Part 1: Improving your Sales Order Process through Automation
Those of you that follow MagicLamp Software know that we are all about Image Capture and Process Automation. The other day I decided to do some market analysis and I was amazed, not at the new software packages that have entered the market but rather the marketing message itself. The marketing ads, slicks and videos are selling customers on how SIMPLE Sales Order Automation is. The truth of the matter in our experience is that Sales Order Automation is rather challenging to implement but very rewarding once implemented successfully. This is especially true if the corporate goal is a high STP (Straight Through Processing) target as the automation will allow sales orders to flow much more quickly and with less human involvement.
LETS BREAK IT ALL DOWN
For those of you who are considering tackling a Sales Order Automation project and have seen the slicks, ads and videos from various vendors telling you how simple it is then I assume that you have already been asked the following questions by those vendors. If not then I have to raise caution as to how successful your STP outcomes will be.
Q. What is the reason for the Automation project? There are normally two answers to this question. Answer one, resource allocation, which requires no further explanation. Answer two is usually that the Order Entry process is currently being outsourced and there is a desire to bring that process in house. If outsourced the organization will probably already have 2 or 3 staff to support the existing process and this team most likely will become larger before it gets smaller. Either way there will be an impact on change and therefore the topic of Change Management must be considered and taken seriously.
Q. Who are the top two or three Customers and what percentage of Sales Orders does this account for? This is a very important question due to the fact that the organization is going to want to see RESULTS as quickly as possible. In addition, there needs to be a throughput rate on this number. If the top two or three customers account for 70 – 80 % of the overall orders being generated, then automating these customers in terms of striving for high STP will be valuable.
Q. What errors put most Sales Orders on block in the ERP? Let’s face it, some Sales Orders are bound to go on block for one reason or another and that’s ok. In most situations, these will happen due to backend ERP logic focused on codes or messages found in the Order Notes field. A good Sales Order Automation solution should be able to supply the Order Notes field with the same error codes or messages so that the backend ERP logic can be taken advantage of.
However, if new or additional ERP blocks are happening due to bad or incorrect data then this is not a good thing. In order to achieve as much STP as possible, the entire automation team must work together to ensure that ERP blocks do not occur due to bad or erroneous OCR results. Resolving ERP blocks from the Sales Order Automation solution perspective can bring great value and less work downstream if done correctly and are a part of the solution success criteria.
Q. Is there a way to get to a single ‘SHIP TO’ / ‘SOLD TO’ / ‘SALES ORG’ combination? To achieve high STP results the answer to this question must be ‘YES’. If this cannot be done using the dynamic data from the Sales Order then further design is required to achieve this goal. The key to STP success is to ensure that there is only one ‘SHIP TO’ / ‘SOLD TO’ / ‘SALES ORG’ relationship.
Q. Is there a process or tools in place to validate / repair incorrect OCR results? Poor OCR results will cause confidence issues with the data being extracted. Poor results will mean incorrect validations thus resulting in the Sales Order being routed to a Verify operator for further manual attention. The goal of data extraction and validation is to do as much as possible to keep the Order out of the Verify queue and onto the STP track. A good Sales Order vendor should be able to work with an organization to fill in the missing gaps to ensure positive OCR results are happening.
Q. How complete are the Order Line Items? I have yet to see Sales Orders that have consistent Line Item layouts. Most Sales Orders have an Item ID, a Quantity and some type of Description. Other than that the remaining Line Item information can be a crapshoot. As a result, Sales Order processing cannot rely on solid math to ensure that all of the Line Items have been captured. The Sales Order Automation solution must have as much functionality as possible to ensure that it has captured all of the Line Items. If no line items have been detected, then the Sales Order must go to a Verify Operator for further analysis.
Lastly, around the topic of Line Items, two things need to be considered, the height of each individual line and where the data can found on the line item. In some cases, the height of the line can vary. The Item ID can often be found in the Description and because of the variance in the Line Item height extracting the Item ID can become a major challenge. Whatever the solution, it MUST be powerful in its ability to extract Line Item data regardless of the variations in the Line Item layout itself.
If you would like to learn more about Sales Order Automation or want to see if Sales Order Automation can help your organization Click Here to request MagicLamp’s Sales Order Automation questionnaire.