Conexiom: Automating for a Touchless Supply Chain
The global supply chain management software market is poised to grow by $9.5 billion between 2020 and 2024. Supply chains are highly complex entities, and this software market covers many management facets. However, whichever form of technological innovation they embrace – be it AI, machine learning, the Internet of Things, or another emerging trend – much of the most exciting software in this space has the same ultimate goal: a touchless supply chain.
What is one of the keys to establishing the touchless supply chain? Automating the processing of core business documents such as purchase orders.
The Dawn of the Touchless Supply Chain
A touchless supply chain is a supply chain that requires little to no human intervention in order to function. Traditionally, supply chains have required a great deal of cognitive brain-power and oversight. At every stage in the chain, human staff members have been right there, executing tasks and overseeing the smooth functioning of the chain. This supply chain oversight has accounted for thousands upon thousands of staff hours.
However, in a touchless supply chain, humans no longer need to be hands-on at any point. Just as automation has been transforming manufacturing processes for decades, it can now automate back office processes. AI processing takes over the vast majority of logistics and internal operations so that everything simply happens.
The resulting benefits are two-sided: One, inevitable human error is eradicated from supply chain operations. Two, staff can ditch repetitive manual tasks, and turn their attention to work high-value work that actually drives revenue.
The Drawbacks of Touch-Heavy Order Processing
Touchless sales order processing plays a key role in the creation of the touchless supply chain. Until enterprises modernize how they process the key business document that is the purchase order, they cannot fully embrace our automated future.
Last year, half of all U.S. manufacturing and distribution sales were processed manually – a total of $8.4 trillion dollars in business-to-business sales. This work was undertaken by customer service representatives (CSRs), who often dedicate a third of every single workday to converting purchase orders into sales orders.
This never-ending manual processing distracts CSRs from providing in-depth customer service, and performing revenue-driving tasks like cross-selling and up-selling. And despite the hours they put in, the overall ROI is poor. There are unavoidable errors. Because CSRs are swamped, purchase-order backlogs sit idle overnight, or require overtime in order to be processed. The unnecessary costs often run as high as $26 per order, and revenue capture grinds to a halt.
Moreover, in the COVID era, this manual approach is more sluggish than ever. Call volumes are higher than ever, at a time when many CSRs are working from home, lacking access to their usual tools.
In short, the way that purchase orders are currently converted into sales orders means that the supply chain is the precise opposite of touchless. Staff spend hundreds of hours on mundane data entry tasks, just to keep the chain moving.
Thankfully, the technology now exists to discard this touch-heavy approach to this portion of the supply chain. Touchless order processing converts the steady stream of purchase orders that manufacturers and distributors receive into a stack of flawless sales orders – all without any human input. With the right SaaS platform, a company can automatically convert emailed purchase orders into sales orders into their ERP system with 100% accuracy.
No CSR has to touch the order. Processing speed is cut from hours to minutes. Onboarding this automation technology takes less than 30 days, and the supply chain is rapidly optimized and accelerated.
As a bonus, when this portion of the supply chain is made touchless, CSRs win back a third of their entire workday. With this new bandwidth, they can over-deliver on customer service, and set enterprises apart from competitors whose CSRs are overwhelmed by manual data entry.
Embracing a Touchless Future
During the pandemic, Sandy Shen, a senior director analyst at Gartner, said that “businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”
2020 has been a turbulent and difficult year for any enterprise involved in optimizing supply chains. However, moving toward a touchless supply chain is a guaranteed way to future-proof an enterprise against future disruptions. The quicker that companies can remove human intervention from the functioning of their supply chains, the better off they will be. And starting with the core business documents that currently swallow up the most human hours is the sensible and impactful place to begin.
Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Fluent.ai has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.