Location: Gardiner, Maine
Industry: Beverage Distribution
Multiple employees spending multiple hours on numerous manual and repetitive, and redundant data-entry tasks within accounting and finance functions.
UiPath Cloud Orchestrated Robotic Process Automation
Enterprise Content Management & AP Automation
Pine State Trading and Chief Financial Officer Gary Grunewald had initially targeted Accounts Payable as a transformation opportunity and successfully implemented AP Automation with PiF Technologies’ team of Professional Service experts. With many of their Accounts Payable challenges behind them and their solution running successfully, Gary targeted additional opportunities for increased efficiencies across the organization.
By utilizing Robotic Process Automation (aka RPA), Pine State Trading is able to eliminate the manual hours and mistakes commonly associated with hand-entering data. PiF has implemented 7 processes for unique use cases within the organization so far and continues to work with Pine State to find new opportunities to deploy custom automations.
The first target for automation was reconciling their monthly Depletion Allowances. In its previous state, Pine State had two full-time employees spending the first two full days (32 hours) of each month handwriting billbacks to each of Pine State’s suppliers for each depletion allowance. To paint a picture of their previous state, imagine a stack of paper forms on each employee’s desks with each of them spending two full days hand filling out the forms. When that was done, they would take the completed stack of handwritten forms to another employee in Accounts Payable who would manually key them in, which would take an additional 2-3 hours.
Grunewald recognized this clearly was a less than ideal use of resources and worked with PiF to evaluate the process and completely automate it with RPA. Now their automated process pulls data from VIP (a system of route accounting specifically designed for beverage distributors), types that data into an Electronic Form, and pushes it into Pine State’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, Microsoft Dynamics SL. Once there, it’s recorded as an Accounts Receivable transaction and is digitally routed for review and approval by a designated member of the accounting team. The result was transforming a multi-hour, multi-day, and multi-employee process into just a few hours of automated, hands-off work. While the hours of labor saved is clearly a significant benefit, Gary says “one of the big benefits that we see from Robotic Process Automation is not only the recovery of human hours. It’s just that humans make mistakes. Bots don’t make mistakes.”
Because of the handwriting and manual data required in the previous process, Pine State understood the true cost of mistakes being made. “Every one of those handwritten letters, handwritten numbers, and manual keystrokes was a chance for error and, of course, there were errors. Pine State has hard-working loyal employees, who weren’t intentionally making errors, it’s simply that that much manual, repetitive and redundant work was ripe for someone to make a mistake. Over the years as a CFO I noticed that you can be incredibly accurate, for example only making 5 errors when making 10,000 entries but those five mistakes take hours and hours to find and correct while each mistake is creating doubt in the accuracy of everything else that you do.”
This process is the same for Unsaleables (items damaged or otherwise unable to be sold) as well as product given out as Samples. These monthly or quarterly processes that used to take multiple days to complete now can be easily done in just a few hours, and the employees who initially were tasked with manually entering this data have been redirected to higher-value tasks.
Pine State recently migrated to a new demand forecasting and inventory control software. The new system has not yet built a direct API (software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other) with route accounting software. Rather than adding a new FTE to enter the POs generated by the new system into their route accounting software, Pine State looked to PiF and a bot to eliminate the need for them to add additional Full-Time Employees.
Without Robotic Process Automation, “we wouldn’t have been able to implement the new system without hiring an additional employee,” says Grunewald. Had Pine State chosen to not utilize RPA, the resulting manual process also surely would have led to keystroke errors.
Suppliers change prices and run promotions frequently, and with Pine State’s line of 3500 unique products, the task of making those changes on a monthly or quarterly basis is a difficult one. While an employee had initially been tasked with keeping up with these updates, they ultimately left their position and Pine State was able to eliminate the data entry side of the role for their new hire and allow them to focus on higher-value activities. While the saved resources is a benefit, the elimination of mistakes is the most significant return on investment.
When organizations invest in Robotic Process Automation technology they rarely stop at just one or two use cases. Once the value of RPA is revealed, organizations are able to easily identify processes that they can easily automate with the help of RPA and quickly execute.
Grunewald says on Pine State’s ongoing commitment to Robotic Process Automation, “the benefit you see on the surface is the saving of hours of manual data entry time, but really the bot’s true value is its accuracy. It doesn’t make a mistake. That, to me, just gives me comfort in knowing that what it does is going to be 100% accurate and done right. Always, every time!”
One project Pine State is working on with PiF is for their business in the State of New Hampshire. All spirits and wine sold in NH is warehoused and delivered by a third party. To eliminate the manual data entry and potential errors, PiF has created a Bot that logs into the third party’s website and downloads three .CSV files that contain information about sales, inventory receivals and other changes to inventory, it then enters the data from these files into VIP to record the daily sales and changes to inventory.
Pine State’s enthusiasm for Robotic Process Automation goes to show how transformative the solution can be for organizations. What started as 1 use case has now resulted in 7 use cases and counting. They are not at a point where only Grunewald and his direct reports are advocates, but the entire finance team as well as other departments are now recognizing the capability, accuracy, and value of RPA, to the point where people across the organization are regularly asking “How can we use the Bot for this?” mission accomplished.
In 2021, PiF Technologies will be celebrating its 25th year in business. They’ve been a DocStar partner since day one and got their start selling a simple solution; scan, file, and retrieve. While the technology and complexity of their projects have evolved, their dedication to their customers and their desire to stay on the bleeding edge of technology has been their number one priority.
They cover a broad range of applications and industries. Popular implementations include AP Automation for Manufacturers and Distributors, Non-Profits, Construction firms, school districts, and any other business that faces inefficiencies in their processes.
Their expertise lies in their ability to design, deploy and support complex, fully integrated solutions with workflow automation, artificial intelligence including intelligent data capture, smart web forms, robotic process automation, and Cloud hosting.
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