Enhancing integration and automation to streamline processes

8. sep 2022 | By: Morten Andersen

Sometimes, the only way to fix some of the system issues outlines above is to partially remove humans from the task.

Specifically, if the process of moving back and forth between multiple applications to pick up or cut data and then to transcribe or paste the same data into a core application is causing many errors than implementing a degree of integration is recommended.

In process improvement circles this the manual approach is sometimes described as “swivel chair integration”.  Many prefer to call it “painfully tedious”.

Naturally, application integration and automation is subject to total number of these operations performed balanced against the cost of implementation and this would need to be justified.  There are multiple methods of achieving this integration which outside of the scope of this document.  Essentially, integration can take place at a data level, at an application interface (API) level and, at a screen or UI level – the latter is used by screen scraping tools and Robotic Process Automation systems.  Automation software typically uses the same elements to achieve linkage or connections.

From a business perspective there are “hard”, easily measured savings such as the increase in productivity of users and the reduction of errors.  While “softer” benefits include items such as increased work-life balance, morale, and motivation. These latter points are critical and lie at the heart of Employee Experience and ultimately Customer Experience too.   However, most organisations look to automation to reduce the cycle times for standardised processes by trimming 10s of seconds or minutes of minutes off each instance.  Productivity increases for three reasons:

  1. Employees will execute more processes per hour or per day
  2. Automation reduces errors and thus the associated “re-work” time
  3. Automation feeds reporting that streamlines work management and improves processes

Automation in the context of Digital Transformation is usually described as Business Process Automation or BPA for short. This is an enormous subject that encompasses Workflow, Business Process Management and RPA as well as Process Discovery and Process Intelligence.  An interesting fact is that Digital Adoption Platforms such as Apty’s include capabilities that deliver the benefits of automation without the large price tag or risk associated with some of the aforementioned solutions.

For example, based on a condition being met, Apty’s “autopilot” will autofill fields on a web application with standard data and thus save the user tens of seconds in the process.  Secondly, Apty’s “Automate” capability enables organisation to replace a task involving multiple fields and web screens with a simple chat-bot interface.  This simple shift from a moderately complex application path to a simple, intuitive chat-bot interface can transform the way that some users engage with a system – it can reduce the need for complexity, for training and will eliminate wasted time and effort as well as reduce user errors.

How does DAP help integration and automation help in the sphere of Supply Chain Management?  Supply Chain systems typically need to interface with multiple sources of data and some of these data are only accessible via portals or applications. Furthermore, APIs often are provided to encourage end-to-end process continuity, i.e.avoiding the need for users to bridge gaps by re-entering data into another system, this is often labelled as “updating” another system when the reality is that the user is replicating data within another system – this manual replication is one of the pinch points of poor process performance and below par productivity.

If you’d like to learn more on how the team at Scansolutions can assist with improving your supply chain process or helping to identify integration and automation opportunities, please get in touch.

Series: Supply Chain Improvement

This blog post is part 5 of the introductory post titled “Five Ways You Can Avoid Blockages in Your Supply Chain Without Sacrificing Your Entire Budget”. It covers the subject of establishing a common starting point (baseline) for tasks and overall processes.

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