In many industries, the buzzwords digitisation and industry 4.0 are synonymous with greater efficiency in business processes. RPA is often used in this context – but in the logistics sector, businesses still have a lot of catching up to do. Given that three quarters of logistics companies are confident their business will grow over the next three years, if they want to remain competitive, logisticians cannot ignore the digitalisation of the supply chain – and they need to know how to adapt to the rise of digital workers.
And yet manual processes still dominate in the transport and logistics sector. Track & Trace, capturing invoice information, managing customs forms or submitting proofs of delivery are resource-intensive and have a high potential for errors – which can ultimately affect the entire supply chain.
Manual processes can also lead to delayed order entry and delivery, negatively impacting customer relationships and resulting in the loss of sales. These conditions often lead to dissatisfaction among the workforce. Our research has shown that manual input processes and the checking of long documents are among the most unpopular activities in the office – and that the majority of respondents would love to give these tasks to robots if they had the opportunity.
Digital vs manual workers
In logistics in particular, there is lots of monotonous work in document processing and data capture that can be simplified by intelligent automation solutions and integrated AI technologies. These monotonous, repetitive tasks are perfect for the use of RPA.
For instance, a digital worker, i.e. a robot, is able to provide data immediately and the exchange of information within the different systems is also smoother, faster and error-free. The same applies to the input of new data such as customer information, whereby a software robot can continuously check for punctual and accurate data. It is also possible to automatically capture data from contracts or product information and make it available at any time.
The result is that incoming and outgoing goods, as well as complaints, can be processed immediately, leading to an optimised workflow for both man and machine. At the same time, satisfaction levels increase not only among customers, but also internally among management, as they are able to make decisions using the latest figures.
We can use an everyday logistics use case to explain the impact that RPA can have. For example, a driver can upload documents for his freight while on the road, sign them online and receive signatures from other parties. The data is then transferred to a shared services center via a central server where corresponding software sends status messages to the various logistics systems. Proof-of-delivery software makes it possible to enter and submit delivery documents via mobile devices. Suppliers, on the other hand, can initiate billing processes directly by simply photographing delivery receipts with their smartphones, automatically capturing data and transmitting it in real time.
Automation creates added value
It’s clear that the logistics sector is ripe for automation, particularly of data acquisition and processing. RPA is the technology that can make streamlined, high-performing logistics a reality. After all, the digital employee works at the speed of a machine and is available 24 hours a day. Added to this is high precision, extremely low error rates and enormous cost savings. Employees also have reason to be happy, as RPA and automation free them up to concentrate on decision-making, interacting with colleagues, and creative tasks, because data entry is automated for them. But it’s not just their motivation and satisfaction that increases in the workplace – business relationships can also be improved, and so consumer confidence increases. With digital workers integrated into operations, the seamless digital supply chain no longer has to be a pipe dream.