Inventory management is a critical component of operations for many kinds of businesses. In a world where consumer demand and expectations have never been higher, it can be the lifeblood of an organization. While the nuances change, generally, inventory involves multiple people and systems, and sometimes even various locations. Add to that an increasingly complex supply chain, and inventory management can seem like a daunting undertaking. But it doesn’t have to be.
With intelligent process automation, or just intelligent automation (IA) as it’s sometimes called, which combines artificial intelligence with robotic process automation (RPA), businesses can greatly improve speed and efficiency of inventory management.
Common Inventory Challenges
The most common challenges of inventory management include dead stock, unpredictable storage costs, misplaced stock and stock-outs. And while these all have tangible implications, they can mean further problems still, spilling over into customer service issues. Solving these issues and optimizing the inventory process not only helps create a highly functioning inventory management system, but it also facilitates a smoother path to customer loyalty.
Here are a few ways IA technology is helping business users with inventory.
Intelligent Automation for Inventory Management
Improve speed in operations. IA bots can analyze months or even years of data in mere minutes, scanning a multitude of sources using both structured and unstructured data from documents like emails, sales order data, purchase order history, vendor shipping schedules and more.
Forecast demand and replenishment with better accuracy. IA technology can also identify buying patterns from historical data and cross-reference them with data from vendors, logistics providers, and internal inventory levels to help inventory specialists better manage levels, and plan for any potential disruption to supply and demand. According to McKinsey, supply chain and logistics that implement intelligence can increase their forecasting accuracy by 20% to 50%.
Do more with data. When RPA is used to automate rules-based parts of a process, there are often still exceptions. With invoice processing, for example, specific vendors or warehouse locations may be out of scope of the standard task. In this case, a human manager would ordinarily have to intervene. But thanks to intelligent automation, which can use technology like computer vision and natural-language processing to analyze unstructured data, this data transfer can happen seamlessly. This not only allows the human workforce to fulfill higher-order tasks, it allows the company to do more with the data on hand, and ultimately, make better decisions.
Reduce human error. One of the biggest advantages of IA is that bots can work around the clock with perfect accuracy. They can reconcile stock, fulfillments and purchase orders 24/7 with virtually no errors.
Improve the customer experience. While the majority of the intelligent automation use case for inventory management is focused on operational simplification and optimization, there are some added benefits to the customer experience as well. For example, IA bots can be used to optimize search and make smart inventory suggestions based on user activity. IA can also be leveraged to manage customer expectations, referencing a multitude of inventory data across multiple warehouses and databases. Knowing where product is and how much is available is critical for businesses to best manage customers’ shopping and shipping expectations.
IA can improve virtually every aspect of administrative operations in inventory management, from saving time and effort on order requests and shipping details to providing advanced data management and forecasting. Ultimately, RPA and IA give inventory managers more control of the entire process.
Getting Started with Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)
These are just a few of the ways IA can help improve business processes as they relate to inventory. If you have specific challenges with inventory management you’re looking to address, or have questions about how intelligent process automation might add value to your organization, we’re here to help. Give us a call or schedule a free demo today.