Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a form of Business Process Automation (BPA) technology and refers to software that can be programmed to easily complete tasks and update data across a variety of applications. Today, there are many RPA tools on the marketplace available at different price levels and functionality, with the majority operating cross-platform with pre-built integrations and automations (referred to as bots). RPA tools allow you to automate processing and data flows between multiple different systems and gives you the ability to manipulate data based on pre-set criteria. RPA helps your business automate administrative and time-consuming tasks, freeing up employees to focus more on growing the business. While there are a variety of RPA tools on the market, many ERP systems will have built-in RPA tools to help automate processes across all areas of the business. Let’s take a closer look at some examples.
Blue Link’s RPA Tool – Automated Routines Manager (ARM)
Blue Link ERP has a variety of internal automation tools, including our Automated Routines Manager (or ARM). ARM automates a variety of processes including the modification of data and automatic sending of emails. Some common examples include the ability to:
- Automatically email shipping notifications, order confirmations and invoices to the appropriate people or even purchase orders to suppliers
- Set rules that will manipulate the data to streamline your picking, packing and shipping operations – for example, by automatically sending orders that meet certain criteria directly to the warehouse for picking
- Automate your receivables collections by automatically sending emails for overdue accounts
- Automate the cleaning up of backorders for products where you realize that you are no longer going to be receiving any more inventory, so you are never going to be able to fulfil those backorders
RPA & eCommerce
Another area where automation has the potential to help your business become more efficient is when it comes to eCommerce. Blue Link’s sales order review screen allows you to review all orders that are ready for action (including those tagged as a web order such as from your Shopify site). Without automation, what would typically happen is one of your employees would have to look at the sales order review screen and review each order to make some sort of decision, either by expanding each item or by double-clicking each order to get more details. This same employee would then need to determine if the order is ready, if it can be released for picking or if it need some other special handling or treatment, and then manually change the status and release the order for next steps. This type of manual process is not a big deal if you only have a handful of orders each day. But if you have 30 orders or 300 orders, manual processes become impossible, leaving you to hire more employees or consider new software.
Instead, with Blue Link’s internal RPA tool, ARM, you can set the system to automatically review each order as it comes in from a website or 3rd party and based on rules that you have established as part of your automation, automatically modify the status which effectively routes the order to the next step. For example, sending it to the warehouse for picking and packing, or maybe to a credit manager for review or put it on hold for another reason, or if there is a backorder issue, it can alert someone from the purchasing team that there is an inventory issue.
Using RPA Tools Instead of Customization
In some cases, automation can help avoid the need for customization when your business rules change – especially when these changes are temporary. A good example is if your company wants to change its backorder policy due to the pandemic and supply chain shortages. Let’s pretend that previously your company would routinely accept backorders and fill them, but you have decided to amend this policy and no longer accept backorders until the supply chain issues have been resolved. In this situation, your customers are still placing orders for the product that they want, but not every order can be fulfilled. Once again, with only a couple of orders, this would not be an issue, but if the majority of your customers place an order for a product you don’t have, you will want to modify your processes. In this example, you can simply set up an ARM that automatically gets rid of the backorder quantity and sends an email to the customer, explaining the new policy and gives them the option to either cancel the order or just ship the quantity of product that is currently available. Then, when the supply chain issues are resolved, you simply turn off that ARM.
Other RPA Tools
While ARM is a great example of a Blue Link internal RPA tool, we also use other external RPA tools such as the HelpSystems Automate tool for a variety of automation tasks. For example, we use this tool internally and our customers also use this tool to automatically pull-down exchange rates daily to update data in the system.
The above are just a couple of examples of how RPA tools and automation can help your business become more efficient. There are many, many other areas in which automation can help you manage your processes – and as technology continues to change, these opportunities will only increase.