What Is Robotic Process Automation & How Does It Apply to the TMS?

What Is Robotics Process Automation For A TMS
Automation is the clear winner of supply chain success. Unfortunately, many companies are stuck in the days of antiquated processes, manual data review, and cumbersome back-office processes. When it comes to software, sharing information between systems is easy, but what happens next with that data can’t be overlooked. It can make or break your performance goals. And what about customer status inquiries and driver check calls? To answer those questions, look no further than robotic process automation, or more commonly referred to as RPA, and its wide-ranging impacts on TMS efficiency and executability.

Defining Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation is a relatively new term for a concept that has been around for a while. Imagine the full digital transformation of IVR systems into chatbots. Those bots are process-driven robotic software capabilities. That’s the basic premise of robotic process automation, and as explained by Clint Boulton of CIO.com:
“More CIOS are turning to robotic process automation to eliminate tedious tasks, freeing corporate workers to focus on higher-value work. But RPA requires proper design, planning, and governance if it’s to bolster the business, experts say.” It is important to know that this last statement is very important and cannot be overlooked. The world is riddled with failed RPA implementations.” One of the ways to minimize the risk of poor planning and to jump start automation is to use a platform that builds bots on top of a best practice processes.”

RPA Reduces Manual Status Updates and Manual Review of TMS Data

The application of robotic processes within software capabilities has considerable growth potential and overall impact on how a TMS functions. Remember the days when hunting for a TMS exception was the norm? For many companies, that may still be the case, but this new automated capability can even handle unexpected exceptions. As a result, employees can focus more on closing sales, securing new contracts, working to improve client relationships and dealing with the issues that demand human intervention. Robotics process automation further allows for tedious tasks to undergo digital transformation. Consider this: auditing software requires analytics to review information. Robotic process automation can combine with auditing capabilities to assess the information, take corrective action, self-assign audits, share data reports, complete chargebacks, and much more.
Robotic process automation has reached new levels in today’s TMS solutions. Automation allows orders for all locations to be passed into the TMS and routed across the entire supply chain, inbound and outbound movements. The TMS determines the best carrier to use on each move, while also considering the limited carrier capacity to ensure a global least-cost solution for all modes of transport. The loads are then tendered, tracked throughout movement, and delivered while following a best-of-breed process. Exceptions are handled automatically by the bots as they occur. As process exceptions occur, bots determine the proper course of action. So if a tender is rejected, a bot determines the next best carrier to use and tenders the load to that carrier. If an order system communicates that a shipment needs to be expedited, a bot can determine the proper routing and automatically reroute the rail leg onto an air carrier if needed. These bots capture the expertise of the best in the transportation department and automates that knowledge. When bots exhaust what they can do, then the system assigns the process step to the appropriate person to resolve. No more hunting for where to focus. Bots can even be used in a brokerage organization to focus the attention of the broker on the most lucrative loads for the business, augmenting the judgement of the user.

Additional Benefits of Robotic Process Automation-Inclusive TMS Functions

The benefits of using automated robotic processes within a TMS are not solely limited to customer-facing or business-facing aspects. This capability can interact with other supply chain systems, even when those systems were not originally designed with integration in mind. Automated software rulesets can collect, share, and enter data at a fraction of the time a human worker would need. Meanwhile, the data is virtually error-free, assuming the source data was accurate. But automation can also help if there is an issue in the source data. Take an address for example. Quite often many systems can have multiple versions of the same address. Once that data is passed to the TMS a bot can do an address validation to correct any anomalies before the shipment moves. Those corrected addresses can be stored and even communicated back to the original system allowing a cleansing of the data if needed. That’s a key benefit to remember.
Another leading benefit of this form of automation in the TMS includes strategic initiatives, such as route optimization and carrier or LSP communications. Since it runs intuitively in the background, drivers’ real-time location and status updates can be aggregated and tracked within the TMS. Additional applications of robotic process automation can further apply this data to notify recipients of ETA for trucks, packages, future orders, and virtually any repetitive process. And while people are still needed, their skills can be used to increase office efficiency further and build a lasting, growing, and scalable supply chain.

Reap the Rewards of Automation in the TMS by Partnering with MercuryGate

In today’s world, the most significant difference between whether clients are screaming at an IVR or feeling confident about the online chat is the perception of humanity on the other end. Advancements in robotic process automation have transformed chatbots from irritating drones into efficiency-inducing capabilities, sharing information, correcting issues, and triggering human interventions when necessary. Combining these capabilities within a TMS platform that connects best practice processes and systemized operational knowledge with the full supply chain can dramatically reduce the costs of manual work, help staff focus on being more productive, and eliminate errors. Of course, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

To explore the full functionality of robotic process automation in TMS executions today

Steve Blough
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