Many companies are starting to focus on robotic process automation (RPA) in all areas of the supply chain. When it comes to order management, many companies have adopted electronic data interchange (EDI) with their largest customers in order to create a seamless transition from the traditional process of customers creating purchase orders to creating orders directly in the ERP. Other customers have web-based portals that vendors must use to pull the orders from their cloud, which is great for them and enhances their experience with your business as they have less questions. These are great processes to adopt, but there are still areas left with bottlenecks. In many cases, companies still have to take orders from the portal, print the PDF and manually enter it along with other manual orders (fax and email).
Companies claim they can help support those larger fax and email orders by sending orders of set templates to the ERP in an EDI-like transaction. However, this is often only used for a set number of customers (maybe top 20). This leaves smaller and newer customers sending orders that still require entry by a customer service rep or order entry specialist. With this concept, a portion of orders requires little to no manual intervention, but most orders are still left in a model that creates bottlenecks and a more reactive service group. One example of a company that tried a template-based solution is Electo-Matic.
In a perfect world, every order is touchless and requires no manual intervention, but sometimes that causes more harm than good. Letting all orders directly into the ERP allows errors to feed through. EDI is a perfect example of great technology that is still susceptible to pitfalls. Let’s say customer XYZ sends in EDI orders with an unintended unit of measure that could have been caught by a service rep validating the order. You ship 700lbs of goods that now need to be returned, and this order with a sustainable margin now becomes a major loss.
Having all EDI exceptions in the same place as fax and email, and even some portal orders, enables companies to create a best-in-class customer experience.
I recently had a conversation with a company that had looked into automating their top 20 fax/email ordering customers last year with a template-based solution. They stated that their primary drivers for the order management project were simple — their CSRs were bogged down with order entry and weren’t able to focus their full attention on the customer. After many conversations and almost pulling the trigger, the project was shot down after they realized this model was just a small fix for a larger issue and wasn’t scalable. Now, they are looking at Esker’s Order Management tool to apply an automated solution that will be able to solve the larger issue at hand rather than slapping on a temporary Band-Aid.
When looking at sales order automation, ask yourself, “Will this solution keep this bottleneck at bay in the long-term?”