Automation

Automation Platforms

Maximizing on profit margins by reducing manual labor & creating more efficient workforces through automation platforms

Business Process Automation is the most proven way to save employee time and empower them to solve the larger challenges your business faces

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Every growing business inevitably deals with the pains of managing more employees, customers and overhead. As this growth occurs, it becomes harder to keep track of operations. As they reach this point, one of the biggest shifts businesses have to make is to examine their existing management tools and figure out how to automate them.

Automation platforms exist at some level in every business. From homegrown software to a patchwork set of programs different departments use – all businesses use technology to automate. At Icreon, we implement automation platforms that will help you decrease overhead and maximize profit margins.

The future of Process Automation

The future of process automation is in RPA, or leveraging intelligent 'bots' to consistently remove repetitive administrative tasks from employees. Leveraging artificial intelligence such as vision, voice & semantic knowledge will enable organizations and employees to win back critical hours in their day so they can focus on the business

What are other considerations in Software Automation?

The first challenge for business leaders facing a new age of automation is not in trying to simply cut costs, but in identifying the next big area of value creation. How can we use technology to extend the skills of humans in ways that aren’t immediately clear, but will seem obvious a decade from now?

Whoever identifies those areas of value first will have a leg up on the competition. The magnitude of the investment in automation in the coming decade is likely to be greater in scale than in previous periods because it will primarily affect the service sector, and it will spread through advanced economies as well as parts of the developing world.

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A few motifs that are critical for any business looking to intelligently automate their operations

Thoughts and Considerations

Efficient

Managing processes in as few steps as possible without needing employee intervention

Integrate-able

Building stackable workflows that can work with each other to simplify each individual workflow

Componentized

Architecting workflows and components to play friendly with legacy & third party systems

Evolving

Developing workflows that are loosely coupled and can be matured continuously

Scalable

Creating workflows that can be abstracted to build out platforms that are truly world-reaching

Error-Reducing

Reducing employee intervention to create higher efficiency and lower failure rates

Actionable

Synthesizing workflows that can carry out distinct function without ambiguity

Automation Anywhere
Blue Prism
Camunda
MsftBot
UIPath
Watson
Wit
Zapier

Tools commonly used by our business process automation teams

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How ERP Factors into Business Automation

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The Major Benefits of Process Automation

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Industries That Have Been Revolutionized by Automation

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What exactly IS Robotic Process Automation?

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How ERP Factors into Business Automation

Are your departments stuck in silos? Do your workers waste time looking for the information they need to do their job? And does that specific job depend on timely completion of tasks by a multitude of moving parts?

If the answer to any of the above questions is 'yes', then your business may benefit greatly from Business Process Automation (BPA). BPA solutions involve implementing software applications that automate routine business tasks. For instance, a customer order system communicating with the warehouse system in order to automatically place orders for in-demand inventory.

Ideally this process leads to reduced cost expenditures and increased productivity. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are a core part of any strategy that aims for process automation. ERPs can best be summed up as a suite of integrated applications that allow for cross-departmental interaction. These sets of applications are used by companies to store, manage, and interpret data from various departmental activities.

Automating business processes with ERP systems allow for a more seamless operational environment for separate departments that need to collaborate. So let's take a look at the core features that enable a company to become a highly efficient and automated business.

Providing Business Automation and Integration Across Departments

ERP systems integrate pertinent data and software systems for businesses so that employees, regardless of department, can access the information they need to do their jobs. It involves the formation of a central database that works as a repository for information originating in different parts of the business. Subsequent software interfaces are then created so that each department's data can be accessed by another.

Different application modules support a particular business activity like the finance, HR, or warehouse and logistics department. Data originates at the module level, gets validated for consistency, and then gets stored in the database for wider access across departments. Once the data is stored, different users can access, combine, and manipulate data as needed.

Rainer Struppek, the head of Group Accounting at engineering firm GEA Group, said that their ERP setup provided "a data repository to create financial reports with standardized, transparent processes." He also detailed how well “the solution integrated into the existing software landscape." Ideally, an ERP system will integrate software systems and data across various departments while maintaining the value of existing software investments.

Increased Collaboration, Communication, and Business Intelligence

ERP systems implementation serve as a useful technique to break through the isolating barriers within an organization. They ensure that integrated applications are used in the same way by all departments to exchange data automatically. This automation increases reliability of business data and while simultaneously breaking down silos.

For instance, signing a contract by a sales department to sell an 'x' amount of units will automatically inform the manufacturing department system to check inventory. If inventory levels contain sufficient items, the job will automatically be scheduled from order to delivery. Workers from the associated departments will now connect and team up to mark successful order deliveries.

Automating information sharing will lead to faster, cost-effective, and timely delivery to the customer. ERP systems serve to increase business awareness within the organization. This is achieved by using integrated applications and understanding inter-dependencies between processes.

Automated Business Processes at Your Service

Through automation and ERP systems, management can establish real-time visibility and control of the business process. It helps to determine how the process is operating, where the bottlenecks might be, and highlight possible improvements.

Toine van Rooij, the Operations Director at Bruynzeel Keukens, said that their ERP setup was used specifically "to identify and resolve bottlenecks in our processes". He also detailed how they can "continue to minimize the costs of failure and to dissect all processes in order to coordinate them even better."

ERP systems help to minimize cost expenditures due to manual errors and inefficiency. To err is human. Employees may forget payment due dates, approval deadlines or make a payment for services or goods never received. But not with a well-oiled ERP setup. These might result in direct financial loss. ERP systems effectively minimize these errors by integrating systems so that every moving part is on the same page.

Moving Forward with Business Process Automation

In today's competitive environment where every business is aiming to cut costs and increase productivity, ERP systems are able to meet countless strategic objectives. Automated business processes provide consistency in execution and safeguard compliance at the organizational level. ERP provides an easy way to automate processes, co-ordinate tasks and move data between process players. It also provides the flexibility and agility to support an ever changing environment.

The Major Benefits of Process Automation

Efficiency

Whether it’s putting together job schedules, generating detailed reports to give to your boss, or logging events that happen through a delivery process - automation makes any process faster than doing it manually. By cutting the amount of time your business takes to do everyday, manual tasks, you’ll easily increase the overall business efficiency which ultimately leads to profit.

Productivity

Employees who are performing repetitive tasks throughout the day could be better spending their time on more important processes. By automating those processes, you enable employees to work on more strategic and valuable activities that add to the overall benefit of the company. Automating processes allows more time for employees to spend doing valuable work, which makes for a more productive employee.

Visibility

It’s no secret - tasks that are automated are easier to track and monitor than manual tasks. Automating business processes allows your business to see areas where you could be improving, with automated reports and detailed dashboards that will provide updated information on the progress of any process. Your employees will no longer need to spend an entire day manually generate reports to update you on a weekly basis. Everything going on in your business will be available at your convenience.

Reduced Training Overhead

With Business Process automation, you eliminate the need to train people on how to do certain processes manually. When everyday tasks are automated, managers and other employees spend a significantly less amount of time training individuals on how to use them, which saves time and money for business. You also eliminate the human error of forgetting steps in the overall process.

Consistent Delivery

By having processes automated, the consistency and predictability of your business will increase. Whether it’s your business customers expecting a fast and efficient internet, or bank customers expecting to have 24-7 access to their bank accounts - the consistent expectation builds trust and confidence in users. With automating processes, not only does it make it overwhelmingly easier for your internal users to do their job, it allows for a consistent experience for your external users.

Know Where Your Processes Are

Whether you’re operating within a supply chain, or the manufacturing process, or even a large retail store - it pays to bring together automated tasks that enable your business to know exactly where everything is. By connecting processes, you can check on real time, updated monitors and dashboards to get up to date statuses on any department in your business, instead of relying on managers to provide reports.

Industries That Have Been Revolutionized by Automation

A good business decision maker is always looking for ways to streamline his or her business—ways to automate processes, cut inefficiencies and increase the bottom line. We’ve previously discussed what business automation and business process transformation encompasses.

Now let’s take a look at how certain industries have used this digital transformation to revolutionize the way they do business. Without leveraging business process transformation, these industries would most certainly lose their market edge.

The Hotel Industry

In a world of kayak.com and Trip Advisor, the agile methodologies involved in creating unique automation platforms are crucial to hotel chains trying to stand apart from the competition.

That’s why hotel chains like Marriott International employ sophisticated electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems that allow them to offer guests better service and competitive pricing. By integrating this digital methodology and building custom suites that fit a business’ goals, companies may increase both top- and bottom-line growth. And the use of digital automation platforms in the hospitality industry provides a more personalized experience for travelers—more rapid booking, and greater engagement with customers post-stay.

KQ iHotels, for instance, uses a system that follows flight disruptions for Kenya Airways. Originally a clunky manual process, Icreon built their platform from scratch, helping to pinpoint business technology weaknesses. The reimagined KQ iHotels system now follows flight disruptions, integrates with both a Global Distribution Systems and the Kenya Airways’ Passenger Manifesto.

These features flag system abusers and determine whether a user qualifies for accommodation services, transportation, lounge usage, and meal vouchers. It automatically prints out vouchers and passes for travelers while custom reports and dashboards eliminate the need for manual input … and invoice generation and service provider delivery happens in real time. For KQ iHotels, business process transformation improves both the customer experience and cash flow, which both bump up the bottom line.

The Logistics Industry

Forget snail mail. Now when you order a package from amazon.com, the company guarantees delivery in three days via UPS. Whether by air, rail, road, or water—you want to know where your stuff is and what time it will arrive at your door.

Big data can provide delivery times, geographical locations, and integration of logistics into product and distribution processes, while leveraging all the data to provide shippers what they need to know about where to go and when. United Parcel Service (UPS) reports their digital transformation process was just that … a process … that took years to create to make sure they were hitting the right mark.

The telltale brown (UPS) trucks get outfitted with sensors, which measure speed, track location, and collect fuel efficiency data. The UPS My Choice service allows customers mobile and online access to choose delivery preferences, reroute shipments, and adjust delivery times. And electronic signatures seamlessly authorize the release of packages. UPS CEO David Abney said he expects that the tracking system the company employs will save the company $300 million to $400 million a year, once it is fully implemented in 2017.

The Wholesale Industry

As with consumers, there are plenty of logistics involved in the distributing of goods and services to retailers and vendors. Food supplier Sysco is currently working to modernize its old technology system to make its business more agile and effective. The ultimate goal, says chief executive Bill DeLaney, in the overhaul is “we’ll be able to allocate that spending in a more efficient way and frankly in a more customer-centric way.”

Wholesalers are employing multiple digital options where their omnichannel strategy is concerned. They’re creating the ultimate B2B shopping experiences by offering customers a variety of options and places to purchase the goods they sell. By adopting ERP software with integrated analytics, they can further streamline their sales orders, production, inventory, finances, automated ordering, and production.
This gives employees more time to focus on personal relationships and customer fulfillment, a robust public digital presence, and marketing campaigns.

The Manufacturing Industry

When pharmaceutical testing equipment manufacturer Distek, Inc., receives a shipment, everyone with access to their computer system can see the shipment, and purchasers know when a part arrives in real time.

“When we input new orders, we also see allocation to the parts necessary to build those orders right away; whereas before, we might have to wait as long as two weeks. And the reports that used to take me days now get done in 30 minutes,” says Pierre Parks, business systems and production manager, in a press release.

Today’s automation, coupled with cloud-based applications, and the Internet of Things (IOT) certainly drives the manufacturing industry in a way it didn’t a decade ago.
The current technology enables manufacturers to produce a product with more speed, precision, and flexibility.

As big data is collected and measured in real time, predictive maintenance technology can more quickly catch defects, allowing for greater quality control and cutting down on potential recalls or downtime. Other benefits of business process transformation in this industry include lower inventory costs, fewer accounting errors, improved handling of large volumes of both data and product, better understanding of key performance indicators, real-time changes to production schedules and delivery, and an instant demonstration of regulatory compliance.

What exactly IS Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is a type of automation where software robots and intelligent business rules are used to mimic actions that a human being may perform. According to The Institute of Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence (IRPAAI), robotic process automation is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software, or a robot or ‘bot’, to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. These activities are done with limited intervention or assistance. RPA is used to reduce cost of operations, eliminate errors, increase throughput and process efficiency, and helps increase business volume as a result of a faster execution levels.

RPA continues to gain widespread existence in logistics & supply chain as well, to automate and expedite tasks that were once done manually. Logistics organisations can apply RPA in situations that integrate and automate data-driven activities. The ‘bots’ can automate any business process and are configurable to set up tasks assigned and controlled by the user, complementing existing core systems. Some refer to the ‘bots’ as the digital workforce. They are code free, scalable and the ‘bots’ can even learn. Transactions happen automatically and within seconds, increasing operational efficiencies and ultimately customer service. A 2016 McKinsey report shows that the implementation of the RPA process in logistics may improve productivity by 30% and increase transaction speed and reduce costs by 25%. RPA can also be used as a tool to predict future trends in the business and provide actionable intelligence.

Transportation companies need to improve their ability to accurately account for truck mileage and contract compliance. The process of accumulating data is typically done manually and is subject to human error and delay. RPA automates this process, improving accuracy, and also providing the ability to track trends and identify problems for a quick resolution
Chatbots (computer programs designed to simulate conversations with human users primarily over the web) also have an interesting role to play in the supply chain. According to EFT, there is a massive growth of chatbots in the supply chain. Their recent survey data shows more than half of their respondents are using chatbots in supply chain operations. The complexity of chatbot capabilities continues to grow. EFT notes that chatbots play a key part in the customer centric approach of many supply chain organisations. Purchasing decisions are much more focused on delivery cost and inventory levels, and chatbots can easily relay this information directly to corporate customers or consumers.

In a brief case study shared by NIIT Technologies LTD, an unnamed logistics company was under pressure by customers to reduce costs while their contracted carriers were looking for more money. Additional challenges included working with different EDI systems, complex customer demands, seasonality and scalability, stressed out employees, and cost containment. Focusing on a cost management approach, they created a digital workforce of 400 RPAs. They were able to automate scheduling and tracking, billing and collection, freight bidding, quoting and customer service. They increased their annual work output by 15,000 hours, improved receivables, and increased premium loads significantly.

The benefits of RPA include keeping existing processes intact with limited or no need for reengineering. Companies can also use existing controls, reporting, and auditing processes. RPA shows immediate process improvements and also allows for local variation in processes.

“RPA is often seen as the darling technology of every other vertical today,” says Rohit Mathur of Ramco Systems, who provide an integrated logistics ERP software. RPA has the ability to rein in in inconsistency, structure data, and deliver repeatable efficiencies. They have definitely built a strong case for organisations to build operational efficiency and reduce cost. Mathur says that RPA has the ability to interact seamlessly with multiple systems of the organization. It can gather data across different systems, integrate them, analyze the collated data, and deliver insights to the user. “It is not just about automation—it’s about intelligent automation.”

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