Saturday, November 15, 2014

Apply RPA and IoT to Supply Chain Network

Robotic process automation in Supply Chain Network
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that allows companies to use computer software or robotics systems to process a transaction, manipulate data, trigger responses and communicate with other digital systems. Any large scale companies where people are performing high-volume, highly transactional process functions, will boost their capabilities and save money and time with robotic process automation software. Just as industrial robots are revolutionizing the manufacturing industry by creating higher production rates and improved quality, robotic process automation are changing the way we think about and administer business processes, IT support processes, workflow processes, remote infrastructure and back-office work. RPA provides great improvements in accuracy and cycle time and increased productivity in transaction processing while it elevates the nature of work by removing people from dull, repetitive tasks [1].
For the most part these process robots are used to solve a lot of problems from simple matching of tagged services to some of the harder supply chain problems which may require some level of optimization or advanced mathematics. For example a process robot may be used to establish optimized stocking levels for inventory based on desired customer service levels at retail. Depending on whether these items are fast or slow movers, promotional or seasonal items will determine the algorithms the robot uses to set the target inventory levels. Basically it is a data driven approach with business rules being applied to the data through the process robot.

Apply Internet of Things to Supply Chain Network
Internet of Things (IoT) refers to data communication among a large range of devices and equipment, for example a fridge or an oven. The more devices can talk to one another and share data, the more they can work together to help improve processes. While 2014 is still early in the IoT game, we won’t have to wait long for this global supply network of the future to arrive. It is already becoming pervasive in the medical device market, with home health taking center stage through both specific devices designed to monitor various conditions to general devices like smart phones enabled with software to track high blood pressure [2]. In the future vision for the “Internet of Things”, each item you may manufacture or sell is tagged. You know exactly how many you have, and where each one may be in the world at any given time. The same applies to employees, partners, vendors, and stakeholders.
Given the growing popularity and acceptance related to the Internet of Things, it is time to elevate these process robots so they can more easily interact with users working to solve today’s business problems. Think about a service like Angie’s List [3]. A basic financial transaction involves a buyer, a seller, and a middle man. In this case a simple process robot can match a buyer with a set of sellers ranked by a survey of seller performance. Thus Angie’s List is a market maker of sorts. Today it is possible to design process robots which can match supply and demand across a global supply network. This is accomplished similar to Angie’s list where available services are tagged for search. The difference is that a properly designed supply network is a powerful B2B framework comprised of highly valued assets and capabilities.


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