Robotic process automation for inventory control and management: a case of Freight Forwarders Solutions
Mungla, Beryl Okwado
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Logistics services are a lifeline for most business enterprises. These services cannot be provided efficiently with an ineffective inventory management system in place. Technological advancements enable enterprises acquire information systems to improve operational efficiency. Manual data entry into warehouse management systems has a myriad of setbacks including: High error rates; Slow turnaround time; Investment in additional personnel to countercheck the accuracy of manually entered data; Increased error rates due to unexpected spikes in manual data entry; Deviation of attention from tasks that are cognitive based to those that are rules based resulting in decreased employee productivity. Robotic process automation, a disruptive, new technology leveraging on artificial intelligence was used in this study to automate the business processes performed in the inventory control and management module of a warehouse management system. Relevant literature was reviewed to better understand how the technology has been implemented in other organisations. The waterfall model was selected for development of the software robots due to its applicability in the selection of business processes best suited for automation as well as throughout the development lifecycle of the robots. Processes that were selected for automation had the following characteristics: mundane, manual, repetitive, rule-based, labour and time intensive. The developed solution delivered several benefits to the organisation including: Increased accuracy of the information captured in the system; Reduction in error rates during data capture; Significant reduction in time consumed during execution of tasks; Cost savings due to reduction in operational costs; Process improvements due to streamlining; Increased productivity, quality and compliance; and Redeployment of employees to higher value functions. Results from solutions testing showed that majority of the respondents agreed that the software robots had attained the desired results. The aim of this research paper was to explore ways through which technology could be leveraged to transform manual business processes into automated and streamlined processes through robotic process automation technology. The conclusions drawn indicated that process automation increases operational efficiency and employee productivity through redeployment to more cognitive based tasks.