Esker drives AP performance at European Motor Distributors

Driving AP performance with cloud-based accounts payable automation…

Background

European Motor Distributors (EMD) is a subsidiary of Giltrap Group Holdings, a large automotive group in New Zealand. EMD import and distribute a range of vehicles from brands such as Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, Skoda, and SEAT.

Consistent growth over the recent years created a challenging workload for the company’s accounts payable (AP) team.

EMD relied heavily on paper-driven processes. This included manually entering data from the 3,500 invoices received each month in PDF format, into EMD’s financial software. On receiving the documents, the AP department printed out and circulated each invoice for approval. The approval process included verification of the invoice amount and coding. Once approved, invoices were handed back to the AP team for data entry and processing.

This reliance on manual processes and the flow of paper around the organisation created significant challenges such as double-payments and lost or misplaced invoices. There was also an alarming lack of visibility of the AP operations and processes.

EMD knew that their AP process was too slow for a progressive business and were concerned that they had no means to quantify the full extent of the problems.

Read more about this case study: https://www.esker.com.au/sites/default/files/resources_files/esker-accounts-payable-case-study-european-motor-distributors-au.pdf

Mixing AI and Machine Learning Into Business Processes

Artificial intelligence has been the domain of science fiction for decades — think HAL, the computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey” — but as many people know, it’s actually established well-developed and growing roots in modern-day life. Amazon’s Echo, Netflix’s recommendation engines, Facebook’s facial recognition technology, auto-braking on cars, it’s all based on the ability to analyze massive amounts of data in near real-time and being able to mimic human behavior based on the results.

AI and its various subsegments — like machine learning and deep learning — are also reaching deep into the enterprise, helping to automate many of the tasks that now are done manually, creating greater efficiencies, reducing errors and offering valuable new insights into the massive amounts of data being generated. In a dynamic and fast-changing market like manufacturing, systems that can learn and adapt on their own will be crucial in driving the next-generation flexible environments.

Businesses know this. According to Accenture, 85 percent of executives plan to invest in AI technologies over the next three years. In addition, the consulting firm notes that, by eliminating repetitive tasks and enabling more creative and accurate problem-solving, AI can increase productivity by 40 percent, many times without having to grow the workforce. But it’s more than improving process efficiencies and reducing costs. Systems leveraging AI and machine learning capabilities can help businesses become less reactive and more proactive, make better decisions for the future and improving the customer experience.

How does this help your company?

So how can all this help a company fine-tune its business processes? AI-based systems essentially think in a fashion similar to humans and can help automate many of those processes, while machine learning can learn from a human by, for example, watching them correct mistakes and then being able to make those corrections on their own. A deep learning system can learn by itself and program itself.

Given all that, businesses now have the technologies that can enable significant amounts of policy and process automation — freeing up employees to handle more valuable tasks, like customer engagement. These technologies can churn through tremendous amounts of data, thousands of documents, analyze information and rapidly find patterns that can lead to better and faster decisions. For the back office, these systems can learn how to group hundreds of thousands of invoices, understand what the data means, which customers are associated with which invoices, correct errors and process the documents.

AI-based technologies like natural language processing can read data and discern whether the document is an order or invoice, the numbers on the document, the language that’s being used, the order number and any other information. The technology also can be used for chatbots that can solve most customer issues without human intervention, freeing up customer service representatives (CSRs) to deal with the most demanding buyer needs and improving the user experience. Predictive modeling means business leaders can see real-time trends in everything from customer buying patterns to changes in the market and can make product and marketing decisions based on those insights.

This isn’t science fiction. It’s happening now. Business process software vendors are rapidly building out the AI capabilities in their products with engines that use machine learning and deep learning to manage and analyze structured and unstructured data and offer core functions like document and image recognition, content recognition and analytics and reporting.

These technologies are already being used in the business world in areas such as market analysis, content management, finance and accounting. It’s also being leveraged in customer engagement, where Accenture says businesses are seeing faster resolution and a 30-percent increase in capacity — two factors which are driving customer satisfaction.

What you need to do to adopt AI and machine learning

Once a business’ executives decide to bring AI capabilities into their company, what steps do they need to take? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the data is clean. An AI- or machine learning-based system is only as good as the data it is using — it can’t think or decide on its own. A company needs to ensure that the data from the databases and tables that is going into the system is accurate, complete, uniform, consistent and tagged correctly to order to be have confidence that the results are accurate.
  • Find the low-hanging fruit where AI capabilities can make an immediate impact. Determine the processes that tend to be done manually — like billing, invoicing, procurement and expense — and use AI and machine learning solutions to automate those tasks, which will have an immediate effect on efficiencies and costs. Then move up the stack and look for ways the technologies can be leveraged to create predictive models and other tools to help drive better, more-informed decisions.
  • Find the right vendor for the AI-based business process project. The terms “AI” and “machine learning” are being used everywhere, the same way “cloud” and “virtualization” were in past years. The right vendors should be able to explain the how AI in their solutions can improve operations and what the benefits will be. In addition, they should also be ready to support the company in such ways as identifying problems that need solving, ensuring the company has the right data, explaining the skills that are needed and proving ROI.
  • Remember that AI and machine learning algorithms are tools, not magic bullets. Companies need to work with their vendors to ensure that the technologies are being used in the best way to get the desired outcomes and that they’re addressing the right use cases. Executives also have to have realistic expectations of those outcomes and to keep in mind that AI-based solutions can provide insights, patterns and recommendations from the massive amounts of data they process and analyze, but in the end the decisions must be made by humans.

AI, machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing and other such technologies can have a significant and positive impact on how business processes are run. They help drive everything from efficiencies and cost reductions to better decision-making and customer experiences. Companies just need to make sure they are taking the right steps as they adopt the technologies to ensure the outcomes are what they’re looking for.

Eric Bussy is a Worldwide Corporate Marketing and Product Management Director at Esker.

Cerapedics Chooses Esker’s Automated Order Management Solution to Integrate with Multi-Tenant SAP® S/4HANA Cloud

Esker, a worldwide leader in process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced that Cerapedics, a novel orthobiologics company, has automated its order management process using Esker’s AI-driven Order Management solution integrated with its multi-tenant SAP® S/4HANA Cloud system.

Cerapedics’ search for an automated solution began after realizing it needed a more efficient and accurate way of processing orders. It didn’t take long for the company to discover Esker.

“We fell in love with Esker the first time we saw the solution,” said Karen Minniear, director of customer service at Cerapedics. “It was important to us to find a robust solution that provides complete transparency and Esker does just that.”

Read the full press release here

Start with Why

Have you seen the viral TEDx talk from Simon Sinek titled, “Start With Why”? If it’s been a minute, you can check it out here.

Recently, I was talking with the customer service manager of a leading manufacturer of window glass and doors and we were discussing the “big picture” as it related to his automated order management project with Esker. But more on that later …

I once heard an analogy of Sinek’s talk which stated,

  • People buy millions of drill bits every year not because they want drill bits (the WHAT they need) …
  • But because they want holes (the HOW they’re going to do it) …
  • And they want those holes so they can hang a nice painting over the mantle and check off that “honey-do” list. (the WHY they’re doing something)

When we get into the day-to-day trenches of real life, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus on the next task ahead. In many scenarios, this is great! But when considering something like process change within an organization, it’s helpful to keep the focus on the big picture, especially when new technology is involved.

For example, take a solution like order management automation. At its surface, it might seem like an isolated solution for a local problem. However, projects that come to fruition always keep their WHY at the forefront of any conversations with others internally.

Which brings me back to my window glass and door friends: What was their WHY, you ask? When the manager took his action plan back to the organization, he lead with WHY this project was a priority, which broke down like this:

  • WHY: We know we’re growing rapidly and plan to double revenues by 2020. Doubling the team size to scale with increased order volumes and inquiries is not an option.
  • HOW: Therefore, we need to look at how we can make our existing team more efficient. We can do this by using automated technology to perform the low-value repetitive tasks that currently takes up 40-60% of their day.
  • WHAT: We need to eliminate manual order entry. Is there something that can do this? Enter Esker.

As their initiative moved forward, every normal project activity one would expect was still carried out. The only difference? The WHY was kept at the forefront of every conversation.

Do you know your WHY on any current projects?

17 Things Companies Have Said About Esker’s AP Automation Solution

Many leaders in the finance industry are at an interesting crossroads.

They see the traditional “back office” version of accounts payable (AP) getting left behind for a more strategic, holistic business operation that’s expected to deliver greater value across the entire enterprise.

Naturally, not wanting to get left behind themselves, they begin to explore alternatives that can help them expand the boundaries of AP’s core functions. Yet, there’s a lot of new technologies to sift through … a lot of vendors  … a lot of uncertainty.

As part of Esker’s marketing crew, this is the moment I would normally start in on why AP automation is an ideal transformational solution and Esker the ideal vendor. Automated AP invoicing is a transformational tool and Esker is a pioneer in AP automation solutions. But this time, you don’t have to take from me. Instead, let’s take this opportunity to dig into what some companies, and the actual people with frontline experience, feel about Esker’s AP automation solution.

Here are 17 things companies have said about Esker’s Accounts Payable solution:

On Seamless ERP Integrations

To date, Esker can claim 70+ unique ERP or home-grown solution integrations. For our customers, that means our cloud platform can adjust to whatever IT environment already in place — from simple to complex. Take it away, customers …

We appreciate the fact that Esker’s solution seamlessly integrates with SAP, while remaining independent — which is not the case for all solutions on the market.

Project Manager | Fives

Esker’s solution integration with our ERP was absolutely key. We were able to reproduce in Esker the controls we had already set up in SAGE, such as verification of VAT codes, analytical accounts and calculation of due dates. As both systems spoke the same language, the risk of errors was zero.”

Director of Accounting | Culligan France

Across the board, Esker delivered basically everything we were looking for in terms of automated AP functionality and seamless integration with SAP.

Accounts Payable Manager | Farmland Foods

On Efficiency, Productivity & Cost Savings

It’s pretty simple: Fewer manual practices equals more productive employees equals more savings and added-revenue opportunities for the business. Here’s what some Esker customers had to say about these advantages of AP automation:

 “Esker’s solution has been extremely beneficial to the day-to-day life of our accounting teams. Responsibilities are no longer defined by tasks, but by suppliers, enabling the teams to work better together without silos.”

Assistant Accounting Director | Feu Vert

“Immediately following the launch, our users were very pleased with the productivity gains and enhanced ability to estimate budgets. In just two days, we were able to catch up on 500 invoices!”

VP & CEO | Jardiland

Esker gave us everything we needed in terms of cost reduction and better document storage. We now have a single platform helping us control multiple processes.”

Senior VP of Information Systems | Valdese Weavers

“Now, all we have to do is snap our fingers to find an archived invoice. And Esker’s mobile invoice application has made approvals so much easier for our managers. No one at CARSO will ever go back to how it used to be.”

Accounts Payable Manager | Carso Group

On Supplier Satisfaction

Efficiency isn’t everything, of course. Often, it’s the “surface level” benefits of AP automation that pave the way for far more strategic advantages down the line (e.g., improved supplier satisfaction). Many of our customer concur:

“Our supplier relationships have improved thanks to accurate and on-time payments.”

Head of Accounting | Elix Polymers

 “Our AP process has significantly improved in the past eight months since implementing Esker. Our procurement operation business no longer worries about payment delays, reduced efficiency or supplier complaints.”

Purchasing Manager | Heineken China

Esker has allowed us to streamline our document processing in AP through eliminating manual paper-based processing. We now have the ability to support our company growth with more efficient processes and help improve the way we do business with both our customers and suppliers.

Production Director | Firstan

On Visibility & Approvals

Esker’s automated AP invoicing solution comes equipped with built-in dashboards that display real-time metrics, customizable by user. How do Esker customers feel about having such a high level of visibility and control over their AP process? See for yourself …

“We now have tighter constraints on what’s being put through. Everyone is paying close attention to what they’re signing and they’re far more accountable. It’s made our managers very happy as they have visibility and control of their costs.”

Financial Controller | Property Brokers

“Before Esker’s AP solution, we had no controls in place when routing invoices for approval — some routine billings were even processed without it. Now, all expenses are routed electronically with full transparency and accountability.”

Accounting Manager | Parts Town

 “Having the ability to post invoices in SAP, and see them with 100% visibility, has had a significant impact on our company’s overall success.”

Director of Global MRO Purchasing | Albemarle

 “We can accrue invoices entered into Esker and see what’s been approved and what’s still pending. The visibility it has brought to AP has made approvals easier and payments faster. It’s expedited the entire process — a major time-savings tool.”

Director of Business Applications | Pelican Product, Inc.

On Solution Delivery & Ongoing Support

When hiccups happen or are assistance is needed during or after solution implementation, companies need a vendor with a foundation in place to deliver what you need, when you need it. Here’s what some customers had to say about the Esker Solutions Support team:

“When we sought assistance from Esker they were always ready, willing and able to assist. They not only have superb knowledge of the Esker system, but in turn how it interacts and works with Maxim’s AP process.”

Worldwide AP Process Owner | Maxim Integrated

“We have been very pleased with the quick response time of Esker Solutions Support. This is critical as it means minimal interruption to our invoicing process.”

Financial Controller | Redmart

“Esker has greatly improved our daily work — invoices and information are easily accessible and well organized. We never have to worry about inquiries from within our organization, or externally, from customers or suppliers. Esker dashboards enable us to see pending invoices, monitor operations and check any outstanding invoices.″

Senior Purchase-to-Pay Administrator | Heineken China

Well, there you have it: 17 things that companies have to say about Esker’s AP automation solution. If you’re interested in learning more about how our solution works and the advantages it can bring to your business, check out the 90-second video summary below.

 

Automate Accounts Receivable to Pay Faster & Make Customers Happy

At its most basic, the electronics business is about being paid. Companies that don’t get paid don’t stay around too long and late payments can hinder an organization’s business operations. The accounts receivable (AR) process revolves around the invoice – pulling it together internally, sending it out to customers with an expected due date of 30 to 90 days and then, hopefully, receiving payments within that timeframe.

But it’s not a simple process. The invoice data and all the supporting documentation around the invoice —products and services rendered, correct pricing and tax, the expected payment date, disputes, and deductions, — all need to be entered, and for many companies, that can be a manual and often paper-heavy process. Even before the invoice is sent, it is a time-consuming and error-prone process that needs to be done promptly in order to get prompt payment. Another consideration: some customers may prefer a paper invoice to an electronic one.

After that, payments need to be tracked and applied correctly, and delayed and short payments need to be resolved. If everything falls in place, the money comes at or near the expected date. But it doesn’t always go as planned.

In its 2016 Payments Practices Barometer survey, Atradius found that 92% of businesses had received late payments from business-to-business (B2B) customers, and 40% said they were late paying some of their suppliers because of it. In fact, the study found that B2B customers in the electronics industry were the most likely to intentionally use outstanding invoices for financial advantage.

A lot of these challenges can be lessened or solved with automated software. Supply chain automation has become a phrase embraced by a lot of companies, and automated AR management software is a crucial part of that. Using automated AR processes that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) can remove many of the labor-intensive manual tasks and much of the paper out of the process. No more manually generating invoices or sending paper statements out to customers. Instead, every step is digitized and automated.

So, what would supply chain automation mean, in practical terms, for you and your customers? Here are a few points:

  • Faster cash flow: Invoice delivery is automated, getting invoices to customers immediately and enabling them to make payments more quickly and in any format they want, such as electronic data interchange (EDI), email, fax, a customer portal and, yes, even postal mail. Errors are minimized, costs are lowered and visibility into the process is improved. The past-due percentage can be reduced by 4%.
  • Improved financial picture: With automated AR management software that compliments existing ERP or accounting system, invoices are delivered, payment reminders are sent automatically and payments can be collected more efficiently. For many electronics companies, this can significantly reduce Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) by as much as seven days, reduce the time spent throughout the entire AR process and improve customer service. Dispute resolution time can be cut by up to 88%.
  • Better customer relationships: Automated collections management can mean a more pleasant and frictionless customer experience, which means happier customers, more efficient cash collection and greater collaboration between your AR professionals and customers. Being able to offer customers a self-service portal for making payments means more satisfied customers and on-time payments. Some companies have seen up to a 70% increase in auto-pay customers after implementing a self-service portal.

AR is a crucial part of any electronics supply chain. It’s the process that brings money into the coffers and a key touchpoint with customers. Any hiccup can have a ripple effect through the company. If you’re slow sending invoices out, payments are slow coming back, which will put a financial strain on the rest of the business. Errors on invoices or late invoices can mean unhappy, frustrated customers. Automated AR management software can head off many of those problems, improve efficiency and costs, accelerate the time-to-payment timeline and elevate the customer experience.

Delicato Family Vineyards Chooses Esker’s Accounts Payable Solution to Facilitate Growing Invoice Volumes in an SAP® Environment

Sydney, Australia — October 15, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in AI-driven process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced that Delicato Family Vineyards, one of the fastest growing wine companies in the United States over the past five years, has selected Esker to automate its accounts payable (AP) invoicing process. Esker’s Accounts Payable automation solution was chosen for its easy-to-use interface, robust capabilities and direct integration with SAP® systems.

Approximately 75 percent of the invoices Delicato manages are non-purchase order invoices, with a large majority of those arriving into a centralised email address. With Esker, those invoices will now be automatically entered into an electronic workflow — eliminating virtually all of the manual printing, scanning, coding and routing activities that had previously been a part of Delicato’s AP invoicing process.

Read the full press release here.

 

Fresh Tech: Robotic Process Automation in your Cash Conversion Cycle

Let’s say you’ve just implemented or are considering a customer-facing portal for your order-to-cash process. Good choice! It’s a great way to give customers the convenience of self-service on their time. On the purchasing side, we see companies with significant purchasing power make their purchase orders (POs) available automatically on their portal which is tied to their purchasing system — voilà!

Where it gets complicated

Every customer and supplier has their own portal. This came up on two recent conversations for me on the order management side. A medical device supplier sells to large group purchasing organizations (GPOs) which consolidate smaller hospitals so they have greater purchasing power. It’s a win-win for everyone: Suppliers get large order volumes and the customers consolidate their purchasing power.

Unfortunately, here’s what ends up happening to my medical device friends. After they get a notification that a PO is available, they log into a portal, view the open POs, pull down the PDF, save it, and process it from there. It’s tedious, time-consuming, and very, very manual. Now multiply this by the rest of your customer base!

Another automotive parts manufacturer sells directly to the large automotive manufacturers around the world. Ford, GM, and FCA, given their purchasing power, saved themselves a headache and essentially said, “If you want our orders, come and get ’em.” Ugh.

On the “to-cash” side of the business, we’re seeing a major uptick in customers say things like, “If you want to get paid, upload them to our AR portal.” Customers get the control and visibility of all their outstanding invoices in one platform yet, the supplier is supposed to manage logins and domains for every single one of their customers. My colleague Aaron LeHew wrote an eloquent piece that digs into this topic, which you can read here.

How robotic process automation can help

From AP folks pulling down invoices to pay, customer service teams trying to manage and not miss orders, and even AR teams trying to get paid in a decent time frame, we’ve seen and heard first-hand from customers about the “portal fatigue” in the market.

Esker’s developed Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to a level where it can mimic a human and actually log into a portal and push/pull an order or invoice into said portal.

RPA is great technology for repetitive, constant tasks. Combine that with Esker’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine? Now we’re cooking. Allow me to illustrate.

A notification comes in from your customer’s purchasing portal to your central email inbox, orders@acme.com. Esker’s AI technology extracts the data on the order and understands that you’ve got a new order waiting in the customer portal. Meanwhile, in the portal, the RPA bot is monitoring for a new order and automatically downloads that order to a network folder. From there, it’s automatically picked up, pulled into Esker’s Order Processing solution, routed to the correct CSR, and automatically entered into the ERP system. The Esker AI engine then cross-references those orders pulled down from a portal vs. email notifications to make sure that no orders were missed. This process happens automatically, all the time, in a matter of seconds.

Now that is fresh tech.

Esker Strengthens Its Purchase-to-Pay Solution with New PunchOut Catalog Feature

Sydney, Australia — October 9, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in AI-driven process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced the launch of a new PunchOut catalog feature for its Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) automation solution. Esker’s new functionality enables users to “punch out” from their procurement application to select online catalogs so that they can order anything online without leaving Esker’s P2P solution. As a result, users save time while purchasing at contract-negotiated prices.

Esker’s cloud-based, AI-powered platform automates the entire P2P process, eliminating manual tasks from purchasing and accounts payable, such as: supplier information management, contract management, procurement, accounts payable (AP) automation, expense management, payment and supply chain financing.

Read more here: https://www.esker.com.au/company/press-releases/esker-strengthens-its-purchase-pay-solution-new-punchout-catalog-feature/

AI Making an Impact in Enterprise Supply Chains

Businesses in multiple industries that adopted a proactive AI strategy for transportation and logistics saw profit margins of more than 5 percent, while those without such a strategy lost money.

Artificial intelligence has found solid footing in consumer devices and the retail space. Techniques like machine learning and natural language processing can be seen in personal digital assistants like Amazon’s Echo and recommendation engines used by Amazon and Netflix.

Now AI is rapidly gaining traction in the commercial space, from customer-facing call centers to back-office applications. It’s also reaching into the complex world of supply chain and logistics helping to: automate and streamline various functions, improve shipping times and order fulfillment, reduce costs and bolster profits. When machine learning is applied to inventory and supply and demand, forecasting becomes more accurate, warehouse management is improved by reducing under and overstocking and supplier management is made easier.

All of this means a better return for companies that use AI in the supply chain. According to a survey by BI Intelligence, supply chain and operations is the third most active area for the use of AI, with 42 percent of respondents seeing revenue gains from investments in the technology. Pointing to a McKinsey study, BI Intelligence noted that businesses in multiple industries that adopted a proactive AI strategy for transportation and logistics saw profit margins of more than 5 percent, while those without such a strategy lost money.

There’s still room to grow. In the same McKinsey survey, only 21 percent of transportation and logistics companies had deployed AI solutions at scale or in a core part of their businesses. The field is wide open.

What’s driving AI in the supply chain?

There is a convergence of forces driving the use of AI, not only in the supply chain but throughout the business world. Computing power continues to grow and become more cost effective, and machine learning algorithms are getting more sophisticated. The amount of data generated, particularly in logistics and supply chain, is skyrocketing. This is important, since it’s data fuels the AI machine.

With AI and machine learning, computers can quickly process and analyze these massive amounts of data to find patterns, define context and provide useful information to yield faster and better business decisions. As a result, risks are reduced, forecasting is improved, products are shipped more quickly and SLAs are met. Better shipping routes are found, and order tracking and fulfillment is improved. The end result is more satisfied customers.

While AI in supply chain management is still in the early stages, examples of how it’s being used is growing:

  • An article in the Harvard Business Review found that between 2004 and 2013, Amazon saw operational efficiencies improve and revenue jump 10-fold as the company grew the use of machine learning to help reduce fraud and bad debt and improve product delivery and supplier payments.
  • Splice Machine, which uses machine learning in its big data platform, is partnering with supply chain management technology vendor Intrigo Systems to create applications that will improve customers’ abilities to make better predictions in the supply chain.
  • Logistics firm DHL, in a report written with IBM, outlined multiple AI projects designed to make the company’s processes more predictive, automated and proactive. The company developed Resilience360, a cloud-based risk management platform for the supply chain to give organizations greater visibility into such operations as tracking shipments and monitoring events that could threaten supply chain disruptions. Other programs use AI algorithms and machine learning technologies to more accurately predict delays in airfreight and to look at millions of variables from different countries to better manage containerized ocean and airfreight shipment volumes.

“We believe the future of AI in logistics is filled with potential,” the DHL states. “As supply chain leaders continue their digital transformation journey, AI will become a bigger and inherent part of day-to-day business, accelerating the path towards a proactive, predictive, automated, and personalized future for logistics.”

There are still challenges that need to be met. Data needs to be better managed and easier to access, IT systems need to be updated and investments need to be made. In addition, employees need to be trained in AI and data science, and strategies need to be put in place to handle what happens when automation takes over jobs. Still, the benefits from applying AI and machine learning to SCM will be significant.

Adopting AI and machine learning

As executives begin to bring AI and machine learning into their supply chains, what should they keep in mind? Here are a few things:

  • Start small. Rather than trying to immediately apply the technologies to the entire supply chain operations, find specific pain points that need to be taken care of by AI capabilities. This can include using supply chain management software to automate processes that are now done manually – like invoicing and procurement – or addressing problems that drive up costs and inefficiencies, such as equipment failures or inventory management. Once those challenges are solved, expand the use of AI into other areas of the supply chain.
  • Clean up the data. Without good data, AI and machine learning won’t help operations. AI-based systems can’t think on their own – they need data to crunch. Companies want to ensure the data from their myriad tables and databases is accurate, complete and uniform. It will be coming from a range of systems, including ERP and CRM, so it needs to be tagged correctly. Clean data will mean greater confidence in the results created by the AI systems.
  • Pick the right vendor. AI is still an emerging technology, even though many vendors now are throwing around the terms “AI” and “machine learning” as easily as they once did “virtualization” and “cloud.” Finding the right technology partner is important. Can vendors explain how their products will improve your supply chain operations? Do they have services and support to back up their promises? Can they help identify what needs to be done and what skills are needed? Can they tell you the ROI on using their products? Companies need to do due diligence when picking vendors.
  • Tailor expectations. AI and machine learning hold a lot of promise to make SCM more efficient and cost-effective, but they aren’t cure-alls. Such systems can run through and analyze mountains of data to find patterns, offer greater visibility, provide insights and develop recommendations, but the decisions based on all the information ultimately rests with human beings. Companies need to work closely with vendors to ensure that the technology is being used in ways that will lead to the best outcomes.

We’re in the early stages of bringing AI into the supply chain, but already companies are embracing the technology and achieving results. Businesses need to begin their journey down this road, because those who use machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing and similar tools will see improved efficiencies and cost structures, gain greater business insights and be able to make better decisions more quickly. They will get a competitive advantage over those who don’t use AI. Executives just want to make sure that they’re patient and diligent in planning out the road forward. It’s a journey, so take each step as it comes.

As Worldwide Corporate Marketing and Product Management Director at Esker, Eric Bussy is responsible for the development of strategic products, services and solutions. Eric joined Esker in 2002 as Director of Marketing Communications, and in 2005, extended his responsibilities to include product management.

Source: https://www.sdcexec.com/software-technology/blog/21019482/ai-making-an-impact-in-enterprise-supply-chains