The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency is improving accuracy, cycle time and productivity in supply chain management practices through robotic process automation, which uses software bots to execute tasks and interact with systems.
“The metric we pay the most attention to is the hours contributed back to the mission. Our highly skilled workforce can use their talents in more strategic, value-added activities and address more complex work they will now have the time to complete,” said Frank Wood, RPA program manager.
Since 2018, DLA has incorporated bots into 109 processes with 86 needing no human interaction. RPA bots support DLA acquisition’s post award requests process by identifying COVID-19 PARs, collecting supplier notes and comments, and reporting them to contracting officials for review and subsequent action. Bots are also used to redact sensitive information from Freedom of Information Office requests and in inventory management.
Another bot is used by DLA information operations’ equipment management solutions team as it processes lease and purchase requests for more than 53,000 devices like printers and scanners used by DLA employees and military and federal customers. Errors such as lack of funding and contractual issues are often reflected during monthly billing transactions, resulting in missing bills that must be corrected by EMS billing staff, said Terra Nguyen, EMS division chief.
“Our personnel will research any missing billing that occurs due to errors on the debit memo report, which generates sales orders for all assets in our inventory,” she continued. “Once a list of missing bills has been generated, our EMS billing personnel then have to generate a sales order for each missing bill — a long process that can be manually intensive.”
Since implementation in December 2020, the team has billed more than $1.5 million using the bot.
“Thanks to the integration of the bot, our EMS billing specialists have additional time to communicate with customers, research other billing issues and concentrate on additional work-related tasking,” Nguyen said.
RPA also makes the agency more audit-ready by reducing errors and maintaining measurable, documented processes.
“The return on investment for DLA comes not only in hours, but in readiness and accountability to the Department of Defense and taxpayers,” Wood said.
The enterprise RPA team has requests for 27 additional automations. Process or business owners wanting to integrate bots into their functional areas must first quantify potential cost, savings and workload restructuring. The data is used by DLA’s RPA steering committee, made up of leaders from across the agency, to prioritize resources and projects. New automations take about 8 weeks to implement after approval.