Logistics has always been a slow adopter of new technology, primarily because of the complexity of operations involved and the reluctance to shake up things when it’s seemingly in order and manageable. However, with the opportunities through technology to accelerate processes increasing by the day, it has injected a much-needed vitality to logistics in the recent years. It’s still lagging when compared to other industries, but the pace is picking up with automation managing to effectively complement both the functional and transactional processes.
The biggest problem plaguing adoption is the lack of pre-built automation solutions that can seamlessly fit any workflows and start automating processes. This is because processes may be similar in function yet so different in execution and operation. Each process workflow is unique to how it’s practised in a logistics company, and this requires a customized approach to integrate all these different processes and automate them end-to-end.
The complexity of automation is evident across different logistic functions – from Order Management and Processing, Procurement, Distribution, Warehouse Management etc, as they use different software to manage large volumes of processes. There is a wide range of software products that assist in operations with custom solutions being developed for each logistics operator. This directly leads to higher costs of automation.
There are other challenges associated with logistics automation, like the huge data volumes and quick responses expected in the process. New age RPA (robotic process automation) solutions can even monitor real-time inventory, reorder products based on optimal inventory and bring in advanced cognitive capabilities. The robots are even designed to understand business data patterns and make decisions on it.
Marrying software with hardware automation can address another major gap plaguing the logistics industry. Established players have already implemented robots in managing warehouses and distribution, yet there’s still a lot of progress to be made in mapping it to software that completes the cycle in terms of order management, customer service, billing, operations and more. The capability to take inputs from hardware robots and execute actions using software bots are evolving.
In a highly demanding operation such as logistics where turn-around times are critical to businesses without any trade-off in quality and efficiency, automation can help operators to achieve the last mile.
Sudhir Sen is the Co-Founder of Option3, and Products Head of JiffyRPA.
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