“We are already automated” is a common phrase many manufacturers and suppliers say consistently when I first start talking with them. At first, I was blown away by how quickly so many companies were adapting to this new digital order processing technology, but as conversations continued this proved to be incorrect.
For many organizations, being automated refers to back-end processes once a sales order is entered into the ERP system. For example: sending out a confirmation email with ship date, determining if a customer is in good standing with credit, ensuring stock is available, etc.
While it’s fantastic to have as much automated as you can on the back end, what about the front end? Would it be useful to have your orders automatically routed to the right person and no longer have to print or file them away? What improvements could come from customer service if they no longer had to manually key in all those sales orders that come in each day? Would it help supply chain performance if they had full visibility to all orders before they got into your ERP?
Some companies think they are automated because they use EDI. At face value, this makes sense. The EDI order comes in, seamlessly feeds into your ERP (i.e., no one sees or touches it) and your front end is 100% automated — awesome! Unfortunately, this is essentially a myth all of its own.
Companies can’t get 100% of their customers to send in EDI orders. There will always be those customers who prefer email or even fax. Even for those customers who are willing to send in EDI orders, it’s practically an IT project to simply get each customer onboarded; even then, companies typically still need to “touch” some of the EDI orders because they fail out. Also, for many organizations, it’s left up to IT and their already-strained resources to determine why the EDI order failed.
So … just how automated are you with EDI? For each company the answer will be different but, regardless, you will still have some fax and email orders coming in, and you will still have to manually touch at least some of the EDI orders. Could it be helpful to have a solution that can take in EDI exceptions, flip them into a human-readable format, and allow customer service to fix and handle the EDI errors? What if IT no longer had to onboard new EDI customers — could this be beneficial?
A funny thing happened as all these questions were being asked. Organizations who thought they were very well automated started realizing there were still many manual touch points in their process in need of automation. As digital order processing technology continues to advance, it now offers organizations the opportunity to revolutionize their customer service teams while, at the same time, removing the burden of EDI away from IT.
So, the next time someone brings up sales order processing automation, don’t be afraid to dig below the surface, you may be surprised just how helpful a solution like this could be.