RPA and Supply Chain Sustainability: A Win-Win Partnership
A study by Deloitte found that as many as 97% of companies feel impacted by climate change, and 89% of CxOs agree there’s a climate crisis.

A study by Deloitte found that as many as 97% of companies feel impacted by climate change, and 89% of CxOs agree there’s a climate crisis. This is triggering a sense of urgency to ‘act now’. The Supply Chain Report 2022 by CDP and BCG highlights that supply chains generate 11.4 times more emissions than their in-house operations. Yet, only 36% of these companies report scope 3, category 1 purchased goods and services emissions. Mitigating the climate crisis begins with sustainability in supply chains. The question is, can intelligent automation solutions play a part?

Conventional sustainability initiatives within the supply chain industry include the installation of energy-efficient infrastructure, effective equipment recycling, cloud adoption, and low- emission hardware. Robotic process automation, or RPA, takes these initiatives one step further. It leverages smart automation tools to complete repetitive tasks, helping businesses achieve significant efficiency gains. In this article, we explore how RPA and the supply chain can form a win-win partnership for sustainable practices, creating profound value for both businesses and the environment.

What is sustainability in supply chain operations?

A sustainable supply chain manages the environmental, economic, and social impact of a company’s supply chain with initiatives like lowering the carbon footprint, fair labor practices, and waste reduction. With sustainable practices, businesses aim to create a system that supports long-term profitability while contributing positively to the environment and society.

What are the challenges in creating a sustainable supply chain?

  • Cost: The primary impediment to creating sustainable supply chains is cost. Small to midsize companies find it particularly challenging to bear the costs of making their supply chains more sustainable.
  • Fragmentation and Complexity: Supply chains can often be complex and fragmented, involving multiple stakeholders, especially if they’ve been passed on to a company through acquisition. This complexity makes it challenging to track and manage sustainable practices at different levels.
  • Regulatory Compliance Complexity: With the business landscape already as competitive and cutthroat as it is, most companies simply can’t keep up with the growing number of environmental policies and regulations without an environmental lawyer in place.
  • Siloed Data: Different departments within the same organization may use different systems, creating and keeping information in silos. It becomes challenging to identify and address sustainability issues in such a case.
  • Time and Resource-intensive Processes: Since several supply chain workflows are resource- and time-consuming, introducing sustainable practices without impacting process efficiency becomes challenging for companies.
  • No Scope to Introduce Sustainability: Another reason behind unsustainable supply chains is that there are simply no options for introducing sustainable components or that it’s difficult to shift towards green supply chains due to the complexity or organizational structure.

So, how can RPA software solutions empower businesses to undertake sustainability practices?

At its very core, RPA automates straightforward and repetitive tasks, reducing the reliance on manual labor. This enhances the productivity and efficiency of supply chain processes and reduces operational costs, creating sustainability.

Let’s understand this in detail.

1. Robotic process automation tools enhance data management.
By integrating data from disparate sources, RPA helps offer a holistic and unified view of the supply chain. This facilitates more effective tracking of sustainability metrics, leading to more informed decision-making.

2. Organizations can streamline business processes with RPA. When businesses automate repetitive tasks, it reduces processing time and human-induced errors. This optimization leads to more efficient resource utilization, lowering the environmental impact.

3. Intelligent automation offers more transparency in supply chain operations.
Advanced automation technologies, like that from ESSPL, offer real-time visibility into supply chain operations. This way, it’s easier to identify and resolve sustainability issues promptly.

4. RPA deployment and management helps overcome regulatory roadblocks.
By automating relevant data, companies can better monitor and report emissions and carbon footprint from their supply chain operations. This helps mitigate the risk of non-compliance and penalties.

5. Intelligent process automation helps minimize errors.
Human-induced errors and biases often lead to waste and higher resource consumption. With automation, tasks such as inventory management can be performed more efficiently to prevent overstocking or understocking, leading to less rework and optimal resource consumption.

Success stories: Companies leveraging robotic process automation tools to create sustainable supply chains

● Unilever
Unilever leverages cognitive automation to streamline its logistics and procurement processes. RPA has helped bring down the processing times, costs, and carbon footprint for the company. Read about this here.

● Proctor & Gamble
With RPA, P&G was able to identify supply chain duplications, leading to a lower carbon footprint and massive savings in manufacturing, inventory, and logistics. The company is now working with tech companies, local suppliers, and R&D institutions to develop global, scalable solutions that can help decarbonize its supply chain.

The future of sustainable supply chain operations with robotic process automation

Innovations in RPA technologies are only just beginning. AI-powered automation, embedded automation, and bots are some trends that businesses can look forward to working with, in 2024. Further advances will only enhance the capabilities of RPA technology. At ESSPL, we’re at the forefront of groundbreaking advanced automation technologies. Get in touch to learn how you can accelerate automation with RPA to create sustainable supply chains for your business!

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