Originally published on InContext, a Lexmark website.
Research shows more than three out of four organizations believe the time involved in manually processing sales orders constitutes a genuine impediment to the growth and potential of their company. Since most businesses rely on customer orders to stay in business, it is ironic that the actual work associated with processing said orders can become a drain on resources.
If your organization has found itself trapped under orders, at once a blessing and a curse, consider these three benefits of a comprehensive, intelligent automated order to cash solution:
1. Enhanced efficiency
Orders require special handling, and are often far more complex than merely keying in data. There’s contract pricing. There’s the matter of ensuring the goods are actually available for immediate shipment. There are credit checks. Some scenarios demand pricing overrides (and the relevant safeguards to ensure no abuse). When it does come down to merely keying data, the process can be painfully slow and represent a less-than-ideal use of valuable human resources.
Complex, manual routines also inhibit visibility. It’s difficult to understand how order times impact days sales outstanding (DSO). It limits working capital. You might not know when an account should go to collections, or, conversely, you might have an account in collections when the payment has actually been received, and not yet processed.
With manual routines, your orders process is prone to waste from sources like:
- Lack of inventory
- Data entry errors
- Incorrect pricing
- Delivery issues
- Product/customer data issues
- Approval backlogs
- Missed special instructions
Each of these aspects of efficiency loss is an ongoing pain point for sales order processing, and each points to the need to implement intelligent, scalable process automation. The value of automation here can be summarized as ensuring your organization is making optimal use of its resources—eliminating waste and, in the process, generating opportunities for continuous improvement in productivity.
Lexmark implemented its own automation applications for sales order processing, capture and workflow internally, resulting in a 65% reduction in order processing time, a 40% reduction in labor hours associated with order entry, and an order accuracy rate of 99.6%.
2. Advanced customer service
Waste is not merely a concern for accounting purposes, it’s often tied to customer service issues. Poor customer service leads to customer loss. Customer loss leads to fewer orders. Fewer orders leads to revenue loss. Revenue loss leads to suffering.
Standardizing the orders process can be difficult, because we all want to provide the best possible service to our customers. Unfortunately, too often this means unique handling of each customer that leads to a highly unstructured process.
Cook Medical Inc., a medical supplies provider receiving more than 1,500 faxed orders every day, found itself straining to manually process orders with a staff of just 12 performing manual data entry. Its processes could not scale to meet the demands of increased volumes, and it was a struggle to deliver on their policy of shipping within 24 hours, leading to dissatisfied customers.
“The manual handling caused a significant amount of chaos,” said Lou Ann Fortner, Cook Medical’s customer service manager. “To meet our deadlines and not set back the shipping department, we needed a more efficient way to process purchase orders.”
So Cook Medical Inc. implemented the ReadSoft Entrance application for order capture from Lexmark. As a result, purchase orders were automatically interpreted, verified, validated and readied for automatic processing. The department has moved 25% of its staff away from sales processing duties, eliminated all overtime costs, and pursued a greater focus on order accuracy and customer service.
3. Unleashed potential for growth
A comprehensive, intelligent automation solution—including capture, workflow, content management and integration with existing ERP systems—provides immediate accuracy and visibility, freeing employees to focus their efforts on customer service. Orders are filled more quickly. Higher volumes can be handled without increased strain on staff. Order sources and formats—paper-based, email, EDI, website-based, phone, fax and others—become largely irrelevant, as order data is digitized and consolidated into a single input flow.
Your customers are happy, they express their happiness to their friends and families, and you get new customers, more orders, and more headaches … if you’re still processing orders manually. Even if you aren’t drowning in your slow, manual sales order processes, creating customer service problems and limiting visibility yet, you will be eventually. Grab a life raft before it’s too late! Automation can provide you with the capabilities you need to make the most effective use of your resources, give customers the experience they seek, and take control of your DSO and cash position.