What comes to mind when you hear “order entry automation”? A bunch of robots whirring away in a warehouse, entering data into databases? While that’s pretty close to what order entry automation is, there are a few nuances to consider.
Imagine you run a small kitchenware business, and most of your sales orders come from retail stores nationwide. Now, think about all the steps from when a customer orders to when the product reaches them.
You must check inventory, confirm it, generate invoices, update books, and prepare and track shipment — all for one order. Multiply by thousands, and the workload can be overwhelming with potential errors and inefficiencies.
This is where order entry automation can help.
In this article, we’ll explore order entry automation, how it works, and how you can implement it in your business. Let’s dive in.
What is order entry automation?
Order entry automation is a technology that automates receiving, inputting, and processing orders. It includes several tasks, starting with order capturing from various channels like email, EDI, aggregators, and websites.
Then, the order is validated, errors are identified and corrected, and the order details are exported to the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. The system automatically updates the inventory, generates invoices, and prepares and tracks shipments.
A 2020 McKinsey survey found that automation reduced costs by 10-15% and cut order processing time from 2-3 days to 1-2 hours.
How does order entry automation work?
Order entry automation combines OCR, AI, APIs and integrations, and predefined workflows to automate the entire order entry process. Sounds quite technical, right? It can be, but don’t worry; the software does most of the heavy lifting.
You don’t need to be a technical whizz to understand or implement it. Let’s break down the process into more manageable steps:
Order capturing: Every time you receive an order, it is automatically captured by the system. This can be from various channels like email, EDI, your website, or even manual orders. All you’ve to ensure is that the system is appropriately integrated with your order inflow channels.
Order validation: You can set up predefined conditions in your system for validating orders. For instance, all orders with quantities above a specific limit could require approval, or all orders with credit payments could be flagged for review. The system would route these orders accordingly, ensuring there’s no stall in your order pipeline.
Error detection and correction: The system automatically checks for errors in incoming orders. This can be anything from mismatched SKUs and incorrect quantities to wrong customer details. The software flags these errors for correction before the orders are processed further.
Order processing: Once the order is validated and any errors are corrected, the system proceeds to process the order. It updates the inventory, generates the invoice, and, if needed, initiates the shipment process. Everything happens without any manual intervention, ensuring a streamlined and error-free process.
Shipment tracking: Some systems may also handle shipment tracking, updating the status of the order in real-time. You can update your customers about their order status without manually tracking each shipment.
Data export: All the order details, from capturing to invoice generation and shipping, are exported to your order management system or ERP, keeping your records up-to-date and accurate.
This is just a broad overview of how order entry automation works. Sometimes, you’ll have to use multiple tools — workflow automation software, ERPs, CRMs, accounting software, inventory management systems, and more — to enable full automation of your order entry process.
Ultimately, the exact process might vary based on the specific software you choose to implement and your unique business needs. The key is choosing flexible software that can adapt to your business processes. It should offer integration capabilities with whatever systems you already use in your business.
The problems with manual order entry
The supply chain accuracy of U.S. retail operations is only 63% on average. Poor accuracy rates like this are often due to manual order entry. Despite its seeming simplicity, manual entry poses several problems.
It’s all good when you’re just starting and have a few orders to process. But as your business grows, manual order entry could be a potential banana skin on your path to success and customer satisfaction.
You may already be aware of some of these issues, such as data entry errors, miscommunications, etc. But there are other issues as well that may take time to be obvious. Let’s look at some of the problems with the manual order entry process:
Let’s look at some of the problems with the manual order entry process:
Flow disruption: There is no continuous flow of work when manual entry is involved. There are interruptions—waiting for approval, confirming order details, etc. These disruptions not only slow down the process but can also lead to missed deadlines.
Overworked staff: Your team may be the most meticulous, but the more orders they process manually, the higher the chances of human error due to fatigue or burnout. This could affect customer satisfaction and revenue. Moreover, your team’s capabilities are not fully utilized as they are stuck performing repetitive tasks rather than focusing on more strategic activities like customer relationship management.
Time-consuming: Processing orders manually can be a lengthy process. Each step—order receipt, validation, error correction, data entry, inventory checking, and shipment—requires time and attention from your team. Moreover, the time spent on these tasks increases with the volume of orders, which can be particularly challenging during peak sales.
Approval-chasing and inefficient routing: When specific orders require approval, chasing the responsible parties can be daunting, especially when working with a large team. Also, manually routing orders for approval or further processing can be inefficient and error-prone. This could lead to significant delays and even lost orders.
Data inconsistencies and errors: With manual entry, there’s always a risk of entering incorrect or inconsistent data. This could be due to typographical errors, misunderstandings, or oversight. Such errors can lead to numerous problems down the line, like incorrect invoices, returned shipments, or unsatisfied customers.
Reduced visibility: Without automation, tracking orders, inventory, and shipments is a daunting task. Providing customers with real-time updates about their orders becomes challenging, which can affect their satisfaction and trust in your business.
Difficulty in tracking orders: In a manual system, tracking orders can be cumbersome and often requires sifting through stacks of papers or multiple software applications. This lack of transparency can lead to delayed deliveries and customer complaints.
Many more problems are associated with manual order entry, but these highlight the key reasons businesses are moving towards automated systems.
Business growth demands efficient processes, and manual order entry doesn’t scale well. It’s time-consuming, error-prone, and needs to offer the level of visibility and control that modern businesses need for successful order fulfillment.
The benefits of automated order entry
Your order management team will thank you for switching to automated order entry. With 67.4% of supply chain managers still using Excel spreadsheets as a management tool, it is easy to think it’s enough.
But it could be better. Automating your order entry process can offer numerous benefits that far outweigh the comfort and familiarity of manual systems. Let’s dive into some of these benefits:
1. Improves customer satisfaction: Automation early adopters see increased customer-facing time, higher satisfaction, 10-15% efficiency boost, and up to 10% sales uplift. This means businesses can respond faster and more accurately to customer orders, resulting in happier customers and increased sales.
2. Reduces error rates: 50% of order management tasks are highly automatable, reducing the risk of human error. This can result in correct and timely orders, leading to better customer service and fewer returns.
3. Enhances business scalability: With automated order entry, businesses can handle larger orders without increasing staff. This allows for growth without a proportional increase in costs.
4. Aids in inventory management: 43% of small businesses do not track inventory. With automated order entry, real-time updates to stock can be made, reducing the chances of overselling or underselling items and improving overall inventory management.
5. Saves time and improves order speed: Automation resulted in a cost reduction of 10 to 15 percent and a reduction of order processing time—from confirmed order until confirmed delivery—from two or three days to one or two hours. This means businesses can process orders quicker, leading to faster delivery times and happier customers.
The bottom line is that, with automation, you’ll be able to match the speed of your business to the pace of today’s fast-moving market, all while ensuring accuracy and efficiency in your operations.
Who stands to benefit from automating order entry?
Order entry automation can benefit various roles within a business, regardless of the industry. If your work involves managing orders in any capacity, order entry automation can significantly improve your efficiency and accuracy.
Here are a few examples of how different job roles can benefit from order entry automation:
Automating order entry, tracking order status, updating customer details, following up on unfulfilled orders
Automating invoicing related to orders, updating CRM with payment statuses, tracking and reconciling sales revenue
Automating inventory updates based on orders, tracking inventory levels and restocking alerts, managing order returns and refunds
Monitoring order status for customer inquiries, automating communication for order updates, managing customer feedback regarding orders
Automating order processing, tracking sales, managing customer reviews, dealing with failed charges and returns
Supply chain manager
Automating order tracking from supplier to customer, managing supplier relationships and orders, tracking delivery times
Automating purchase orders based on inventory needs, tracking supplier performance, managing supplier relationships, and ensuring on-time delivery of goods
Embracing order entry automation is not just a step toward operational efficiency — it’s a leap toward strategic growth and improved customer satisfaction. The benefits of automating your order entry far outweigh the initial cost and effort of implementation. And with the right tools, the transition from manual to automated can be smooth and seamless.
Order entry automation examples and ideas
Starting with order entry automation can be daunting. Several questions might be on your mind, such as whether coding experience is necessary, whether it could disrupt existing workflows, and whether it can integrate with other systems already in place.
Let’s dispel some of these concerns and look at a few practical examples of how you can start implementing order entry automation in your business:
Email, Google Drive, Dropbox, Sharepoint — all these platforms can be a source of incoming orders in PDFs, images, or scanned documents. With Nanonets, you can automatically extract critical details like order number, customer name, product details, and quantities directly from these documents.
You don’t need any coding experience or a degree in computer science to set this up. All you have to do is select the source, train the AI model with a few sample orders, and let it do the rest. You can then export this data to your CRM or order management system, making tracking and managing orders easier.
2. Automate data validation and approval routing
Ensuring order accuracy is critical, but manual data verification can be slow and error-prone. Nanonets intelligent document processing can automatically validate order details against your inventory and customer information, flagging anomalies for further investigation.
You can also set up predefined rules to deal with orders that contain invalid or incomplete information and automatically route them to the appropriate team or person for review and approval.
Once validated, orders can be automatically routed to appropriate departments or personnel for approval. In case there is more than one approver, the system can manage multiple levels of approvals based on pre-set rules and escalate when necessary. This eliminates manual follow-ups, reduces delays, and ensures a smooth and efficient order fulfillment process.
3. Facilitate seamless data flow between business systems
Data in silos slows down processes and makes it harder to get a holistic view of operations. With Nanonets, you can automate the data flow between various business systems like your CRM, ERP, and order management systems. This ensures real-time visibility and control over order details, inventory levels, and customer information, improving decision-making and operational efficiency.
For instance, when a new order arrives, Nanonets can automatically extract all pertinent details, validate the information, and then push the order into your ERP, CRM, and order management system via API. It can also attach supporting documents to the order record in the system, giving all involved parties complete visibility into the order’s status and details.
4. Turn form submissions into automated order entries
Whether you’re using WebFlow, WordPress, Shopify, or any other platform, you can use Nanonets to turn any form submission into an automated order entry. Nanonets integrates with Zapier, a powerful tool for automating tasks between different web apps, allowing you to create workflows that automatically extract and process data from form submissions.
Zapier has over 6000 apps you can integrate with, so you can automate workflows between Nanonets and practically any other platform you use. For instance, when a customer submits an order form on your WebFlow website, Nanonets can automatically extract the order details and push them to your CRM or order management system. This streamlines the order entry process, ensures data accuracy, and reduces manual data entry.
Sales receipts, whether physical or digital, are another data source that Nanonets can help automate. This could be particularly useful for businesses with online and offline sales channels.
By using Nanonets OCR, you can automatically extract data such as product codes, quantities, dates, and total amounts from sales receipts. This information can then be automatically inputted into your order management or accounting system, eliminating the need for manual data entry and reducing the risk of errors.
Moreover, you can set up workflows that match these sales receipts with corresponding orders in your systems, ensuring that all sales are correctly accounted for.
6. Automate order tracking and updates
Keeping customers informed about their order status improves the customer experience and reduces customer service inquiries. With Nanonets and Zapier, you can automate order tracking and update notifications.
For example, when an order is placed, Nanonets can extract the necessary details and create an order in your order management system. Once the order is marked as shipped or delivered in your system, you can use Zapier to trigger an email or SMS notification to the customer with the updated status. This ensures your customers are always in the loop about their order status.
7. Streamline delivery scheduling and task creation
If delivery is part of your order fulfillment process, you can benefit from integrating your eCommerce platform with a delivery management tool. This way, you can automate the creation of delivery tasks based on new orders and schedule them optimally based on location, delivery load, and available delivery personnel.
For instance, whenever a new order comes in, using Zapier, you can create a workflow that triggers Nanonets to extract all necessary delivery details. These details can then be automatically pushed into your delivery management tool, creating a new task. The tool can then optimize delivery routes based on the current order load and the locations of other pending deliveries, significantly improving your delivery efficiency.
8. Simplify invoice creation and receivables management
Managing invoices and accounts receivables is an essential part of the order process, especially if you offer credit to your customers. With workflow automation, you can automate the creation of invoices based on order details and also track the status of payments.
For example, when payment for an order is received, Nanonets can extract key details like product list, price, and customer information; then, you can set up a Zapier workflow to create an invoice in QuickBooks. This not only saves time but also ensures accuracy in your financial records. In addition, you can automate payment reminders to customers, helping you manage your cash flow efficiently.
9. Increase order accuracy and reduce returns
Errors in order processing can lead to incorrect shipments and, consequently, customer returns. You can significantly reduce such errors by leveraging workflow automation and integrating Nanonets with your order management system.
For example, Nanonets can extract order details from an order form and validate this information before inputting it into your system. With this, any discrepancies or errors can be identified and corrected early, preventing incorrect orders from being processed. This reduces the possibility of returns due to order errors, saving both time and resources.
10. Create new support tickets for failed order processes
In the event of a failed order process, speedy resolution is critical to ensure customer satisfaction. This would require immediate notification of the support team. With Zapier, you can automate this process.
For instance, when an order fails to process correctly, Shopify or WebFlow can be set up to raise a trigger. This can then activate a Zapier workflow, instructing Nanonets to extract the details from the failed order. These details can be used to automatically create a new support ticket in your customer service platform, such as Zendesk or Intercom. The ticket can include the customer’s information, order details, and a description of the issue, enabling the support team to identify and resolve the problem quickly.
There are many more ways businesses can use order entry automation to improve efficiency, accuracy, and customer satisfaction. The key here is to connect the right platforms and set up the appropriate workflows. With the right combination, virtually any part of the order process can be automated, allowing your team to focus on more strategic tasks that drive business growth.
Order entry automation is transformative. It might not seem groundbreaking, but its impact is sizable. Hopefully, this guide has shed light on its potential.
Start small, then scale up. The possibilities are truly endless, especially with business systems being able to integrate seamlessly through tools like Nanonets and Zapier.
It’s worth noting that customization is crucial — the best solution for your business will depend on your specific needs and operations. Don’t shy away from experimenting with different workflows and tools, and always prioritize those that benefit your business most.