A Clean Transition into Industry 4.0

September 21, 2017 American Cleaning & Hygiene

By: Earl van As

Document automation can bring clarity into the complex digital transformation journey…

Digital disruption is apparent across many industries including construction, manufacturing, transportation and health care. Decision makers have been readily weaving digital transformation initiatives like artificial intelligence, 3D printing, advanced data analytics and wearable technologies into their longterm strategic roadmaps. These initiatives are considered pillars of digital transformation and are pivotal to the future of business success as they can dramatically change business processes and affect the bottom line. To remain competitive in the evolving market, business leaders are eager to jump on innovation, sometimes without carefully considering the implications of integrating advanced and relatively foreign innovations. In fact, according to a recent Forrester report, one in four companies have a full digital strategy in place, but almost half have a limited one.

The B2C side of the cleaning and hygiene industry is already offering automated products that can carry out cleaning tasks that would otherwise require human intervention, from robotic vacuums to automated knife cleaning machines. However, the supply chain in the B2B market is lagging behind due to its methodical approach for implementing technology. While the pillars of digital transformation like robotics are known to greatly improve scalability and productivity, a high cost is associated with the implementation as legacy infrastructure requires extensive platform upgrades. Also, major transformations involving AI and big data require careful planning, ample resources, and education. For supply chain businesses seeking effective and immediate results, process transformations that require large infrastructure overhauls may not be a suitable first step.

The cleaner transition

There are alternative easy-to-implement and more cost-effective strategies that forwardthinking leaders should consider a part of their larger vision to complete the digital ecosystem. These simple initiatives can deliver just as many benefits for supply chain businesses without heavy investment and systematic changes.

Major changes to business infrastructure and investing in large scale digital transformation innovations can be daunting. Manageable and accessible process changes such as document automation are often overlooked, but it is a logical place to start for companies looking to move forward with digitalization.

Manual document processing is one of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks in supply chain operations. It not only takes employees away from their value-driven responsibilities, but the manual data entry process is error-prone and time-consuming. For manufacturers and distributors of cleaning and hygiene products that need to process large numbers of documents each day, automation of data processing has the potential to deliver massive efficiency gains. In addition to being easy to deploy and cost effective to implement, document automation can process different documents on an ongoing basis, freeing up employee time for result driven customer relations.

Simple integration for a bundle of benefits

Many types of documents can be automated, including purchase orders, invoices, and requests for quotes. Purchase order automation, for example, can accelerate order-to-cash cycles while improving accuracy and overall productivity. Rather than having staff manually enter purchase order information that comes in via email, an automated system can process sales orders accurately and quickly. The data can then be automatically transferred into ERP systems without human intervention. Customer service representatives (CSR) are freed from tedious data mining and manual data entry to focus on valueadded activities such as improving customer service quality and building relationships.

Compiling data from automated sales order processing can also deliver benefits like providing actionable insight into buying trends, customer order volume, as well as the time CSRs spend servicing specific customers. Understanding buying trends and volume allows companies to predict the type of products that customers may purchase in the next season, allowing for more efficient inventory control. Moreover, knowledge of how each customer places orders, whether by phone, email or e-commerce, can help companies better allocate resources and digital transformation initiatives, increasing productivity. Data on how much time each CSR spends to serve each customer can help companies identify which customers are profit generators and which ones cost most to serve. Decision makers can then develop business strategies that drive additional revenue.

Incoming AP invoices can also be automated. Without manual entry, invoice details are converted into ERP or financial systems, increase efficiency and prevent errors that result in duplicate payments. The response time for bids and quotes can also be decreased through quote automation, providing the potential to win more business. No matter the time of day, quote automation works around the clock to respond to bid requests, giving businesses a competitive advantage.

For key decision makers who are cautious about committing entirely to a complete digital transformation, document automation is a complementary approach that is less of an undertaking and does not involve an expensive and complete integration process. Often overlooked, it is an accessible and effective process upgrade that also offers long-term gains including increased customer satisfaction, profitability, and productivity – all major benefits to the bottom line.

About the Author: Earl van As is Vice President of Marketing & Product Management of ecmarket, cloud solutions developer of the patent-pending Conexiom sales order and invoice automation solution. Conexiom allows manufacturers and distributors to focus on serving customers and managing supplier relationships instead of entering data.

See the feature in American Cleaning and Hygiene herehttps://www.americancleaningandhygiene.com/a-clean-transition-into-industry-4-0/