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How ‘bots’ can free up time – A supply chain innovation

By Alan Bermingham – Innovation Program Manager

As part of a strategic initiative to explore how innovative technologies can bring real value, Exertis Global Operations and Exertis Ireland collaborated on a project focusing on applying Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to their business processes. The aim of this project was to explore the potential of the technology and to apply it to operational processes. This would need to add real value for both Exertis staff and to our clients.

So what is RPA? 

It is applying robotics software to replicate the actions of an employee as they interface with multiple applications. The ‘bot’, which is actually computer software, can interact with all application types. This includes ERP systems, portals, websites, MS office tools and databases.

Processes best suited to the application of RPA should be rule-based & repetitive, based on structured input data, mid-to-high transactional volume with low exception rates and process variations.

The approach taken for the pilot project was to review multiple business processes and work with the subject matter experts to identify the most suitable application of the software to have the biggest impact for both our employees and our clients.

The process we identified was the tracking of all data in relation to the statuses of shipments. This includes current data from carriers, freight forwarders and shipping companies.  This gives the client the visibility required. This was an admin heavy process and is often a ‘pain-point’ across the organisation.

We identified high volumes of this across our business and our people were spending a lot of time receiving queries from our customers requesting updates on the status of their shipments.

This is a highly manual and time consuming process, requiring searching individual line items, logging into to multiple portals and providing responses to emails. There was an opportunity to deploy an RPA to standardise and automate this process.

Our Solution

To achieve this objective, we developed an RPA “Shipment tracking framework” solution for 2 entities. Exertis Ireland and Exertis Global Operations.

Working closely with the teams from both entities, we designed a standardised solution to automate this process.

The bot is now configured to carry out the activities required for 3PL shipment tracking notifications, freeing up time for our people to focus on more important work and value add activities for our clients.

The development of this pilot programme has taken just 8 weeks and future roll outs will be able to reuse much of this code, cutting down on the effort to scale.

The Future

Selecting additional roll outs that are similar to our initial cases will allow us to continue to build momentum and internal capability while also exploring further applications in other areas of the business including Finance, distribution and materials management.

If you would like to know further details on this project and how we are moving forward with the deployment of RPA solutions. Please contact our Innovation Program Manager Alan Bermingham (alan.bermingham@exertis.com)

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