Are your departments stuck in silos? Do your workers waste time looking for the information they need to do their job? And does that specific job depend on timely completion of tasks by a multitude of moving parts?

If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘yes’, then your business may benefit greatly from Business Process Automation (BPA). BPA solutions involve implementing software applications that automate routine business tasks. For instance, a customer order system communicating with the warehouse system in order to automatically place orders for in-demand inventory.

Ideally this process leads to reduced cost expenditures and increased productivity. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are a core part of any strategy that aims for process automation. ERPs can best be summed up as a suite of integrated applications that allow for cross-departmental interaction. These sets of applications are used by companies to store, manage, and interpret data from various departmental activities.

Automating processes with ERP systems allow for a more seamless operational environment for separate departments that need to collaborate. So let’s take a look at the core features that enable a company to become a highly efficient and automated business.

Integration Across Departments

ERP systems integrate pertinent data and software systems for businesses so that employees, regardless of department, can access the information they need to do their jobs. It involves the formation of a central database that works as a repository for information originating in different parts of the business. Subsequent software interfaces are then created so that each department’s data can be accessed by another.

Different application modules support a particular business activity like the finance, HR, or warehouse and logistics department. Data originates at the module level, gets validated for consistency, and then gets stored in the database for wider access across departments. Once the data is stored, different users can access, combine, and manipulate data as needed.

Rainer Struppek, the head of Group Accounting at engineering firm GEA Group, said that their ERP setup provided “a data repository to create financial reports with standardized, transparent processes.” He also detailed how well “the solution integrated into the existing software landscape.” Ideally, an ERP system will integrate software systems and data across various departments while maintaining the value of existing software investments.

Business Intelligence

ERP systems implementation serve as a useful technique to break through the isolating barriers within an organization. They ensure that integrated applications are used in the same way by all departments to exchange data automatically. This automation increases reliability of business data and while simultaneously breaking down silos.

For instance, signing a contract by a sales department to sell an ‘x’ amount of units will automatically inform the manufacturing department system to check inventory. If inventory levels contain sufficient items, the job will automatically be scheduled from order to delivery. Workers from the associated departments will now connect and team up to mark successful order deliveries.

Automating information sharing will lead to faster, cost-effective, and timely delivery to the customer. ERP systems serve to increase business awareness within the organization. This is achieved by using integrated applications and understanding inter-dependencies between processes.

Automated Business Processes

Through automation and ERP systems, management can establish real-time visibility and control of the business process. It helps to determine how the process is operating, where the bottlenecks might be, and highlight possible improvements.

Toine van Rooij, the Operations Director at Bruynzeel Keukens, said that their ERP setup was used specifically “to identify and resolve bottlenecks in our processes”. He also detailed how they can “continue to minimize the costs of failure and to dissect all processes in order to coordinate them even better.”

ERP systems help to minimize cost expenditures due to manual errors and inefficiency. To err is human.  Employees may forget payment due dates, approval deadlines or make a payment for services or goods never received. But not with a well-oiled ERP setup. These might result in direct financial loss. ERP systems effectively minimize these errors by integrating systems so that every moving part is on the same page.

Moving Forward

In today’s competitive environment where every business is aiming to cut costs and increase productivity, ERP systems are able to meet countless strategic objectives. Automated business processes provide consistency in execution and safeguard compliance at the organizational level. ERP provides an easy way to automate processes, co-ordinate tasks and move data between process players. It also provides the flexibility and agility to support an ever changing environment.