Workflow automation technology company RPA Labs has landed its first round of capital, netting $1.2 million in a pre-seed round.
Schematic Ventures led the round, along with PSA UnBoxed (Port of Singapore) and other senior supply chain executives.
RPA Labs is brand-new, having come out of stealth during the fall of 2019. The executive team has been working on the technology for a couple of years, co-founder Matt Mostick told FreightWaves, with the idea of using automation to help lower costs and speed back office and customer-facing processes for supply chain companies.
The technology consists of software bots that focus on three areas – conversations, documents and operations. Among the applications are customer response, transportation management system (TMS)/enterprise resource planning (ERP) load creation and shipment quotation.
Getting an ocean or air quote from a freight forwarder can take up to 48 hours, explained Mostick, who previously founded Catapult, a cloud-based, freight quote platform that eventually was sold to Warburg Pincus.
RPA has put together an email response bot that can understand what the customer is looking for, pull the rate and schedule from relevant databases, and get a quote back to the customer within 30 to 45 seconds, “all without a human interaction,” Mostick said.
Similarly, bots can read new load orders from an email and attachments and take that data and populate it into a TMS.
“Right now, trucking companies and third-party logistics providers [3PLs] spend time manually inputting information into a system,” Mostick said. “With our automation, it doesn’t necessarily need to be that way anymore.”
The lab’s prebuilt bots can also read and extract data from documents like bills of lading.
Another use case is system-to-system interactions. For example, a company that doesn’t have an application programming interface and does not use EDI may face challenges migrating their system. “What we’ve done is build software bots that can go into a system with a registered login and password,” Mostick explained, “and actually read the data that is in the system and then extract that and move that into other systems.”
The idea for RPA Labs came about after the company’s co-founder, Suraj Menon, a founding member of PayPal’s mobile development team, approached Mostick about starting an RPA company for logistics.
Bots are common in other sectors such as insurance and finance, and while at Catapult Mostick had seen the need for similar solutions in the supply chain space.
Asked about plans for the new cash infusion, Mostick said he appreciated getting funding “in these times.” The team is going to be strategic about how to deploy it, with a focus on solving pain points and bottlenecks.
Echoing reports from other automation companies, Mostick said the pandemic is actually leading to an uptick in interest from customers, in this case international freight forwarders, 3PLs, logistics and systems providers.
As companies tighten their belts, he observed, “they’re trying to figure out what sort of automation they can implement that helps them become lean and more efficient.”