supply chain rpa

By now we have discussed many practices areas where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can add value (General Business, Finance, HR, and IT).  However, I left one of my favorite practices for last – supply chain. I worked in supply chain operations for the entirety of my early career.  I started in a warehouse and moved to managing a team of demand planners. I saw how RPA was truly an agent of change.   I am here to share with you my personal RPA journey.

Transportation Management

Shipping and moving goods from one location to another in an effective & smooth manner is key to keeping a supply chain healthy. Managing incoming and outgoing shipments requires a ton of work – from managing bill of ladings, finding carriers, handling time changes, and a plethora of other important tasks the work is endless. Ensuring everything is in order takes teams of employees, often working around the clock to keep the shipments flowing. Luckily, these processes are often very structured and are prime from RPA.

I did not realize the impact RPA could have here until I saw it with my own eyes.  BOL’s were being created automatically, time changes were being handled behind the scenes, transfers were being scheduled, and door assignments were done with the help of RPA & machine learning.  The result? Out of stocks were at an all-time low. It was amazing to see such a transformation.  Not only did we have the most efficient shipment network in the company’s history, but we were also able to repurpose our service center to focus on ensuring the right product was at the right place at the right time.

Ordering & Forecasting

In my last job, my team was responsible for the ordering and forecasting for 25 distributors.  We oversaw everything from order to shipment execution of over one thousand SKUs.  Our sole responsibility was to ensure all our distributors had the product they needed to supply their service areas.  As our orders were based on the ever-changing demands of American consumers, we would often change our orders multiple times a day.  Most of the time we focused on sales trend analysis and conversing with the field salesforce to understand where the market was going.  When not doing that, we were making changes in our ordering platform which was time-consuming and generally not value add, but it needed to be done.

Here is where RPA kicked in.  We created a bot to help enter in all our changes as we made them.  This way, we could continue focusing on S&OP cadence and shipment management. This change in the ways of work eventually led our team to save over $5MM in supply chain overhead.

Final Note

I have a passion for making supply chains efficient, and in my experience, RPA was one of the best tools for transformations that I ran across during my time in the industry.  I was so enamored by the transformation that I moved to consulting to help others realize the potential.  If you have questions or just want to discuss the potential for your supply chain, please reach out.