Use of RPA data bots in logistics means considerable savings

30/05/2022 — minutes reading time
RPA 1 Gerd Altmann Pixabay VIL2

In the world of logistics, robotic process automation (RPA) can raise productivity, service levels and staff capacity by 35 to 50 percent. That means that the automation of administrative tasks using RPA data bots will result in immediate savings of 25 to 50 percent, as was seen in the Flanders Institute for Logistics’ (VIL) RPA Databots project. The innovation cluster for logistics is offering a low-threshold and low-cost system that allows logistics companies to quickly automate their administrative processes.

Software company Kofax says that 32 percent of transport and logistics companies still rely on manual labour in over half of their administrative processes. Automating these processes using RPA technology would consequently be a huge potential gain for the industry, especially as it is known for the large quantities of documents and systems that should ideally all be processed seamlessly.

Data bots are "virtual staff" that use robotic process automation (RPA) to provide a rapid and cheap solution when it comes to automating administrative processes. These software robots take over the routine processing of data and documents from actual staff, allowing the latter to focus on complex tasks, customer relationships and all the rest. Without requiring complicated modifications to existing IT systems, the data bot logs in, simulates keyboard and mouse inputs and reads information on the monitors.

The following brief video, which can be viewed here, provides a concise outline of how RPA works.


Low threshold

The technology is low threshold, so even SMEs can implement it, and it is manufactured by a range of companies on the basis of a licensing model, with the three biggest being UIPath, BluePrism and Automation Anywhere. 'A "basic" project costs between 10,000 and 25,000 euros, with the immediate costs consisting of the price for the robot or robots, an annual licence fee and training,' said VIL project leader Sophie Delannoy. 'The indirect costs are low, and primarily relate to work performed by the IT department and the end users, as well as maintenance costs.'

Completely financially feasible

Delannoy believes that the use of data bots is completely financially feasible. 'The return on investment (ROI) can be easily calculated – just compare the average price of around 20,000 euros with the wage costs for a physical employee. It is a simple cost/benefit analysis and the ROI ranges from 30 to 200 percent, with a standard payback period of three to six months,' she said. 'RPA raises productivity, service levels and staff capacity by 35 to 50 percent. That means immediate savings of 25 to 50 percent through the automation of tasks at a fraction of the cost of the human equivalent.'

A low threshold system

VIL worked together with the eight companies that were part of the RPA Databots project to create a low-threshold and low-cost system that would allow logistics companies to quickly automate their administrative processes. Two processes were trialled at two different companies in order to check the usefulness of the system, with Handico Trucking testing the order processing and Van Moer Logistics trying the pricing process. The outcomes were very positive in both cases.

Gino Withofs, head of Handico Trucking, said that the data bots resulted in efficiency gains of 80 percent for order processing. 'They have also lowered the error rate,' he said. 'That means we have been able to optimise our customer service, and so we will definitely continue to participate.'

Call to action

'Data bots provide proven benefits for logistics companies,' said Sophie Delannoy. 'A considerable reduction in operational costs, a very rapid ROI and dramatically improved productivity. That's why we're putting out a call to action to logistics companies to employ this technology.'

VIL members can download the RPA Databots project report from the Knowledge Library, while non-members can purchase it from the VIL webshop.