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Posted by FullQuota Editor | Nov 14, 2013 12:00:44 AM

How Can Automated Workflows Fix Inefficient Processes?

Distributors can remedy inefficient business processes by implementing automated workflows. Often, businesses leaders are skittish about investing in their systems, but to get the most out of a system requires investments over time.

Manual processes often lead to mistakes; at the very least, they represent built-in inefficiency. Why take time to manually move an item through a process step-by-step if you don’t need to? With automated workflows, the completion of each step could initiate the next step in the process by issuing an alert.

For example, an email could be sent automatically to the next person in line with a link to the transaction. Not only would that individual be immediately notified, but the email would also eliminate the need for that person to search for the transaction. Workers at each step in the process could take immediate action upon receiving an alert, eliminating many manual processes and the delays that come with them.

Distributors with inefficient business processes often deal with the same issues. Here are three common red flags that your processes need an upgrade.

  1. Data needs to be entered more than once: If employees are entering the same data multiple times, you’re not taking advantage of the technology that exists to support business processes. Integrated systems bridge the gaps, allowing data to flow from one department to another without needing to be punched in multiple times.
  2. You can’t get the information that you need out of the system: This indicates the information isn’t in the system or there’s poor reporting. As a result, the business processes must be manipulated to get the information you need. Executives and managers need access to reporting and analytics to run the business efficiently.
  3. Order processing errors are resulting in customer satisfaction problems: This suggests that the business processes are not optimized. The data is probably being entered incorrectly or insufficiently. You can reduce data entry errors and ensure orders are fulfilled quickly and correctly by entering data once and building upon it as it moves through the workflow process.

Thinking globally

System automation and integration can not only improve distributors’ existing operations, but also position them to succeed in the global economy, according to an article on the Cloud NetSuite blog.

Flexibility is crucial to compete in the global economy. Distributors face challenges that include managing orders and payments in varying currencies, the complexities of different taxes and government regulations, and transporting products across international borders. Furthermore, companies are spread out among different locations and trying to provide real-time access to information at any time and place.

“Unfortunately to meet these requirements, distributors are often forced to piece together multiple applications including order management, CRM, inventory management, accounting, etc.,” the Cloud NetSuite article explains. “Distributors desperately need to integrate and automate all of the business processes and data to support expansion abroad, and to ensure cost-effective, and profitable operations.”

The article outlines three common areas where distributors fall short when their systems are not integrated and automated.

  • Intelligent demand forecasting: You can’t forecast demand accurately if inventory, sales, finance and e-commerce are not interconnected.
  • Inventory management: You can’t react to demand changes effectively without “automated reordering, triggered by increased demand, and dynamic replenishment of items.” Inventory management suffers if you can’t determine what products you should stock based on profitability.
  • Market differentiation: Price is often all that separates you from competitors in the commodities market. As a result, distributors must determine their strengths and understand which customers are the most profitable. That information can show distributors where to focus services and product features.

Distributors face increasing pressure to boost efficiency and improve their processes. Technology solutions can provide the automation and integration necessary to compete in today’s global economy.

Written by FullQuota Editor

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