There are several manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers who have second thoughts about Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA is a form of automation that helps teams use bots to complete tedious, repeatable tasks in large volumes. As major companies take advantage of this technology, small and mid-size enterprises are still in splits answering the following questions:

  • Is RPA relevant for us?
  • Where and how can we start?
  • What is the return that can be expected?
  • Who all are using RPA in our industry?

But as we move into uncertainties amid such extraordinary times, small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) need to ditch the thought that automation is not relevant for them. Several distributors and wholesalers perceive automation as too hard to learn, costly, and feasible for a larger corporation. The result: procrastination of technology adoption, which eventually leads to a higher risk of being left behind. In such a technologically advanced age, there is no hiding behind excuses and the competitive threat is an elephant in the room that companies will  eventually have to tackle.

As the competitive landscape changes and pressures intensify, distributors and wholesaler will be forced to consider RPA to stay relevant and drive efficiency while maintaining or even improving their existing service levels. For those of you with acronym fatigue, RPA is the change enabling technology that lets organizations configure software “robot” to replicate and integrate tasks typically done by humans. These bots interact with digital systems to execute a business process.

RPA bots are sophisticated software programs that utilize the user interface to capture and interpret data so that it can trigger responses and interact with multiple systems to execute a vast variety of repetitive, mundane tasks. It provides a sure shot way to eliminate errors and work non-stop without taking any breaks. Some of the other benefits of RPA include:

  • Better accuracy
  • Improved compliance
  • Higher cost savings
  • Highly scalable
  • Enhanced speed and productivity
Wholesale distributor RPA

robotic arm working trade with computer keyboard

So, now that you have some compelling reasons to start your RPA journey, the next logical question is probably “what’s the first step”? Here are the 4 steps wholesalers and distributors will need to take to embrace automation in their organization.

  • Step 1: Read extensively about RPA and gain knowledge about different platforms.
  • Step 2: Learn about RPA and its various applications.
  • Step 3: Select the process that you’d like to automate and consider the process dependencies. This step is important to ensure that your organization doesn’t face any roadblocks while you automate the chosen process.
  • Step 4: Seek help externally to deploy RPA or gain hands-on experience in RPA Tools. Here’s a list of top 10 RPA tools.

Other things to consider while deploying RPA include, identifying processes and the potential constraints as well as a baseline of the current process cost to compare it with the cost after automation.

Once you’ve followed all the above-mentioned steps, you need to understand the end goal of automation – whether it is cost-saving, improving efficiency, or enhancing the customer experience. If you’d like to make processes more cost-efficient, you could consider automating the internal value chain, including procurement, inventory management, and control, sales, and distribution. If you are thinking of the strategic advantage of cost efficiency, aim for driving costs out of all these processes.

You can start with the easiest process with the highest impact. This means a process that can have the highest potential value at the lowest cost or effort. Once you’ve identified the process, evaluate the possibility of doing a proof of concept so that you understand how RPA will work in your business environment. You should also baseline the existing process cost and work with your teams to identify any constraints. Once you’ve identified them, calculate the “what if” scenario when they are removed.

In case your end goal with automation is to enhance customer experience and responsiveness, you should consider automating the processes that won’t compromise on responsiveness. With such an approach you can make a case for RPA and include a projected ROI. Of course, there are other steps to consider while implementing RPA, but the ones mentioned above are few easy first steps to take the long automation journey of your organization.

A few decades ago, many distributors and wholesalers pivoted towards Business Process Re-engineering, but things have changed. Today while the end goal has been the same, RPA has provided the right tools to exponentially achieve those goals. Therefore, if you are a distributor or wholesaler, the time is now to harness the power of automation and jump on the automation bandwagon.