A tale of two retailers: How automation took them to a “far better place”

Written by Jordan McMahon in Stories from the front lines on September 10, 2014

The retail industry is simply teeming with tasks and processes that can be automated. Data entry and migration, sales spreadsheet updates and issuance, inventory management...the list truly goes on and on. And when one retailer initiates an automation effort that yields significant gains, another should sit up and think, “Could we—and should we—do that too?” (In the world of automation, copycats aren’t only accepted, they’re encouraged!).

Such is the case for these two companies, a global travel retailer and a large hardware store chain. Here are their stories.

The travel retailer

Automating sales order processing

TA B2B travel retailer wanted to move from faxed and written orders to online ordering, automatically importing orders from the website into its sales order processing (SOP) module. To do this manually, one would have to open an application, click on “import orders” to bring the file into the system, check for errors, then process the orders. Online orders being processed at the rate of 300 per week would take a person approximately 10 hours a week to do manually. By automating this process, customer service personnel were able to focus on customer support instead of orders.

Automating order validation

With the success of that project, the company turned next to another process flagged as inefficient: the nightly validation process. All orders shipped each day needed to be validated in order to adjust inventory and complete invoicing—a process consisting of launching an Access program, importing files, and manually checking for duplicates or errors. Implementing RPA let them auto-initiate the process each night, and complete the job in 30 minutes.

The hardware store chain

Automating procure-to-pay

Procure-to-pay cycles are notorious for protracting cycle times, particularly when it comes to requisitioning and requisition approval, purchase order issuance and invoice receipt, invoice matching, and reporting. For one of the largest hardware store chains in the world, the procure-to-pay process was the burr in its side, particularly when it came to AP process stages including data collection from thousands of emails and FTPs through entry into ERP. Through use of RPA, the company was able to achieve an ROI of 800% in just 6 months. The success of automating this top-priority process gave the organization the opportunity to carefully assess what other areas could yield similar gains with automation.