How to Enhance Automation in Logistics Management with RPA

Logistics management today involves not just your transportation management system (TMS), but also many other internal systems and external websites in your logistics ecosystem. You may still find yourself or your team performing manual tasks such as copying information from an email and entering it into your system, typing booking information on your carriers’ websites, monitoring a portal and updating records in your system based on simple business rules. When integration is not yet in place, how do you build automation that extend the capability of your TMS? Therefore, we looked at Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for Oracle Transportation Management Cloud (OTM).

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) uses software robots and artificial intelligence to automate routine work processes that were traditionally carried out manually. Using RPA minimizes errors and improves productivity. Some use cases in OTM are automated data entry, automated data validation, automated output to external systems, and automated testing.

UiPath is an Oracle Cloud partner and a leading enterprise RPA software vendor. As examples, we built two RPA demos for OTM using the UiPath Platform.

Use case 1: Automated Fuel Surcharge Update

The fluctuation of fuel prices has a significant impact on the cost of shipping. Traditionally, logistics professionals need to look up the latest diesel price published by the Department of Energy, enter it into their TMS, and process it, so that carrier rates update to reflect the latest fuel price.

This has traditionally been a manual activity. Manually updating the fuel surcharge is a simple but mundane and repetitive task that leaves room for human error. The process also depends on human availability. By using RPA, we can fully automate the process so that there is only one initial human setup, and the process requires little to no attention. Also, RPA is faster and more efficient than the manual process.

Solution Walkthrough

The robot begins the process by scraping the Department of Energy’s diesel prices. Then it logs into the user’s OTM and goes through the process of setting up appropriate fuel-surcharge accessorials for the various carrier rates according to the latest Department of Energy’s fuel prices. The robot will also send an automated email to the user to show success and handle any errors appropriately. The user has the option to set up a schedule for how often the robot should run, for example, follow the Department of Energy’s weekly publishing cadence and automatically update every week.

Use Case 2: Automated Weather Forecast-Based Equipment Selection

Shippers often ship temperature-sensitive goods that require special types of trucks. Refrigerated trucks, or “Reefer” trucks, are used to keep goods such as chocolates from melting but are more costly than regular ambient trucks. Refrigerated trucks are unnecessary if it is cold enough, so shippers can save money by opting for an ambient truck without sacrificing function in certain weather.

The goal for this use case is to implement weather forecast-based equipment selection. For shorter trips, we can check the weather forecast along the shipment’s route to determine what equipment to use for that shipment.

Solution Walkthrough

The second example uses RPA to check the forecasted weather via the HERE Destination Weather API. For this use case, it will check the forecasted high temperature to ensure that it doesn’t exceed the customer-set temperature threshold. If the temperature is higher than the threshold at either the source or destination of an itinerary leg, then the equipment constraint for that leg will update to “Reefer.” If the high temperature at both the source and destination is lower than the threshold, then the equipment will be updated to “Ambient.” The robot updates the equipment constraint using OTM’s REST API.

The robot takes as input, a list of itinerary legs, corresponding geolocation coordinates for each leg, and temperature thresholds for each leg. Once the robot finishes its processes, it sends an automated email to the user summarizing its equipment updates in a table. Updating the equipment constraint on each leg based on the temperature forecast ensures that shipments are planned on the best type of equipment, preventing unnecessary use of reefers and thus saving money.

Benefits of RPA

Here are some typical benefits of leveraging RPA versus a manual process:

  1. Prevents fat finger entry error
  2. Minimizes repetitive manual mundane task
  3. Saves manpower
  4. Faster and more efficient than manual input
  5. Fully automated thus requires little to no attention

Benefit of OTM Rest APIs:

OTM can interact with the UiPath Platform both via the OTM UI and the OTM Rest APIs. Here are some additional benefits of using the OTM Rest APIs versus the traditional UI approach:

  1. Robust to UI customizations
  2. Upgrade proof
  3. Support a wide range of parameters
  4. Flexible and compact query structure

September 21, 2020

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