Reduce Your Lead Time: Eight Strategies to Process Orders Faster, Increase Customer Satisfaction, and Improve Your Cash Flow

Your customers expect to receive their orders quickly – no matter how they’re placed or how much customization is involved. If you take too long, you’re less likely to earn their repeat business, and you can forget about a word-of-mouth recommendation. The bottom line? Your lead time is important, and reducing it can have a major impact on your business.

Of course, that tends to be easier said than done. But with a few strategic changes, you’ll be able to reduce your lead time (and optimize your entire supply chain), leading to more satisfied customers and a stronger competitive advantage.

Before you start to make changes, you’ll need to set realistic goals for improvement, taking into account your current performance and your particular industry. (If you manufacture made-to-order products, for instance, your lead times may be several weeks longer than a company that has a standard product line.)

From there, you can:

Remove Unreliable Suppliers From Your Supply Chain

Routinely receive late shipments from certain suppliers? Keeping them in your supply chain could be costing you more than finding a different vendor.

A study performed by NC State University suggests that supplier evaluation almost always has a positive impact on a company’s financial performance – even when taking into account the potential cost of a transition.

However, if you do change suppliers to reduce your lead time, make sure you’re stocked up with enough inventory to last you through the changeover – and that your new supplier is prepared to start sending you products right away.

Choose Vendors that are Closer to Your Warehouse

In today’s international marketplace, you have access to more vendors than ever before. But, you may end up waiting weeks for products to be shipped internationally. That not only makes your lead time longer, but it also makes returns more complicated as well.

Reduce Lead Time

One of the easiest supplier lead time reduction strategies? Give priority to vendors that are close to your warehouse or manufacturing plant. And if you can’t find a local supplier that can compete on price, consider placing larger (but less frequent) orders from international vendors and keeping a larger inventory on hand.

Share Your Demand Forecasts With Your Suppliers

If you’re in an industry that naturally fluctuates, your orders may change from month to month. But, to keep your suppliers prepared for larger-than-normal orders, let them know that you’re expecting an increase in demand as early as possible. This only ensures that they’re not only prepared to handle your larger order, but also prepared to do so as quickly as possible.

Bring External Processes In-House

Handle most, but not all, of your production process in-house? Consider increasing your own capabilities so you don’t have to send your products out to a third party for completion. This require be a significant up-front investment, but the long-term savings (and the permanent reduction in lead times) may make it financially feasible.

Automate Your Order Processing Workflows

Once you have your raw materials and are ready to start production, make sure that your own internal processes are up to par as well. Consider:

  • How long it takes you to get customer purchase orders into your system
  • How long it takes you to move engineering change orders through production and QA
  • How often the process gets held up as a result of internal miscommunication
  • How often orders get lost entirely

If your performance is poor in any of these areas, your lead times are likely suffering as a result. Automating your order processing workflows can help you get your finished products out the door more quickly.

Complete Multiple Processes at the Same Time

Certain processes have to be completed before others can be started – and there’s just no way around it. But, if you’re able to identify processes that different individuals can complete at the same time, you can increase productivity and reduce your lead time even further.

Process Customer Orders Faster

Improve Internal Communications

Order processing is an “all hands on deck” process. If you’re not collaborating well internally, you may be creating unnecessary delays.

Let’s use order entry as an example. If there are multiple steps in your process that require input from several people, you could be spending extra time you don’t have to. This is especially true if you’re dealing with paper, which can’t be tracked.  Paper-based projects left sitting on someone’s desk increases your lead time, as well as the likelihood of lost documents.

Even though poor communication is a major challenge to solve (and often a symptom of other, deeper issues), manufacturers have several options for eliminating bottlenecks. One option? A workflow system that immediately routes order related documents from one department or user to the next, while immediately notifying users that a project requires their attention.

Communicate More Effectively With Your Customers

So this technically doesn’t help you reduce your lead time – but it does help you keep your customers up-to-date while they wait for their orders. Since studies have repeatedly found that communication is a strong predictor of customer loyalty, it’s an important aspect to consider.

If you’re not sending out order notifications, consider investing in a system that’ll do exactly that. (Automation is a major time-saver here as well, with plenty of technologies that handle notifications automatically.) It’s a simple – and nearly effortless – way to set expectations and increase satisfaction.

Let IntelliChief Help You Reduce Your Lead Time

At IntelliChief, we understand how critical it is for you to keep your business running smoothly – and we’re here to help.

We’ve provided thousands of companies with the tools they need to automate their sales order processing procedures. The result? Less time wasted on redundant back-office administration, and more time to devote to sales and product development. Some of our customers have even reduced their lead times by up to 50 percent.

To learn more, contact us today, or visit our Resource Library to see the ways that other manufacturers & distributors have started working smarter with IntelliChief.

 

IntelliChief ECM Peer-Driven Sales Order Automation, AP Automation JD Edwards INFOCUS 18 Feature

Both Sales Order processing and Accounts Payable processing were forefront with the IntelliChief ECM Peer-Driven Sales Order Automation, AP Automation JD Edwards INFOCUS 18 Feature, delivered by the Oracle Gold Partner and JDE-integrated enterprise content management system’s creator.

IntelliChief presented Successfully Automating Sales Order Processing for Emser Tile with JD Edwards and IntelliChief ECM, providing insight to a peer user’s strategy to move Orders from manual management to automation, and the benefits they’ve achieved.

For organizations that want, or need, to automate their Accounts Payable process, there are many options to consider, with examination given to solutions that can integrate seamlessly with JDE EnterpriseOne or World. Functionally, what type of system best fits a company’s AP department, their specific business processes, and the organization from the enterprise prospective? Addressing this, IntelliChief presented JD Edwards: Automating Accounts Payable

INFOCUS 18 facilitates an international technology and applications forum for the JD Edwards community through the Quest Oracle Community, bringing together users of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and JD Edwards World, engaging peer knowledge exchange.

Unable to attend? Contact Intellichief for these presentation’s recordings.

Related: Oracle JD Edwards Content Management Software Can Help You Make the Most of Your EnterpriseOne or World ERP

Automation vs. Robotics: Choosing the Right Technology for Your Business

With more than 80 percent of enterprises already using AI – and 30 percent planning on increasing their investment over the next three years – companies that aren’t already using automation to their advantage may be feeling the pressure to catch up. But there are so many options to consider that it can be difficult to decide where to focus your attention. Automation? Robotics? Machine learning? What’s the right technology for your business?

The Difference Between Automation and Robotics

The terms “automation” and “robotics” are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are minor differences between the two.

  • Automation is the process of using technology to complete human tasks.
  • Robotics is the process of developing robots to carry out a particular function.

Not all types of automation use robots – and not all robots are designed for process automation. That said, most robots are used for that specific reason – especially in the context of industrial use.

Automation vs. Robotics

Traditional robots have sensors – like audio and visual sensors – that allow them to carry out complex physical processes without (or with very minimal) assistance from a human. (An example: a robot that travels around a warehouse, collecting items for orders.)

However, there’s also such a thing as a “software robot”, which refers to a computer program. Software robots – which can also be referred to as desktop automation or robotic process automation – are designed to conduct virtual processes rather than physical ones. For instance, some companies use data recognition software, which can be configured to “read” documents the same way that a human would. This reduces the need for manual data entry, which – when done by a human – can be time-consuming and error-prone.

Machine Learning & AI

Now that we’ve covered automation vs. robotics, we can introduce machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) to the conversation as well.

  • Artificial intelligence is the concept of using “smart” machines to complete tasks.
  • Machine learning is the practice of users “teaching” machines how they should function.

While all forms of automation are taught at some point in their development, machine learning is an ongoing practice. These are the programs that become more adept at their jobs the more frequently they’re used.

Machine learning tools are considered semi-autonomous. They can function well on their own, although they do require occasional user input to “teach” them how to make complex decisions in real time. (Autonomous robots, on the other hand, work entirely without human intervention.)

The Role of Automation, Robotics, Machine Learning, and AI in Business

Here’s where all of these terms come together.

If you’re looking to incorporate new technologies into your business, you may have several options to consider. It all depends on what type of goals you’re looking to achieve.

If you’re looking to assemble your products more quickly, a robot may be able to help you speed up your factory operations. If you’re looking to make repetitive administrative tasks more efficient, software-driven process automation would be more appropriate.

Types of robotics and automation for business

Of course, these are just a few examples of industrial robotics and automation – there are hundreds of opportunities to explore. Each one can provide you with a unique competitive advantage – and a different ROI.

IntelliChief’s Business Process Robotics

If you’re not sure where to start, IntelliChief can help. As a leader in robotic business process automation, we provide companies with intelligent software to help them simplify their most time-consuming tasks.

Our tools can be customized to accommodate almost any administrative function. For instance, we offer solutions for:

  • Collecting and verifying invoices
  • Entering sales order information
  • Producing customer invoices
  • Administrating HR benefits
  • Onboarding and offboarding employees
  • Managing logistics

When performed by employees, these repetitive tasks are highly inefficient and inaccurate – but our software robots are configured to make them faster and more predictable.

And, the more you use IntelliChief, the less you end up having to do. (For instance: type in a new customer’s information once, and we’ll remember it for the next time you bring up that account.)

To learn more about how our automation software can help you transform your business, contact us today. Or, visit our Resource Library to see how other customers have successfully implemented business process robotics in their back office.

Workflow Automation Mapping Optimizes Business Processes

Each company has its own specific way of getting things done – both within each department, and organization-wide.

The nuances are tried – but are they true?

Employees tend to get accustomed, and comfortable, with how things are routinely done. They move through their business processes without much thought, doing whatever it takes to move through their to-do list.

It’s not often that they stop and consider if there are potential improvements. But when it comes to most manual workflows, there are a number of opportunities to reduce unnecessary steps and excessive costs.

How Workflow Mapping Can Help You Optimize Your Own Specific Business Processes

To see where your processes can be optimized, it helps to map them out. Imagine that you’re getting ready to automate that process. What would you need to teach your technology to do?

Process mapping gives you a realistic insight into how things are actually done. It opens your eyes – and shows opportunities – to optimize and automate repetitive work where it’s advantageous, and helps you allocate your people to where they’re needed most. Most importantly, you can see what you were previously missing, and refine your processes to best fit your objectives and company culture.

Enterprise content management makes it easy to map – and automate – your workflows.

People will drive the automation. Human touch remains crucial within AI operations; machine learning, even as it continuously improves, lacks grasp of wild-card spontaneous elements of human nature (Neuroscience will forever be refining this understanding). What’s achieved is people’s advantageous distance vantage. What’s realized is workflow automation mapping optimizes business processes.

An AP Example

One area where long-standing workflows tend to be highly inefficient: Accounts Payable.

You may be manually collecting your invoices, and sorting them out in your mailroom. Once they’re distributed to the appropriate processors, they have to matched, validated, vouchered, and entered into your ERP. In a best case scenario, this can take days of effort.

ECM, however, captures all information, in all formats and from all sources, related to each transaction. It then organizes it and makes it digitally available conveniently within the context of a transaction. Once captured, all data is verified and validated with established contractual standards of each participating party, stored in your ERP or line of business system.

From there, your  newly optimized process workflow steps are powered by robotic process automation (RPA). Rather than completing manual steps that you previously identified as unnecessary, interactions among staff are automated, making it easier and quicker for notifications and approvals.

This provides much-appreciated convenience, eliminates late payment penalties, and helps you obtain often-missed early payment discounts. These add up: ECM provider IntelliChief has a user who currently receives $5.4 million annually in discounts. And the ultimate benefit is counted in time; all those involved in AP process workflows are freed from the manual hours per week required to complete these tasks.

To learn more, contact IntelliChief.

JDE IntelliChief ECM AP and Orders Automation HUG Discussion

Being featured at the JD Edwards Houston Users Group (HUG) meeting, August 28th at The HESS Club, Houston. Fiscal Fitness for JDE: Today’s AP and Orders Automation Abilities, will be presented and peer-discussed by IntelliChief ECM, an Oracle Gold Partner provider of enterprise content management for JD Edwards systems.

The integrating ECM system enables automating documentation capture and management, validating and updating JDE-based data, and facilitating workflow befitting a company’s specific processes and culture. As a true enterprise system, IntelliChief is deployable throughout an organization’s local and global footprint.

JDE IntelliChief ECM AP and Orders Automation HUG discussion will cover:

Accounts Payable Automation

  • Reduce vendor invoice processing and filing costs
  • Increase automated workflow and streamline processes
  • Increase invoice approval and exception handling processes visibility
  • Reduce late payment fees while increasing early payment discounts.

Sales Order Processing Automation

  • Faster, more accurate order processing
  • Lower order processing cost
  • Increase process control and visibility of order routing
  • Decrease Days Sales Outstanding
  • Improve Customer Service experiences for customers, and for staff managing each account.

Unable to attend? Contact us for the presentation’s on-demand recording. Or, learn more about IntelliChief’s JD Edwards solutions here.

 

IntelliChief ECM Designated Most Promising Enterprise Content Management Solution

CIO Review has named IntelliChief a Top Enterprise Content Management Solution for 2016.

Our document management products are continually updated to add new features. Our engineers are always looking for ways to improve the process of capturing, storing, and extracting information from paper-based and electronic documents. Combined with our decades-long history of success, we’ve been trusted by countless companies to improve their approach to Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Finance, Customer Service, Order Processing, and even HR.

To learn more about our award-winning solutions for enterprise content management, contact us today.

Add Notes to Your Electronic Documents

Many business projects undergo changes before they’re officially called complete. Typically, the way something begins is far from the end result’s actuality. So how do you keep everyone in the loop?

Accurately collecting all relevant information – and making it available to everyone who needs it – can be a struggle. ECM makes it easier.

IntelliChief’s document imaging software captures the initial details of each project and transaction. But when things change, it provides you with the latest updates – adding the newest data as soon as it becomes available.

Additional and updated details that weren’t included in an original document (think: a last-minute engineering change order) gives you real-time access to your crucial “need-to-know”s. It provides flexibility for you to roll with the information flow.

In fact, IntelliChief has two options that – working together – let you share updates and insights with a collaborative team.

  • Creation-phase notations can be added to the original documents when they’re added to your system (and before they’re standardized/archived/added to your workflow). This way, everything you know up from accompanies the record throughout its lifecycle.
  • Workflow-phase notations can be added as you go. You can common within the document files, and anywhere on the electronic document itself. This makes it easy for each user to highlight their updates, showing everyone else on the project what needs to be reviewed.

Death and taxes are considered certainties; late additions to projects and transactions also belongs on this list. ECM enables you and your team to be prepared for this inevitability, and have the ability for it working in your favor.

To see how this works, contact us.

AP Automation for JD Edwards – Let Robots Do the Work!

You may have read a lot about robots recently. And we aren’t talking about the latest novel by your favorite Sci-fi author. These are Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) – tools industry analysts are seeing reduce invoice processing costs and cycle time by over 75%.

If you’re a JD Edwards customer looking to advance how your Accounts Payable team works, drive automation, and increase visibility and control, then join us for this web presentation. We will review how IntelliChief integrates seamlessly with JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and World, and how it uses RPA and AI to automate routine tasks inherent in manual invoice processing.

What positive fiscal impact will this have on you? Book your seat today for this web presentation:

Date: Thursday, September 6, 2018

Time: 2:00 – 2:30pm EDT

Register here. Can’t make it? Contact us for an on-demand viewing link.

 

Why Automate Accounts Payable?

Not sure whether to automate your accounts payable department? Consider the following benefits:

Quicker Accounts Payable Processing Times

When there are fewer “stops” for an invoice before it gets out the door, you’ll experience faster processing times and increased productivity. This is true whether you have a single person managing your payables, or an entire team across multiple departments, facilities, and locations. With automation, approvals, verification, and vouchering have never been faster.

Another thing that helps speed up your AP processing time: using technology to take care of time-consuming tasks, like verifying contact information in your ERP. Your employees don’t have to constantly switch screens, log in and out of accounts, check (and double-check) details, and transfer data between disparate systems. It’s a much easier process for everyone involved.

Reduced AP Costs

Getting documents exactly where they need to go – instantly and electronically – lets you eliminate document circulation costs. (Translation: no more envelopes, stamps, or time wasted on interoffice mail.) Plus, you don’t have to continue wasting money re-creating lost documents, which increases your savings even further.

Greater Flexibility for Your AP Employees

Your employees only have so much time at the office – why waste it on non-essential tasks, like searching through a filing cabinet?

With accounts payable automation, your team will have more availability for higher-value initiatives. They’ll be more motivated – and more satisfied with their role in the company – and you’ll benefit across the board from larger and more impactful projects.

Improved Vendor Relationships

Maintaining every document, for every transaction, from every vendor…it’s daunting. But, AP automation makes it less of a challenge. You’re able to stay on top of every purchase, with minimal effort. IntelliChief captures, formats, organizes, and saves all of your information into a secure archive.

Stored documents are instantly retrievable – by you, your staff, your company cohorts, or even your vendors (so long as you give them the appropriate permissions) – on both desktop and mobile devices. Helping ensure that your suppliers adhere to your company’s individual policies maintains mutually beneficial relationships. Plus, you’ll be alerted to any discrepancies in real-time, helping you solve them before they turn into larger problems.

Increased Accounts Payable Savings

Surveys vary, though they all point to this: over 75% of payment-based supplier discounts go unclaimed by purchasers. It’s a shocking statistic; it’s also money that’s rightfully yours.

Every dollar you save is significant, but the savings can stack up the more that you spend.

IntelliChief helps you achieve these savings in two ways:

  • First, it checks every invoice against your contracted potential discount terms (which are stored in your ERP)
  • Then, it expedites the three-way match process to make sure you can consistently meet those discount terms

Once you implement automated ECM solutions for accounts payable, you’re in the position to achieve all of these benefits – and more. You can even scale your system to benefit other departments as well; you’ll find that interconnectivity and immediate access to critical business information can improve a virtually endless range of processes.

At IntelliChief, we’re here to help you improve as much – and as quickly – as possible. If you have any questions about the benefits of AP automation, contact us today – we’d be happy to show you more!

AI in Accounting: How Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Technology Has Changed the Industry

Corporate accounting has long been driven by standard policies and procedures. But today, forward-thinking companies are updating their processes through automation. Modern advances in AI have made accounting faster and less error-prone – not to mention easier to scale. These advantages are part of the reason why – according to Forbes – a number of routine accounting processes are likely to be AI-based by the year 2020.

What Tasks Can Be Improved With Accounting AI?

Artificial intelligence is already capable of handling several common tasks, such as manual data entry and invoice classification. But, the more intelligent that technologies become, the larger the projected role of AI in the accounting area.

Artificial Intelligence for Accounts Payable

For corporate accountants who oversee outgoing payments, AI can help streamline invoice approvals, exception handling, audits, and GL coding.

Artificial intelligence allows technology to process documents the same way that humans do (although these technologies rely on behind-the-scenes configuration rather than natural intelligence). Their algorithms make them perfect for collecting and validating invoices, as well as matching to their corresponding purchase orders and receipts.

AI in accounting

In the past, AP automation programs were only capable of reading invoices if they knew exactly where each piece of information was going to be located. This made their application somewhat limited. But, today’s programs have become much more intuitive.

Thanks to machine learning, computers now have the ability to:

  • Recognize patterns
  • Remember data for future applications
  • Learn from decisions made in similar circumstances
  • “Understand” and replicate tasks performed by human operators

As a result, accounting technologies are becoming more effective at validating transactions, matching quantities and prices, and determining which transactional documents require exception handling.

Similarly, robotics in accounts payable can streamline quantity conversions and tax calculations using information that’s already in a database – no need for an employee to figure this all out manually. And, if there’s an invoice that needs to be reviewed by a human, workflow-enabled programs can immediately send that document where it needs to go.

Artificial Intelligence in Accounts Receivable

Automated intelligence makes it easier for accountants to manage incoming payments as well.

For instance, if a customer submits a single payment for multiple invoices or sends a check that doesn’t seem to correspond with an existing transaction, AI can search for similarities to help sort out the issue. As a result, accountants can correct problems much more quickly, without having to reach out to the customer for clarification.

Artificial Intelligence in Corporate Auditing

Every accounting department has to invest resources into audit preparation, whether they’re paying a third-party or employing an auditor in house. This helps companies demonstrate proper accounting practices and regulatory compliance.

What’s typically a long, drawn-out process (and an expensive one at that) can be almost fully automated. Computer programs can be used to locate sample transactional documents, and in some cases, even deliver those documents right to the auditor. And because AI helps errors from occurring in the first place, reconciling financial records becomes much less of a burden.

In the future, audits themselves may even become fully automated. As AI continues to develop, accountants may be able to rely on computer-driven risk models and the immediate detection of fraudulent behavior patterns. But until the accuracy of those processes becomes much more reliable, human auditors will still be responsible for manual reviews.

Will AI Replace Accountants?

For all the excitement surrounding artificial intelligence, there’s also an undercurrent of uncertainty. Corporate accountants – and the companies that employ them – tend to wonder how AI is going to change the workforce.

One thing that most experts agree on: automation is not going to make accountants obsolete. It will, however, have an impact on their day-to-day responsibilities.

With artificial intelligence systems, routine tasks that used to take hours can instead be completed in seconds. Behind-the-scenes preparation (like locating transaction records) can also be automated, allowing accountants to focus on higher-value initiatives.

Will Automation Make Accountants Obsolete?

According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers (one of the Big Four audit firms), one of the top reasons that financial service organizations are turning to AI is their ability to help them innovate. With machines handling the “grunt work”, accountants can take on more of a forward-thinking advisory role. By studying trends to help companies make more strategic business decisions, accountants are able to create a new (and more valuable) niche that’s unlikely to be taken over by robotic accounting automation.

AI Tools for Today’s Corporate Accounting Industry

To increase the chances of long-term success, companies need to find solutions that are simple enough – but also functional enough – for their employees to adopt right away. (It’s also ideal for companies to ask their employees what features would be most important before selecting a system.)

At IntelliChief, we provide simple, intuitive automation software for routine accounting processes. Our solutions use artificial intelligence to eliminate manual data entry, automatically create and record transactions, and make audit preparation easier than ever. And, our AI tools integrate with the most popular accounting systems, like Oracle and SAP. This makes it simple to improve upon your corporate accounting workflows, without having to completely overhaul your approach.

To learn more about how companies have transformed their accounting departments with AI – and more importantly, how you can do the same – contact us today.