Artificial intelligence, wearable technologies, 3D printing, and advanced data analytics are considered major pillars of digital transformation. Key decision makers are already investing and implementing these solutions in the hope of getting ahead of the competition. However, costly integration and infrastructure remodelling are needed to effectively achieve these process transformation goals. Businesses that are not financially or structurally prepared but also want to remain competitive are caught in a struggle. A Deloitte study found that only 32% of companies had the appropriate IT infrastructure to support the transfer to Industry 4.0.

Finding the Starting Line

Many business leaders are quick to assume that digital transformation initiatives that require legacy upgrades and organizational planning are their only option. Instead of diving head first into significant undertakings that require substantial capital outlays, there are simpler and more cost-effective ways that deliver similar efficiency gains.

Document automation is a sensible starting-point for businesses looking to start their transition to Industry 4.0. It is an accessible and economical initiative that can be easily integrated into process automation strategies. For manufacturers and distributors, processing documents can be a time -consuming, labour intensive and error prone process. It requires manual entry by staff with virtually no additional ROI beyond the initial sale, and can take away their time to make valuable customer connections. The good news is that document automation is an easy-to-implement solution that isn’t financially burdensome while at the same time delivers a myriad of business benefits including streamlined workflow, increased productivity and improved customer service. This is the exact reason why document automation can be a rational first step in process transformation.

Pacing Success

Document automation is not news, but many are unaware of the many types of documents that can be automated as well as the immediate efficiency gains. Below is a quick snapshot of the different documents that can be automated and their respective advantages:

Purchase order automation can speed up the order to cash cycle while improving accuracy and overall productivity. Apart from documenting all purchase order data automatically and accurately, it also saves time for staff to focus on profit-driving tasks like customer service.

Quote automation allows for immediate response to quote and bid requests and is available around the clock. This solution can handle many unique formats and transform customer quotes into standardized, structured, electronic quotes. This gives distributors and manufacturers a leg up in competing for bids at any time of day.

Invoice automation contributes to improved efficiency by eliminating errors involved in manual invoice data entry. Automatically transforming AP invoices into payable postings can reduce costs by taking advantage of early payment discounts and preventing duplicate payments.

Contract pricing automation is another process automation that increases productivity and reduces risks. For special or custom pricing agreements, manual entry increases room for error where mistakes are compounded and can lead to negative financial impact. With an automation solution, human errors can be avoided to drive a healthier bottom line. Additionally, it enables timely and accurate documentation for faster credit and rebate processing.

The Strategic Plan

Not all the major pillars of digital transformation should be embraced – figure out what works best for your company. In the broader strategic roadmap, focusing on resource heavy initiatives may not always be better than pacing the transition with smaller scale undertakings. Beginning digital transformations with an easier initial step such as document automation leads to profitability and efficiency with improved productivity and increased customer satisfaction.