Retailers are increasingly embracing latest emerging automation technology practices such as robotic process automation (RPA) to simplify complex tasks and streamline administrative processes, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The company predicts that RPA, in combination with other automation technologies, will become the future for retailers to run their processes more effectively.
Several jobs in the retail industry are laborious even today demanding a huge workforce, giving scope for human errors. RPA has an appealing value proposition to that end, thanks to its potential to dramatically reduce efforts and errors made by humans and increase operational efficiency, maximize productivity, advance audit, and facilitate better customer management.
Brad Shimmin, Service Director for Technology and Software at GlobalData, says: “One noticeable advantage with RPA is that its installation requires no change to the current set up and can interact with the existing underlying systems. It can also be combined with other automation tools to get the most out of them.”
An analysis of GlobalData’s Disruptor Tech Database reveals that the use cases of RPA in retail are not just limited to human resources, supply chain, accounting & finance areas, but also includes processing returns, sales analytics, in-store planning and new product launches.
While RPA is a strong automation tool independently, its combination with other technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, big data, and cloud can be immensely powerful. Cognitive automation, RPA joining AI and cognitive computing, can help retailers to check inventory and shift their human workforce to some other tasks, such as improving in-store customer experience.
One recent entry into this space is Cognitive Operational Systems (COSY), which is developing software robots powered by AI and cognitive technologies for retail stores to advance inventory management. These robots take note of the inventory present on the shelf and send the gathered data to a central server from where the inventory data gets automatically updated 24/7. This helps retailers to reduce cost, minimize stock-outs, free employees to serve customers and increase planogram compliance.
According to the Institute for Robotic Process Automation & AI (IRPA AI), one software robot can replace the work of two to five full-time employees (FTEs) and costs about one-third the price of an offshore FTE. Overall, RPA can result in 25-50% cost savings on its effective deployment.
Shimmin says, “However, there are pitfalls of RPA too. An error in the RPA algorithm can lead to adversity within no time. One immediate solution to this can be human intervention on a small sample to check for any errors. The most ideal way could be to have another layer of RPA, which stands a futuristic concept for now.
“RPA is on a robust growth trajectory. In future, the technology will advance from being a rule-defined technology to play a vital role in intelligent automation. Integrating RPA with other automation tools can yield even better results for retailers. While there are many advantages, a careful approach is advised for the newcomers by learning from the examples of the early adoption,” says he.