Example: Order-to-Cash Process in a Manufacturing Company
Prioritization and Scope-setting:
The order-to-cash process involves multiple steps, from receiving an order, producing the goods, dispatching them, to receiving payment. It's essential for a manufacturing company to optimize this to ensure efficient cash flow, maintain customer satisfaction, and minimize lead times.
Current Scenario (Manual & Semi-automated Process):
- Duration: The entire process takes 30 days on average.
- Errors: Around 5% of orders face issues like wrong product dispatch, delayed shipments, or incorrect invoicing.
- Manpower: 10 employees handle different stages, from order receipt, production coordination, shipping, to invoicing and payment follow-ups.
Process Discovery for RPA:
- Data Collection: The process discovery tool observes the way employees manage different steps across all systems, including ERP, inventory management, dispatch systems, and accounting software.
- Visualization: The tool maps out the entire order-to-cash process, pinpointing areas where delays frequently occur or where multiple manual interactions are necessary.
- Identifying Bottlenecks: The tool detects significant delays in order data entry, invoice generation, and payment reminders.
- Highlight Repetitive Tasks: Repetitive tasks such as manual invoice generation, sending order confirmation emails, and payment follow-ups are spotlighted.
Solution with RPA:
Given the insights from the process discovery, the company decides to prioritize areas that have the most considerable impact on cash flow and customer satisfaction:
- Automated Order Entry: An RPA bot can instantly input order details into the ERP and inventory management system from received emails or online order forms, ensuring faster order processing.
- Invoice Generation and Dispatch: Once the order is ready for shipping, the bot automatically generates an invoice and sends it to the customer via email, reducing lead time.
- Payment Reminders: If a payment hasn’t been received by its due date, the RPA bot sends an automated reminder to the customer and notifies the internal finance team.
While the process discovery might reveal multiple areas for potential RPA application, the company needs to define a clear scope for initial RPA deployment:
- Phase 1: Begin with automating order entry and invoice generation. These have a direct impact on lead times and cash flow.
- Phase 2: Once the initial phase is stabilized, expand the RPA scope to automate payment reminders and perhaps even integrate with shipping providers for automated dispatch notifications.
- Phase 3: Explore further optimization areas like production scheduling, inventory optimization, and customer feedback collection.
- Shorter Cycle Time: With automated order entry and invoicing, the order-to-cash cycle reduces from 30 days to an estimated 20-22 days.
- Reduced Errors: Automation reduces manual entry errors, ensuring more accurate orders and invoicing.
- Improved Cash Flow: Faster invoicing and proactive payment reminders improve cash flow.
Using process discovery, the manufacturing company was able to identify, prioritize, and set a clear scope for RPA implementation. This phased approach ensures smooth transition, early ROI, and sets the stage for further automation.