How Sales Order Automation Can Help You
Navigate An Evolving B2B Marketplace
[GUEST COLUMN] Brent Halverson
The world of distribution has changed significantly over the last decade. With today’s volatile markets, increasing technological advancements and fierce
competition for customers, companies are facing the
need to adapt or risk falling behind. Essentially, it is now
a race to be the most innovative, the most cost-effective
and the most accommodating distributor on the
market. With e-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay
revolutionizing the B2C shopping experience, customers
in the B2B space are coming to expect the same rapid
order fulfillment, flexibility and competitive pricing.
As a result, distributors and manufacturers across North
America are looking for new ways to drive operational
efficiency, identifying bottlenecks and optimizing
processes to deliver greater value to their customers.
For this, automation is key.
Most companies already have dependable enterprise
resource planning (ERP) systems in place to automate
repetitive back office functions, such as inventory control and accounting. However, there are numerous other
areas primed for optimization which have yet to receive
attention, most notably sales order processing. Currently,
more than 80 percent of manufacturers and distributors
still process their customer purchase orders by hand.
This involves compiling hundreds of orders daily,
manually processing thousands of lines of data, before
entering the same information a second time into the
company’s ERP system as a sales order. Not only is this
a time-consuming, highly inefficient use of staff time,
but manual processing is also notorious for being extremely expensive and prone to errors, damaging customer retention and your ability to deliver competitive
In the past, it was clear why sales order automation
was neglected. Though the benefits were obvious, the
considerable costs and time-commitment involved in
implementing a solution — as well as the software flaws
— made it unfeasible for most. Today there are numerous
solutions on the market proclaiming their ability to automate and facilitate your sales order processing. But which
solution is right for your business needs? Consider these
four key factors when selecting a sales order automation
No. 1 — OCR Or Non-OCR?
Not all sales order automation solutions are created
equal. Technology which relies on optical character recognition (OCR) to capture critical order data is substantially
less accurate than its non-OCR equivalent. Any obscuring
mark or smudge may cause OCR to misread a document,
leading to an unacceptable 98 percent accuracy rate.
Worse still, this is further exacerbated when working with
unique data sets such as part numbers and addresses.
While smaller companies may have the capacity and manpower to verify each order before it is finalized, replacing
one form of human intervention with another does not
resolve the issues of inefficiency and costliness plaguing
distributors and manufacturers.
In contrast, non-OCR technology allows companies to
treat emailed and printed orders like standard electronic
documents, capturing data from them with 100 percent
accuracy and zero need for human verification. Once captured, this data then moves directly into the company’s
ERP system and is automatically routed to the appropriate channels with total visibility. In the process, orders
can be processed up to 95 percent faster with complete
precision. Not only does this reduce your order-to-cash
cycle time, but it frees up additional staff time to focus on
delivering superior customer service, strengthening your