The founder of widely used freight rate management software provider Catapult International has started a new venture that aims to equip logistics companies with the ability to automate time-consuming tasks through robotic process automation, or RPA.
Matt Motsick, who sold his stake in Catapult in 2015, on Tuesday launched RPA Labs with co-founder Suraj Menon, a Silicon Valley-based product and technology veteran with experience at freight consolidator Allcargo Logistics and PayPal.
The goal of the company is to enable logistics service providers “to speed up data entry, documentation, customer interactions, and other repetitive work” by using process bots, RPA Labs said in a statement. The automation tool learns behavior and patterns from existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, contract management systems, and accounting software to automate tasks “as varied as inputting data, providing [rate] quotes, responding to emails, and handling common customer requests,” it said.
Bots free employees from back-office workflow processes, enabling them to do more impactful and creative work, said Motsick, one of the early pioneers of freight rate and contract management software. He said RPA also reduces the “portal fatigue” workers experience from having to use multiple software programs at the same time.
“Robotic process automation has already taken root in other industries like financial services,” Motsick said in the statement, adding that RPA is likely to impact the logistics industry “given the amount of paperwork, documentation and around-the-clock customer interaction that global transportation requires.”
Menon said RPA Labs is focused on being as unobtrusive to existing setups as possible. “We just need system specs, and the artificial intelligence can go in and capture the information,” he said. “It’s a quick set-up and easy integration with any legacy system.”
The idea of equipping LSPs with machine learning tools to make their processes more efficient and their operations leaner is gaining momentum. In the domestic freight transportation market, outfits such as Trucker Tools, Parade.ai, and CoLane are all using bots and natural language processing tools to either help brokers automate processes or capture latent business opportunities.
Such platforms aren’t so prominently developed on the international side, although a major container line told JOC.com this week it is building internal RPA capability across a range of repetitive functions it undertakes. The expectation is the RPA will over the next few years become a normal part of the logistics industry’s basket of solutions.
RPA is piloting its product with 5 String Solutions, a last-mile delivery network.