In an ever-changing market landscape with new innovations and products emerging every minute, one thing has remained the same: Customer is still king. Every company is developing its own unique customer-first strategy to reach the buyers first — and technology is playing a major role in helping them achieve that. Technology is an enabler and helps mobilize operations with little impact to underlying systems and processes.
Order processing is a critical part of customer order fulfillment. A good way to accelerate delivery of products and meet customer demand on time is through making improvements along the order processing chain. The route, from the time an order is placed to its final delivery to a customer is laborious, involving a lot of manual effort and document processing work. This process can be accelerated with intelligent process automation technology. Accelerating order processing will help accelerate order delivery, and help meet customer expectations on time. Delivering to customer needs in a time bound manner can save companies not just in processing costs but also ensure greater customer satisfaction and trust.
Technology helps eliminate the common challenges that come with processing customer orders manually. A typical sales order process begins when a customer places an order with a company or sends a request for a quote to a supplier. The supplier may send a response to the request including the quote details for the customer to consider. Once the quote is agreed to, the customer sends a purchase order requesting the items and the corresponding quantities they intend to purchase. The supplier generates a sales order corresponding to the purchase order. The sales order is a way of confirming the terms of the sale with the customer and cannot be changed. The supplier then proceeds with packing, shipping, and delivering the order to the customer along with the invoice. The sales order process ends here.
At every stage of the process — getting the purchase order, preparing a corresponding sales order, preparing the packing slip if the order is for a product, generating an invoice, etc. all involve a lot of data entry and document processing work. Incorrect data entry of details like item lists from a purchase order form to a sales order form can lead to processing errors and delays. Likewise, the supplier needs to invoice only for the items that were available and sold to the customer. There is also the case of duplicate invoicing that can happen when the trail of operations from the time a customer order is received to when it is shipped is not transparent or visible.
Lack of visibility can be one of the primary impediments to efficient sales order processing. Manual sales order processing introduces inefficiencies and delays due to data entry errors and instances like duplicate invoicing. Also, there is just too much paperwork that moves between the time an order is received and the final delivery of the product — manual handling of paper documents means some documents could be lost or go missing. Sometimes, when there is a delay in performing data entry to get purchase order details into a company’s database or say, an ERP system, there is a delay in data validation that needs to be done to for example, verify that all the items listed in the PO are being supplied or that the supplier has invoiced the customer only for the items delivered.
Accurate data validation can happen only if the data entry process is accurate. In a sales order, there are many details that are important and required for the successful delivery of a product to a customer. Details like billing and shipping information, pricing, product quantities, terms and conditions, tax information, and even information like deposit payments or pending payments that were made or need to be made etc. are tedious to capture manually.
Another important aspect of document processing is accurate reporting and record keeping. Keeping a record of all transactions including inventory stock, terms of the sale, customer data, etc. all help lower the risk of order mismanagement and deliver the best possible customer experience.
For growing companies, the prospect of sifting through tons of manual paperwork everyday to process customer orders can set their functions, processes, and business back by weeks or months. Also, it is not possible to achieve 100% accuracy during order processing without tiring skilled staffers trained to take up more strategic roles.
Order processing software solves many of the challenges that come with manual order processing. The software is powered by intelligent automation technology. Intelligent automation differs from other automation technologies like robotic process automation and business process automation in that it has cognitive capabilities. Intelligent automation or intelligent process automation combines digital transformation technologies like AI, machine learning, robotic process automation, business process automation, recognition software like OCR/ICR, as well as intelligent data capture. These technologies together provide cognitive, data capture and document processing capabilities to perform human-like actions to get work done.
The software taps into its digital transformation technologies to capture, extract, validate, verify and export transaction or source documents directly to a connected business application like an ERP system.
OrderAction has built-in logic to process a vast number of sales orders and other related customer documents in different formats and document types. The software can automatically extract sales order details from unstructured, semi — structured, and structured forms. Multichannel data capture enables easy data acquisition from emails, fax servers, file shares, scanned documents in .jpg, .bmp, .pdf, .png, form, electronic xml tickets, etc.
The software applies automatic intelligent data extraction using machine learning technology as the primary extraction method. Advanced OCR technology is also used for extraction. Data from standard document formats from seasoned and known vendors is extracted using built-in logic. In the case of new documents, there is no built-in logic to recognize and capture data fields. The software has no knowledge of the document structure, or it may use built-in logic to scan one part of a document, only to find no data instead of the typical bill ‘TOTAL’, as it is common in many vendor invoices. In this case, OrderAction taps into AI and machine learning to ‘self-learn’ document types. The software emulates human keystrokes performed to enter data from a new document the first time and applies this learning whenever it encounters a document type with a similar structure. This way, the software adds to the capture logic library with every new document. OrderAction makes use of built-in logic to automatically classify captured documents by type, for easy separation and routing. Captured and classified documents are each assigned a workflow automation according to business rules. The next step is rules based data validation where captured sales orders are verified for authenticity and also to conduct the next steps in the order processing chain. Data validation may include vendor lookups, mathematical checks, purchase order matching, and other customizable rules.
Order Processing Visibility: technology helps connect disparate processes and functions along the order processing chain and communicate the status of every process or task on a single platform. It becomes easy for users to keep track of orders and document flows from the time an order is received to its final shipment to the customer.
Straight-through Processing: intelligent process automation and advanced capture logic enable OrderAction to perform straight-through processing of sales orders, dramatically accelerating order processing times and service delivery to the end customer.
Eliminate Data Entry: most human errors begin with data entry and recur throughout the document processing chain, leaving a trail of inefficiency and inaccurate outcomes at every stage of order processing. Removing the need of manual data entry at the start of the order processing chain removes any risk of inaccurate order processing. This also lowers the costs associated with processing orders incorrectly or delaying fulfillment due to reprocessing efforts.
Accelerated Fulfillment: removing the common challenges that slow down distribution efforts, namely order processing and other related document processing work, help lower the time, costs, and effort it takes to fulfill customer orders. This also bodes well for companies in terms of the customer engagement game as timely delivery of customer demand means satisfied customers, and with that, repeat business.