Process automation and the use of robots have long been standard in industrial plants. Thanks to the digital delegation of routine tasks, plant and factory workers have been relieved of unnecessary workloads, and human resources in general are being put towards more important tasks that require creativity. After several decades of active use, automation has gained popularity in the business environment.
In this article, Vladislav Lagun, Chief Commercial Officer at AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG, and Marina Syroezhkina, Director of the AsstrA Information Technology Department, will share how companies increase productivity and improve work processes through automation and robots.
In international business these days, I believe that we’re seeing a trend of companies speaking to each other machine-to-machine with lots of data being exchanged. Traditionally, humans have handled this sort of communication.
Now, logistics is a very international industry that will remain what we call a “people business.” Here the environment changes so quickly that a machine can simply not replace a human. There are too many complex factors and processes involved. The human brain is the only thing that can effectively process all these things at once.
That’s a key reason the AsstrA Group has made a strategic decision to continue thinking of ourselves as a “people business.” Our messaging even includes “Logistics with Human Touch,” which highlights the personal attention we pay to – and is noticed by – customers.
Today, society can take advantage of digital infrastructure in many ways. The AsstrA team believes that the “Logistics with a Human Touch” approach can be augmented by digital solutions to provide customers with added value. Now this principle is reflected in several digital initiatives at AsstrA.
Let's talk about EDI
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the computer-to-computer exchange of business documents in a standard electronic format between business partners.
In 2022, AsstrA completed 8,200 EDI orders, 5% more than in 2021.
The main advantages of EDI include:
First, fewer manual mistakes. Such mistakes may not be common, but they can occur when humans are involved – especially with repetitive information that many different people are working with.
Second, less time communicating with supply chain partners means more time to interact with customers. Professionals can work more efficiently and devote their time to activities with higher value than following up on small details that a computer handles better.
Third, EDI solutions create supply chain data that can be analysed to identify potential process improvements or cost savings. If big data is today’s gold, as the saying goes, then EDI systems are gold mines.
Analytics is trending, machine learning is driving
AsstrA uses artificial intelligence and machine leanings tools and techniques in working with some structured communication. For customers it delivers the benefit of faster processing from the AsstrA side. When we receive a transportation order by email from a given customer, we are able to transform the information from the email into an already complete or nearly complete transportation order form in our transportation management system instead of doing the same task manually.
For carriers, AsstrA also uses elements of machine learning technology to systematically process invoices. This enables shorter the invoice processing time and in the end helps speed up payment for transport services. Carriers get compensated for provided services faster because AsstrA doesn't have any delays relayed to receiving invoices, sending them between offices, and entering them into systems.
What`s about RPA?
Robotic process automatization (RPA) is the optimization of business processes using robotic automation. RPA is used for those where it is impossible to implement full automation.
A robot is a script that is programmed to perform a specific set of tasks. At the same time, a robot’s actions completely replace those of a person who would otherwise be doing the work.
In the AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG, freight forwarders are the main internal clients of the IT team when it comes to RPA implementation. Robotic process automation has introduced into the operational department via transferring data between different systems.
In 2022, the RPA algorithm read 2000 incoming emails, 1% more than in 2021
Benefits for partners: Carriers Portal
From internal digital solutions, let’s move on to Carriers Portal, an equally important web-based application used by the AsstrA team to interact with carriers.
75 of AsstrA’s most loyal carriers use the app regularly. There we have dashboards of loads of what we call “free freight,” or shipments that do not have pre-assigned carriers. All our approved carriers may review and accept any they would like to take. On average, we list an average of 160 loads per week.
This is a great source for additional business for carriers. Visiting the AsstrA load dashboard everyday can create additional income for them.
An additional advantage of the system for participating carriers is that they can see all relevant information about working with AsstrA in one place: contracts, agreed rates, capacity agreement, etc. Potential carriers can also use the portal to become an approved carrier.
If a carrier connects its telematics system used in its trucks, the location of these trucks can be tracked in the system. This location data can be shared with customers, so it is a win-win for all parties. The customer always has visibility of his cargo in transit, updates as to whether it is on schedule, and planned loading times. Through an EDI connection all this information can be accessible online or go directly to a company’s own system without additional logins to provide good visibility of their entire supply chain.
In case the truck is not equipped with GPS beacons, there is another solution, the AsstrA Track&Trace mobile application, which can be installed on the driver’s phone, and will transmit the location to the client during the order.
Author: Anastasiya Onoshko.