Imagine an average office of an international trading company. Dozens or even hundreds of employees sit by their shiny Macs, copy data from one file to another, fill out contracts, generate reports, compare info, and so on. People get salaries, complete some tasks, but they are involved in too dull processes. It’s said that the ecosystem can’t exist without all these operators. Or can it? Is manual handwork such as essential?

To be honest, it’s a giant rudimentary of the majority of modern enterprises. And there’s one simple tool that saves human workers from this redundant work. We talk about RPA. According to a recent survey by Deloitte, with over 400 respondents, 53% of businesses have already started the implementation of robotic automation. This number is projected to reach 72% this year. It seems that now is a perfect moment to explore this topic.

In our guide, we rely on the knowledge of DICEUS experts involved in RPA analysis. As well, we gather data from famous thought leaders: researchers from Deloitte, Gartner, American Express, Entrepreneur, and Finextra. Read on to find valuable insights!

Robotic process automation for beginners

The first part provides insights into the industry, its foundations, advantages, and drawbacks. This info is valid for international trade sectors, as well. And if you still aren’t sure about the importance, here are two facts: Gartner reported that global RPA software revenue was more than $1 billion in 2019, and Grand View Research predicts that worldwide spending will exceed $3 billion by 2025.

Popularity of Tech Innovations, 2025

What is RPA?

There are different definitions of the term, so let’s stick to the common points. In general, RPA is a technology based on weak AI automation. It handles various manual tasks such as data entry, extraction, and validation, forms filling, text recognition, and even interaction with clients. Here, robots are software algorithms that watch and repeat specific user actions. Evidently, they complete such tasks, processing more significant amounts of data much faster.

The range of RPA functions is surpassingly wide. Here are a few of the most prominent capabilities based on essential modules:

  • Custom API-based software. This is the core element that comes with crucial features. Depending on your needs, the examples may include:
    1. Compare and validate data.
    2. Create files and folders, access them.
    3. Download data, transfer it to databases.
    4. Fill and copy forms or reports.
    5. Open links and click buttons.
    6. Work with web and mobile apps.
  • Chatbot system. This module is responsible for customer interaction. It addresses urgent issues and can connect clients to human operators if needed.
  • Text and speech recognition. This one handles visual/audio analysis required for correct data validation, entry, and exchange.
  • RPA manager. Again, it’s not a human but another software part that controls other robots. It ensures proper execution by launching the required modules on time.

Aside from general robotic automation features, there are advanced developments related to cognitive automation. This area focuses on general and even strong AI – more capable software that handles not only routine manual work but creative tasks.

If you want to read more about artificial intelligence, take a look at our guide on how AI-powered systems disrupt public services.

What are RPA benefits?

Benefits and Disadvantages of RPA

Moving further, let’s look at how robotic process automation systems help businesses. Particularly, the listed advantages work fine for any import/export business:

  • Enhanced security. Proper RPA systems come with great cybersecurity.
  • Error-free work. Employees don’t work with data but check the results only.
  • Flexible modifications. It’s possible to adapt solutions to different needs.
  • High processing speed. It becomes possible to complete more tasks faster.
  • Improved user experience. Customers appreciate quick and precise responses.
  • HR development. Workers can handle new tasks, e.g. in RPA control centers.
  • Simple scalability. With custom robotic tools, it’s easy to grow and expand.
  • Strategic development. Businesses can start digital evolution with RPA.

What are RPA limitations?

Ending the discussion about RPA basics, explore risks and drawbacks related to this technology. Spoiler – it’s not an ultimate solution for any issue:

  • Constant tech support. Like any software, robots require support and maintenance.
  • Cybersecurity threats. Hackers and frauds develop new tools regularly.
  • Poor in-house adoption. Some employees may stand against RPA implementation.
  • Possible shutdowns. Software breakdowns are still potential, be prepared.
  • RPA specialists. Human operators should be ready to react to potential issues.
  • Standardization. To start, you will need to develop explicit rules for processes.

RPA influence on international trade

There’s no surprise that the worldwide import/export business is huge. We mean, really huge. The UN Comtrade database reports that the annual average of imports is around $11 trillion! China leads in this field while the USA is the export king. Evidently, such a giant ecosystem produces numerous papers, standards, rules, and obstacles. Historically, almost all companies involved in import/export trade operations relied on the human workforce.

Today, this situation is changing. New technologies become more available, so not only large enterprises can integrate them. Particularly, robotic process automation enters the game. Scott Dodds, Ultima CEO, says that RPA is now a part of SaaS offerings and that even SMEs are able to benefit from this tech. Overall, there are two options for businesses that want to invest in robotics: simple automation and intelligent machines.

Import and Export Trading
One dot on the map equals $100 million of exports

1. Narrow RPA for documenting

Tons of official papers that must be processed manually slow down the entire international trade process. For instance, a World Economic Forum study released in 2018 shows how burdensome operations can be. One shipment of flowers from Kenya to the Netherlands by sea resulted in 200 docs. Expenses on these papers and their processing reached one-fifth of the physical delivery costs!

It’s clear that import/export documents can be handled by machines. RPA tools digitize, automate, and reduce costs of the related operations, increasing efficiency and speed. Today, even governments start integrating robotic solutions. Singapore ports plan to cooperate with customs authorities and shipping groups to digitize workflow. Partners want to develop an RPA system for import and export companies.

2. Cognitive RPA for complex tasks

Evolving further, international trade companies should look at cognitive robotic automation tools capable of handling more difficult processes. For example, a large enterprise with millions of faxes from clients around the globe can integrate an RPA app to facilitate processing. In short, this tool would work according to this algorithm:

  1. Convert images into text using optical recognition.
  2. Extract data and send it to databases.
  3. Categorize faxes or other docs according to preset rules.
  4. Send core data to other subsystems or human operators.
  5. Automatically create reports with this info.
  6. Improve own productivity thanks to machine learning.

Benefits of cognitive RPA are clear: cost savings, higher speed, better accuracy, and compliance. In import/export, this type of automation can eliminate all border-related issues such as different tax schemes, problems with customs, or governments. However, it’s essential to develop clear and comprehensive rules for robots.

Other notable use cases

In conclusion, let’s briefly check out how RPA tools are adopted by different players in different parts of the world. Not all of these cases relate to international trade directly, but they can help to understand how businesses benefit from emerging tech:

  • Bancolombia, Colombia. Launched over 85 RPA systems for different banking tasks, including investment suggestions and portfolio management.
  • KeyBank and Billtrust, the USA. The financial institution invested in a development firm to get automated accounts receivable and invoices. 
  • RBC, Canada. This bank has a smart bot that addresses customer concerns, helps with services, and facilitates daily tasks.
  • Yes Bank, India. Has an RPA solution that eliminates the need for docs’ submission related to import/export payment operations.
  • Zurich, Switzerland, and Capgemini, France. The insurer integrated a robotic automation tool that processes all standard policies.

Moving to RPA with DICEUS

Summing it up, we can say that robotic process automation is a hot technology that becomes more and more popular over time. Thanks to progress, such tools become cheaper, so even SMEs can afford them. As a result, the global import/export trade sector faces gradual digital transformation, implementation of innovative solutions, and business models.

If you think that your business can benefit from RPA apps, feel free to contact us. At DICEUS, we gathered professionals from different industries who know how to work with innovative tech and demanding customers. We’ve successfully implemented automated solutions for companies in America, Europe, and the Middle East, to note.

As for cooperation, we always try to deliver all core values. From consulting of software architecture and transformation to MVP and final development to constant support, our teams can’t sleep well until the project is finished and the customer is satisfied. That’s the vision of a full tech partnership that we foster inside the company.