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Mastering RPA: How to Maximize ROI with Minimal Investment

Monday, April 2, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Mastering RPA: How to Maximize ROI with Minimal Investment

Leading the charge for Industry 4.0, robotic process automation is capable of digitally transforming distribution through small initiatives that drive big results


Today business moves at lightning speed with wholesale distributors expected to work at peak performance to deliver optimal service. Transforming the distribution landscape, technology is now powering huge innovations in productivity and operational efficiency. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the latest development revolutionizing business processes. A recent report indicates enterprise-wide adoption of RPA is driving a projected market growth of up to $5 Billion by 2024.


Gaining the Greatest ROI from RPA

So how can wholesale distributors harness RPA to refine workflow and realize maximum ROI? The key is to understand how RPA works.


Many decision makers assume all technology investments require the same considerable and disruptive commitment of time, money and resources. This often results in the belief that only the largest revenue generating processes should be prioritized for automation as these will produce the greatest, immediate ROI.


In fact, RPA initiatives do not always require extensive system overhauls or years of work to deploy. Cloud-based solutions are highly effective at automating smaller scale, back-office processes, eliminating their bottlenecks to create substantial long-term ROI.


Before exploring projects to prioritize, it’s important to recognize the key strategic benefit of RPA. This technology teaches itself to replicate how humans accomplish a task and then automates that task moving forward. This means the way to select the highest ROI initiatives for RPA is not to pinpoint the largest, revenue-generating processes. It is to identify where employees deliver the most value and where RPA could automate processes to save time.


Document processing is one example of a smaller scale, back-office process primed for RPA. Typically done manually, document processing has long been a huge headache for distributors. Producing major inefficiencies throughout the supply chain, automating it triggers meaningful, positive impacts across business processes.


Doing Away with Manual Document Processing

In the world of distribution, time is money. The more productive the supply chain, the greater the business success. Employees currently spend hours each day processing thousands of line items from hundreds of incoming documents. Consequently, not only are supply chain operations noticeably slowed, staff time is also consistently diverted from other key, profit-generating duties.


Moreover, the laborious, time intensive process of entering each unique part number or invoice sum inevitably results in a costly and unacceptable error rate. Aside from frustrating customers and damaging relationships, mistakes of this kind cost distributors hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in return orders, wasted materials, and erodes customer loyalty.


RPA requires no human intervention. Extracting critical line data from incoming documents with 100% accuracy, it directs them into the distributor’s ERP system within minutes. As a result, a number of operational advantages are immediately created. Firstly, back-office productivity is significantly increased. Secondly, document-processing errors are entirely eliminated, sparing distributors time, money and valued partnerships. Finally, hours of staff time are saved which can be refocused on generating profits and delivering value-added services for key customers.


Another issue with document processing is the inevitable rise and fall in document volume. During peak periods, this number can increase to thousands while during slow times it can drop significantly. Seasonal staff may help but their recruitment involves training, which becomes a sunk cost when they leave. RPA solves this problem by processing documents consistently while maintaining quality when addressing market demands.


Finally, with manual document processing, a key opportunity is missed to capture and understand customer data. Each incoming document contains a wealth of valuable insights into sales and support processes. RPA gathers and analyzes this information to identify key patterns and customer habits. These can then be used to tailor customer service to the needs of each customer account, maximizing customer satisfaction.


For instance, using the insights drawn from incoming emailed documents, a distributor may discover that a key customer consistently purchases a wholesale quantity of anchor bolts every year. Identifying this purchase behavior, they can then personalize incentives to encourage an even larger order, or cross-sell complementary products such as anchor bolt sleeves when they know the customer is likely interested in them.


Ultimately, RPA can revolutionize operational processes across the supply chain, creating significant, tangible ROI. The key to maximizing returns, however, is to prioritize the right processes for automation. Although large revenue-generating processes benefit from RPA, automating smaller, back-office functions like document processing delivers great value. With no need for substantial investment or extensive system upgrades, distributors can rapidly launch smaller RPA initiatives to produce high ROI impacts, including minimizing costs, boosting productivity, and tailoring service to ensure long-term customer satisfaction.


Earl van As is Vice President of Marketing & Product Management of ecmarket, cloud solutions developer of the patent-pending Conexiom sales order and invoice automation solution. Conexiom allows manufacturers and distributors to focus on serving customers and managing supplier relationships instead of entering data. For more information, visit

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