All companies desire business resiliency. That was true before the pandemic, and it’s doubly true now. Unexpected challenges can arise rapidly, and companies need to be able to respond in a way that mitigates risks and ensures business continuity.

Digital transformation is pursued for the efficiency gains it can bring. Driving the bulk of these gains is the power of automation. With our automated solution, our customers enjoy cost savings of up to 80%.

Responding to the pandemic with a robust business resiliency plan means embracing automation. True business resiliency requires an absolutely lean operation, with no inefficiencies that will be exposed by future disruptions. However, leaders often wonder: where should I start? Automation takes a dizzying amount of different forms. Faced with all the options, how can we build business resilience into our use of technology?

The answer is: Start by automating low-risk, fast time-to-value processes that are tied directly to revenue. Processes that fit this bill are typically found in the supply chain. Effectively developing a technology resilience framework means finding these processes, and swapping the dated for the manual.

Sales order processing is the perfect candidate. 

 

Manual Sales Order Processing = Non-Resilient

Despite the incredible major technological advances we’ve observed in recent years, many manufacturers and distributors are still running manual supply chains. Their processes are essentially unchanged since the nineties. In north America, over $7.5 trillion in B2B orders still undergo manual processing every year. 

What does this manual processing involve, on the ground? Customer service representatives (CSRs) grinding through the orders, manually keying them in and converting them to sales orders.

Any inefficiency, any bad use of staff time, confers the opposite of business resiliency. Manual sales order processing generates a host of ill effects:

  • CSRs clock about 20-30 minutes of manual entry per order, with an additional 2-3 hours per day re-entering mistyped orders. 
  • The average cost per order can go as high as $9.05, according to the Hackett  Group.
  • The average order-to-cash cycle time stretches out to 45 days.

A strong business resiliency plan maximizes revenue generation and optimize cash flow. The sluggishness, high costs, and wasted staff time involved with manual order processing is highly non-resilient.

Moreover, it is even worse amid the ongoing effects of the pandemic. Shelter-in-place protocols mean that CSRs are stuck at home. As a result, they are not equipped with their usual tools or working environment, and so they are even less efficient than usual.

 

The Power of Touchless Automation

To give companies credit, many have tried to improve their business resiliency plan by automating back office processes such as sales order processing via robotic process automation (RPA). However, with a complex business process, RPA simply can’t cope. This is why, as Gartner has revealed, over half of RPA implementations fall short of delivering a sustainable ROI.

True automation – the kind of automation that delivers deep business resiliency – requires touchless automation. 

The issue with RPA is it typically still requires a great deal of oversight from IT teams. It will work for a while, but it will eventually malfunction, and then the RPA project team has to fix it. With every error, a human has to “touch” the order process. But in an effective technology resilience framework, automation is touchless. What good is an “automated” technology that needs constant checking, validation, and correction from human staff members? This undermines all the intended benefits of automation: labor savings, faster process completion, and so on.

By contrast, with touchless automation, enterprises can convert purchase orders into sales orders and enter them into the ERP system without any human intervention. An effective touchless automation solution can lift clear text directly from documents with 100% accuracy (unlike OCR solutions). No need for anyone to check for errors or validate.

A sales order automation solution with this capability can process more than 80% of incoming orders without human intervention. This equates to a massive increase in capacity to process orders, and a shortened fulfillment time. With touchless sales order processing: 

  • Enterprises can proceed with shipment in under 15 minutes from receiving an emailed order.
  • The cost per order can be significantly reduced, by more than half. 
  • FTEs who previously spent a huge chunk of their day manually keying orders become free to focus on selling and providing superior customer service.

 

Touchless Automation: The Future Is Here

“[The pandemic] is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”

Sandy Shen, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner

Business resiliency requires creating the right technology resilience framework. Creating this framework means driving digital transformation by selecting the most powerful implementations of automation. 

Eventually, everything that can be automated will be automated. But for now, enterprises need to automate low-risk, fast time-to-value processes. Sales order processing fits this bill. This is why distributors and manufacturers like Compugen, Diversey, Genpak, Grainger, and Prysmian have all implemented sales order automation.