By now everyone knows the answer to the elephant eating question. You eat it one bite at a time.
The real question is: can we do the same thing with the Automation Elephant? Because that’s exactly how automating your back office can feel, like trying to eat an entire elephant.
With food it’s simple. We’ve been eating one bite at a time our entire lives. We have forks and knives and spoons. We go to the butcher who knows how to cut meat into neatly-packed meal-sized portions for us to take home and cook. Our entire food system is designed around eating one bite at a time.
Can we really do the same thing with automation? Is there a way to take a bite-sized approach?
How to Find a Chunk You Can Chew
Luckily, automation isn’t an elephant you have to swallow whole. No back office goes from zero automation to fully automated overnight. It happens in bits and pieces. In chunks you can chew on. You just need to go to the automation butcher.
As you might have guessed, that’s exactly what we do here at Microdea. We’re your friendly neighbourhood automation butchers who know how to turn the automation elephant into neatly-packed meal-sized portions for your company to take back to the office and chew on.
7 Chunks of Automation Meat
The best place to start with automation will depend on the size of your transportation business and what you do exactly. Logistics companies and asset-based carriers will have different needs and likely choose to bite-off different chunks.
But regardless of your specific operation, here are the most common places to dig in.
1. Sending Bills
Billing is a good place to start with automation because doing it manually takes a lot of time, uses a lot of paper, and slows down cash flow. This means there’s a lot of room for improvement and an opportunity to immediately impact your bottom line.
Switching to an automated process saves a ton of time, gets rid of a ton of paper, and cuts down the time it takes for you to bill your customers, often by days, if not weeks. The reduction in days sales outstanding and increase in cash flow can make a massive difference, increasing efficiency, cutting costs and spurring growth.
Royal Trucking, for example, was able to cut their invoicing time by 10X, reduce their unbilled revenue by 10X, and continue to grow capacity without adding back-office headcount.
2. Getting Approvals
Printing off documents and walking them to someone’s desk for approval takes time, leads to errors and disorganization, and makes it hard to keep track of everything. Even doing it through email can quickly get messy. Emails get ignored, lost and deleted all the time.
As a result, an automated process can have immediate benefits. It accelerates the process, reduces errors, and makes it easier to stay organized and keep track of it all. Having digital documents lined up and waiting in a queue for approval is a dream compared to the disorganized, manual alternative.
3. Filing Documents
Indexing every single document that comes into your business by hand just doesn’t make sense. It’s mind-numbing work that takes countless hours. Trying to get through it quickly leads to errors, which only lead to bigger problems down the line.
The solution is to automate as much of your indexing as possible. Using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), for instance, you can reduce the workload by half or more, almost overnight, saving countless hours and reducing errors at the same time.
4. Delivering Documents to the Back Office
Another logical place to start is at the beginning - when a driver receives a signed POD.
The manual version of this takes time, can lead to lost documents, and creates a lot of work for your office staff. You have to wait for drivers to return with an envelope of trip documents before the manual sorting and processing can even begin.
The automated version involves drivers taking pictures of trip documents as they receive them. The documents can then be automatically sent to the back office so the billing process can begin immediately. This saves everyone time, eliminates the risk of losing the documents in transit, and leads to faster billing.
Plus, it can all be done with a simple Mobile Capture app on drivers’ phones - a bite-sized solution if there ever was one.
5. Email Attachment Grabbing
If instead of paper documents, you’re dealing with a lot of emails, setting up an Inbox Monitoring system might be the right place to start.
This type of automation is pretty cool. Instead of having office staff constantly checking emails and sorting through inboxes, you can essentially set up a robot to do the same thing automatically.
The automated solution watches the inbox, waits for emails to come in, and then automatically reads the subject line, downloads the attachments, and sends the information to where it needs to go based on rules you create. It’s a way faster, more efficient, better organized process.
Challenger Motor Freight, for instance, uses our Inbox Monitoring solution to organize the flood of emails coming in, speed up their billing process, and continue to grow their business.
6. Sending Notifications
Waiting for documents to come in is a huge source of inefficiency in most offices. Someone has to constantly keep checking to see if what they’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. Plus, they have to remember to keep checking. It’s a waste of time and mental energy.
An automated notification system works better. You simply set up a process where the person who’s waiting on a specific document to arrive receives a notification the second it comes in. They don’t have to keep checking and it doesn’t matter if they completely forget. They’ll be automatically notified either way.
7. Reminding Customers to Pay
Finally, any task that needs to be completed over and over again at set periods of time is always ripe for automated picking, like sending payment reminders to customers who haven’t paid you yet.
If this is done manually, it’s easy to forget, it takes time out of someone’s day, and it’s hard to keep track and stay organized.
Instead, you can set up an automated process where reminders are sent to customers at set periods of time, say after 15, 30, and 45 days. No one has to remember to send them, they can be automatically shut off the moment payment arrives and, as a result, the whole process runs smoothly, nothing gets forgotten or falls through the cracks, and you end up getting paid faster.
How Big’s Your Appetite?
The point is that if you wait to eat the automation elephant whole, you’ll starve before your appetite gets big enough.
A better approach is to identify the area of greatest need and biggest impact, bite off a chunk you can chew on and just get started. Any automation is better than no automation. And you can always start with a bite and go back for seconds later.
It’s something that happens often because, rest assured, the automation elephant is delicious.
If you’re interested in learning more about how automation can help you grow your transportation or logistics business, watch this on-demand webinar! We outline how automation can help you overcome the most common obstacles to growth.
Steele Roddick is a Content Specialist at Microdea where he creates content that helps transportation companies drive their business forward. He’s endlessly fascinated by technology trends, chess, and discovering new places to travel with his wife.