In a recent blog post, we looked at some of the most common challenges that drive Keelvar customers to re-evaluate their sourcing tools and how modern sourcing optimization and intelligent automation solutions can help to overcome them.
But while organizations appear to be more widely adopting automation and using it to increase productivity, reduce costs, and drive better outcomes when faced with potential shocks and disruptive scenarios, research from Deloitte (2020) revealed that intelligent automation tools and techniques have yet to be used to their fullest potential, with only about a third of organizations globally currently having an intelligent automation strategy in place.
At Keelvar, we know many important considerations factor into the decision when making the switch from basic e-sourcing to sourcing automation products. But sourcing professionals at the early stages of considering automation solutions are regularly met with complex, jargon-heavy walls of information about the technology at play in the latest AI-powered solutions on the market.
For that reason, we decided to go back to the basics in our 30-minute webinar, ‘Introduction to Intelligent Sourcing Automation & Its Bots’, and have Keelvar team members proactively address some of the most frequently asked questions we hear about sourcing automation and what makes our sourcing bots “intelligent.”
Why is there a need for sourcing automation?
When you look at the sourcing activity of a procurement team, there are many types of sourcing events that are run to collect competitive bids from suppliers, which can be mapped in terms of the level of complexity and bid frequency.
On an annual basis, you have larger-scale strategic sourcing events that are more complex and make up a large portion of spend dollar volume. Those can be resource-intensive for team members to prepare for and manage the event, and then to make their award decisions. But the good news is they only happen once a year.
However, many more sourcing events are run year-round purely in terms of event numbers. These events make up the smaller, more tactical and operational sourcing that must occur as new needs arise. These events are far less complex and are lower in spend size, but they are still critical to the business and burdensome to staff. They can often be unpredictable and quite disruptive and are typically handled with quick spot bidding negotiations.
Sourcing optimization solutions support strategic and more complex events, to maximize the savings, value and quality from your suppliers so that you’re making decisions that consider more than just the lowest cost. But with a larger number of events that fall into higher-frequency tactical and operational categories, it can be challenging for humans to give all of those events the benefit of optimization. That’s where sourcing automation solutions can help, by allowing teams to keep up with the volume but still create competitive bidding events – and do it faster.
What is intelligent sourcing automation? What makes these bots so smart?
This new category of solution is made up of software agents that use artificial intelligence and machine learning in order to improve the speed and quality of sourcing events. Keelvar’s Intelligent Sourcing Bots are essentially digital co-workers that allow for faster execution of tasks and help you scale with high quality while allowing you to offload up to 90% of tedious tasks associated with these events.
Thanks to the power of AI and machine learning, our sourcing bots can reason about the information being received and can suggest intelligent actions that should be performed. They can also react to new information they receive, all while keeping their interaction with the human user streamlined and simple. Our automation is built within the Keelvar app to understand the context of the activity that is taking place.
What do the bots actually do?
The bots bring a consistent process to more sourcing events and improve overall visibility and quality of outcomes. They are designed to execute a number of interrelated tasks that would previously be human-operated. The bot can take an instruction to do a multi-phased job, figure out how best to do it, and revert for further guidance at key control points.
Among the tasks that the sourcing bots take on, they are able to:
- Establish spot bidding events within minutes
- Manage and automate tasks, such as inviting carriers
- Collect and validate bid data from carriers
- Message bid status updates
- Conduct rate card and lane information lookups
- Generate award recommendations
That’s just the tip of the AI-ceberg. Key to remember is that Intelligent Sourcing Automation is designed to help you more efficiently respond to ongoing high-frequency sourcing event needs at scale and with higher quality.
Of course, we’re incredibly proud of our bots at Keelvar, so one of our favorite FAQs is ‘Can I see a sourcing bot in action?’ If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into how our sourcing optimization solutions can transform your procurement processes, please get in touch for a custom demo of our automation bots -- or you can get a sneak peek at one here.