addition to providing good service and communicating regularly with partners and clients – can be dull, time-consuming and cumbersome for any logistics company. RPA allows for seamless system-to-system interaction, so migrating data from shipping instructions, BOLs, packing invoices, and other documents is done automatically.

Invoicing – Making the invoicing process quicker and more efficient improves your chances of getting paid faster. RPA can post sales invoices and purchase orders into accounting systems without human interaction. The bots used by RPA can also identify billing errors and inconsistencies, and alert your accounting team and customers when invoices are paid.   

Emails and Digital Conversations – Unlike humans, RPA bots never take time off. That enables them to respond to customer questions immediately, either through email or online chats. This 24/7 availability can lead to quicker troubleshooting and improved customer service. In an industry in which 90% of correspondence is conducted via email, implementing email automation can be a true game-changer.

Other areas where RPA can help logistics providers include:

  • Inventory management
  • Vendor selection
  • Shipment status communication
  • Supply and demand forecasting

Transportation Management with RPA

Logistics service provider Ryder is a recent example of how RPA can be used to automate a legacy software system. Ryder began implementing RPA in 2017 to manage manual, repetitive tasks within the company’s transportation management system (TMS), according to a recent article in Forbes. Ryder, which optimizes an estimated 14 million shipments per year, also began using RPA to track carrier websites for appointment scheduling.

Now, with 133 RPA bots executing more than 1,300 tasks, Ryder has been able to redeploy more than six of its (human) transportation analysts to other work. The time required for Ryder to identify a freight carrier and book a load has been cut by two thirds. And the accuracy of the process has improved because RPA bots do not make data entry mistakes.

The Cost of Not Automating  

The thought of adding another layer to your existing technology may seem daunting. However, the long-term impact of not automating through technology like RPA could hurt your company’s ability to compete and meet heightening customer demands.

According to studies, companies in industries like heath care, accounting and insurance are seeing an average of 43% time reduction for processes like collections, billing and credit analysis, thanks to RPA. As automated technology improves with more artificial intelligence capabilities, transportation companies that adopt early will reap the benefits of better time management and streamlined supply chains. Those companies will gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In short, while some companies automate, others will stagnate. For your company, robotic process automation may be the answer in gaining the full benefits of your existing technology.

Sources: Techwire Asia, Forbes, Inc42.com

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