More Glossary Terms

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation or RPA is software technology that mimics or emulates the way humans interact with software to perform high-volume, repeatable tasks.

RPA is a productivity tool that allows the design of rules-based software scripts to execute specific business or information technology (IT) activities in an automated fashion.

What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic process automation is a forward-thinking technology utilized in the modern supply chain. Essentially it is a virtual robot that acts on data to keep all parties up to date. RPA makes it easy to build, deploy and manage software robots to interact with other digital systems and software.

Robotic process automation continuously looks at what is happening, what is likely to happen, and what needs to happen to achieve the best result as determined by stated rules. RPA automates recurring supply chain processes that often require significant time or effort for humans to complete. Examples of where robotic process automation executes process steps:

  • Data entry and manipulation.
  • Predictive maintenance.
  • Transferring data to different applications.
  • Triggering responses.
  • Executing transactions.

Robotic process automation is commonly used to complete back-office tasks of human workers.

Benefits of Robotic Process Automation

The elimination of recurring manual tasks anchors robotics process automation benefits. Deploying metaphorical software “robots” can significantly increase process time for many business activities.

  • Boost productivity for humans while bots complete rote activities.
  • Improve efficiency, lower costs and reduce errors by allowing technology to execute steps where staff time is spent transposing information.
  • Bolster data security when information transfers occur digitally in secured networks – instead of legacy paper-based systems.
  • Access, analyze, and store granular data details collected across bills of lading, freight bills, and disparate systems and assembled into consolidated reporting.
RPA vs. API: Robotic Process Automation vs. Application Programming Interface

Considering RPA vs. API, both are forms of automation that involve programming a logical series of decisions and executing those decisions dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times per day.

An application programming interface, API, relies on technology integrated within an operating system. Rather than logging on to access API capabilities, an authentication key allows immediate access and open exchange of information.
Conversely, robotic process automation, RPA, is not integrated and occurs outside an operating system. Task automation or decision automation relies on a bot logging into a system to obtain required information for execution within another adjacent system.
RPA in Transportation and Logistics

Robotic process automation in transportation and logistics is increasingly applied to gain efficiency.

Automation allows transportation orders for an organization’s locations to be passed into the TMS and routed across the entire supply chain, including 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. Loads are then tendered, tracked throughout movement, and delivered according to the rules outlined for the RPA process.
Exceptions are handled automatically, and script-based bots determine the proper course of action based on the exception. If a tender is rejected, a bot determines the next best carrier to use and tenders the load to that carrier. Suppose an order system communicates that a shipment needs to be expedited. In that case, a bot can determine the proper routing and automatically reroute the rail leg onto an air carrier if needed.
When bots exhaust their rulesets, the system assigns the next process step to the appropriate person for resolution.
Similarly, RPA in supply chain bots can be used in a brokerage organization to focus attention on the most lucrative loads for the business, augmenting the judgment of the user.
RPA can help if there is an issue in source data. Once data is passed to the TMS, a bot can execute validation steps, such as confirming a shipping address, identifying and resolving errors, and updating the system to reflect accurate information.  

See how to Maximize TMS Efficiency with Automation.

How MercuryGate Implements Robotic Process Automation in Transportation Management
MercuryGate TMS enables customers to improve their transportation management. RPA in transportation enables logistics managers to unlock cost benefits in various ways.

Automate freight shipment tracking and customer communications

Customers access their accounts to determine where goods are located. They can also see when a shipment is expected to arrive and if there are any shipping delays. The same applies in reverse.

Companies use RPA to manage inbound check calls. This saves resources and supports proactive planning for deliveries that require a signature or packages that shouldn’t be left unattended.

This technology allows companies to automate review and response to communications from customers and vendors. Businesses can then update system information to facilitate efficient and accurate freight shipments.

RPA Routing of Freight Orders to the Best Fulfillment Center

Robotic process automation helps ensure freight orders get routed to the best fulfillment centers for the quick delivery to your customers. By crawling the entire fulfillment chain, gathering data from multiple disparate systems, and linking it together, RPA allows efficiencies that can’t be attained with standalone on-premise solutions.

Automated Reporting and Feedback to Drivers

RPA improves communication with drivers and other parties in the freight management chain and helps focus their efforts on priorities. By understanding what is taking place across the network – through information gathered by RPA – everyone involved can ensure freight moves as efficiently as possible.

MercuryGate TMS allows you to utilize robotic process automation to execute crucial processes and supply chain functions. As a result, automation users can reduce the amount of work and errors involved in these functions, creating new efficiencies and reducing costs.

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