The need for complete document automation - business critical
Much has been written about the importance of internal document digitisation and automation and the significant improvement in operational efficiencies it brings to organisations worldwide. The last few years has seen it quickly cement itself as vital for business efficiencies, productivity, and the knock-on effect of this improvement on a business’s bottom line.
As vital though as the automation of internal processes and operations is, we need to pay cognisance to the equal importance of ensuring that these same efficiencies are implemented across both inbound and outbound documents and processes.
Manually retrieving data from inbound documents and entering it into your company’s ERP system can be a tedious and time-consuming task. This is where smart data extraction can empower your organisation to shift from manual processing to a more efficient system that can become increasingly smarter over time.
But first – let’s take a closer look at ‘inbound’ ‘documents
Simply put, inbound documents are documents that a business receives from an external source. Two key examples, forming a vital part of any organisation’s operations, includes the receipt of both invoices and customer orders – the automation of which is essential for increased workflow speed and data entry accuracy.
Traditionally, the manual input of invoices is time intensive and error prone involving multiple steps. The invoice, received from the supplier or vendor, is manually captured into the organisation’s back-end infrastructure or ERP system followed by its manual approval. Once payment is complete, again, this data is then manually entered into the Accounts Payable software.
The very real risk – bottlenecks, the propensity for human error and long timelines. The result – delayed payments often resulting in damage to existing supplier or vendor relationship.
A staggering 71% of companies report manual data entry and incompetent Accounts Payable (AP) processes as crucial pain points. Hence the need for automation of the AP function that sees as many as 52% of businesses, that have implemented it, experiencing an approval turnaround of 4 days or less.
The same is as valid when it comes to customer orders. Did you know that manually entering just one customer order into an ERP system can take more than 4 minutes? Multiply that by the countless number of customer orders many organisations process each day. The reality – once again, time intensive processes that are a huge drain on an organisation’s resources compounded by the very real risk of human error and the gross inefficiencies it brings.
Customers are the backbone of any organisation, with the nurturing of these relationships key to a business’s growth and bottom-line. The automation of the customer order process is critical for the effective management of these relationships. It reduces errors and saves both time and costs in addition to an overall improvement in efficiencies and productivity.
The how is as important as the why!
To OCR or …
For many years Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) has been the preferred solution. It enables the analysing of printed characters such as shapes of words or characters on a received or ‘inbound’ document (e.g., pdf invoice) to extract machine-readable data.
However, it is no longer enough.
OCR on its own is not able to identify characters with high accuracy. As a result, it can be highly error prone. OCR systems may misread or have difficulty identifying certain letters or characters such as the number ‘0’ with the capital ‘O’. And this, for at least 20% of the documents processed. Therefore, using OCR is to implement error handling that is time-consuming. This runs counter to the goals of increasing efficiency and productivity through automating processes.
The power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
OCR, combined with AI and machine learning, marks a real turning point for companies. It allows them to analyse documents with a confidence rate of more than 95%! Document processing becomes faster and more secure by minimising human intervention and ensuring data integrity.
The combination of AI and robotic process automation (RPA) gives rise to intelligent process automation (IPA), which makes it possible to automate even more complex processes.
IPA solutions can process both semi-structured data (e.g., purchase orders, invoices, etc.) and unstructured data (e.g., email, etc.). It enables organisations to extract the relevant data irrespective of the format in which the inbound document is received. Said data is then automatically converted into a format that is both understood and easily integrated into the organisation’s ERP system.
Complete traceability throughout the Accounts Payable function. This, in turn, enables two or even three-way document comparison with invoices easily validated against the original purchase orders and/ or delivery notes. In the case of customer orders – seamless integration into a company’s ERP system brings several consequential benefits. Orders are now able to be fulfilled within a far quicker turnaround time. As essentially, required stock levels are far more easily managed and evaluated against customer demand. This enables proactive stock management, resulting in increased efficiencies and improved customer relationships.
The benefits are many:
- Increase productivity, thus allowing employees to focus on higher-value tasks.
- Reduce operational costs and risks through the elimination of manual entry.
- Ensure regulatory compliance through automation, including respect for data privacy and financial regulation.
- Improve customer experience and satisfaction.
The devil is in the detail
Be sure to choose a paperless solution that includes OCR technology combined with AI and RPA and one that allows you to:
• Streamline business processes.
- Make document and data access freely available.
- Improve traceability between various departments or sites with relevant metadata recovery and proof files.
• Save time and reduce manual errors.
- Eliminate the processing times associated with manual re-entry.
- Guarantee data accuracy by extracting directly from received documents and integrating into your IT system.
- Ensure optimal recognition rates using a combination of Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) with AI and Machine Learning.
• Improve customer and supplier relations.
- Speed up Order to Cash and Purchase to Pay cycles thanks to integration between information systems.
- Work with existing partner setups without the need for changes.
- Keep exchanges easy and secure using message queues that don’t require open ports to receive documents.
Fact! Manually entering all external or ‘inbound’ documents into your existing ERP system is a considerable waste of time for all. Consequently, Symtrax has integrated Microsoft Azure Form Recogniser, powered by artificial intelligence, to address this problem. Using Machine Learning, data from any document can be extracted and integrated automatically.