A workflow, in its purest sense, is the steps required to complete a business process. A workflow will most likely span across multiple departments, requiring multiple individuals and functions to be involved. These people and functions will all need to get their part right and completed within a timely fashion in order to ensure the process runs smoothly to completion. More often than not, the successful and efficient completion of this process has an impact on the business – usually in a financial sense.
In larger organisations, there are likely to be a number of core business processes across the various departments, and perhaps even across multiple geographies, from month-end to production. The workflows within these processes may have dependencies and interlink with other processes. So you can see where this has the potential to become more complex.
There is a way to take some of the complexity (with a bit of work upfront) out of the workflows which run your business, and that is to automate them. The use of ERP software, particularly software underpinned by Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) like Epicor, gives you the capability to deploy custom and predefined automated workflows without having to delve deep into the system’s code.
With that in mind, here are 4 benefits of using automated ERP workflows in your organisation.
Eliminate admin-heavy tasks
A heavy reliance on manual data entry and other big admin tasks can have a big impact on the efficiency of a business process. In a lot of manual workflows, there is a necessity for data re-entry, which adds unnecessary steps and time to the process. There is efficiency to be gained with “internal” processes too (i.e. those that are not customer-facing or that do not directly affect the customer). Automating things like reporting tasks and activities which occur at a set frequency, for example a monthly board report, frees your IT resource up to work on more proactive projects which will be more beneficial to the business in the long-term.
Reduce human error
The best humans can be highly efficient – but ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they cannot be as accurate – or as quick – as machines. Automating processes and activities, particularly around data entry, greatly reduces the chance of human error resulting in an incorrectly entered number, code or customer name. Reducing time spent on trying to find and then correct human error could help you greatly increase efficiency across the business. That being said, there may still be some situations in which it would be appropriate and useful to have a human sense check – you can work this into your automation, ensuring that it is on-hold until verified manually.
Facilitate better communication
A blockage many businesses face is around poor communication between departments. It is quite common that a project or order becomes delayed, and various departments point at each other to find out what the hold up is, only to find one department failed to let another know a vital piece of information. This lack of communication leads to time being spent on chaser emails, phone calls and a general hold up of the overall process. With an automated workflow, steps can be put in place to notify relevant departments and individuals if an action is required on their part or just to update them on status. If appropriate it can also be used to communicate with external organisations and even the customer (think dispatch notifications, invoices, etc.)
Easier to measure and monitor
While it may be possible with some dedicated resource and time, it can be quite tricky to measure the effectiveness of a manual process. An automated workflow can be much more easily tracked and measured in terms of success rate, timings and costs. You can then record, access, analyse and act on this data quickly. Enhancing the process even further, you could even use IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technology to monitor the effectiveness of machinery throughout your production process, and pinpoint any steps which could be streamlined, in order to shrink lead times and improve product quality. It is also easier with an automated workflow to perform modelling tasks and run scenarios through the system, meaning you can better plan for when things – well, don’t go to plan.
Clear Business Outcome have helped a range of businesses streamline and automate workflows and processes in order to improve efficiency, productivity and profitability. If you would like to discuss how workflow automation could benefit your business, get in touch.