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Why Automate Sales Order Processing?

Some traditions were meant to be broken.

Processing sales orders the traditional way is a drain on an organization's time, money and resources. As the pressure to deliver higher levels of customer service and process efficiency rises, businesses are looking for new ways to break from tradition and bring their sales order system into the 21st century via an automated order management solution.

Manual processing: ineffective and inefficient

When a customer purchase order (PO) arrives, how an organization enters data, handles approvals and creates sales orders in their order management system is ultimately tied to the company's bottom line, representing potential bottlenecks that hinder efficiency, profitability and customer satisfaction levels.

How orders typically arrive

Ideally, every sales order received by an organization would arrive via the same delivery method, with all the necessary data clearly identified, and automatically feed directly into the order management system without any manual interruption.

Unfortunately, organizations receive orders from their customers via a wide range of methods; fax, email and EDI being the most prominent. In terms of challenges to overcome, each delivery method poses its own unique inconveniences:


Fax often represents the bulk of a company's order management expenses regardless if the number is a minority or majority of total sales order volume. Fax orders typically require a separate processing environment made up of fax machines or fax server software to capture orders and distribute them among CSRs who enter the information into the order management system.


In the interest of going paperless, some companies have started sending POs to suppliers by email. This eliminates paper on the customer side, but on the supplier side, CSRs are still required to print the email, walk back to their desks and key it in just as they might do with a fax order.


In addition to faxing systems, many companies have an EDI system with touchless processing as low as 65%. Orders might be coming in the proper format, but item details could be wrong in the EDI file (e.g., product number, pricing, etc.). If this is the case, the order goes through a complex workflow before it is entered into the order management system.

A maze of manual touch points

As one can see, traditional order processing require multiple manual touch points for order preparation, data entry and archiving. In a typical system, paper documents are collected from a fax machine or printer and then collated, copied and filed. Data is taken off the sales order template and entered by hand in the sales order software system.

Sales representatives and administrators can only hope that none of these manual touch points causes misplaced orders, delays in fulfillment and payment, or errors and returns that end up in the customer's hands.

After order entry, the work doesn't stop; there are then issues of how to handle exceptions and track order statuses. When customers call to check on their orders, it requires tracking down whether the order is still on the fax machine, with the rep or already entered into the order management system.

Where other options fall short

Certainly, there are other options besides order management automation to increase efficiency, organization and visibility within a business. Upon taking a closer look at these options, however, it's easy to see why they often fall short on a delivering a truly end-to-end solution for automating the critical aspects of order processing.

ERP/business systems

Organizations that run ERP/business systems such as SAP have an advantage when it comes to bringing greater efficiency to their business. However, the process of preparing, entering and storing one SAP sales order can still take several hours. In addition, managers have no real visibility or control into the process, and have to hope that fulfillment delays, returns or incorrectly entered orders are avoided.

EDI order processing

One common option for avoiding the pains of manual fax and email order processing is to push customers toward EDI. Here's the problem: There are still many customers who are simply unwilling or unable to do so. Most companies accept fax and email orders as a necessary evil rather than refuse business, agitate customers or pay the high cost of implementing an EDI system.


Many companies have used outsourcing to automate aspects of order processing. However, because of exceptions that are too complex for the outsourcing firm to handle, some orders still need to come back into their workflow. This can also happen with add-ons offered by EDI vendors to translate faxes into EDI. These approaches may pass off part of the problem, but do not fully automate the process.


Challenges automation helps overcome


Poor Visibility

Multiple points of human intervention and order viewing sources result in limited visibility, and, in turn, slower processing times. Better access to orders provides transparency that results in increased efficiency, predictability and profitability.

Low Productivity

Manual order processing is slow and requires dedicated employees to do the job. Multiple steps of keying-in, distributing, filing and retrieving paper orders slows down processing and consumes time that could be assigned to more valuable tasks.

Order Errors

A sales order system that operates manually opens the door for incorrectly entered data, missing information and lost documents. In Esker's experience, reprocessing due to data entry errors or misplaced documents can inflate the cost of processing a single order by as much as 4 to 5 times the standard cost.

High Costs

Manually keying in orders requires physical document handling and, as a result, documents need to be printed for manual entry into the ERP application. Implementing an order management system can negate both added infrastructure costs and more work due to errors.

Customer Service

Automated order management frees up staff to spend more time on customer service activities. With better visibility and access to documents, CSRs are better able to quickly and accurately answer order status inquiries and maintain good customer relationships.


Maximize order processing efficiency with automation.

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