Document and Report Generation Tools: Automating the creation and distribution of critical information
To be a successful wholesale distributor, regardless of the market or product line, it is imperative that critical information is provided to the main decision makers at the right time. Successful businesses will utilise all the critical data at their disposal to make informed business decisions, which can lead to better planning, tighter cost control and increased product margins.
This data needs to be presented in an easily accessible and understandable format so that the decisions can be made quickly. Report generation is therefore an essential activity to ensure decision makers have the best information available to be able to monitor, analyse and improve company performance. In the wholesale industry there are a few key areas that businesses should focus on to achieve this. In order to be successful, businesses should regularly generate and distribute reports that provide invaluable insight into:
- Stock Levels
- Forecasting and Planning
- Customer Activity
- Credit Risk
- Purchase Order Processing
In addition to business reporting, a wide-range of documents are also required to assist with many other functions and the smooth running of the organisation. This documentation can take many forms such as welcome packs, contract renewals, order confirmations or delivery notes.
Report Generation Tools: Automating Report and Document Production
In order to generate these reports and documents businesses have had to invest heavily in database systems and report generation tools, as well as commit resources to their production. The issue that arises from this, regardless of the nature of the documentation or report created, is the amount of time it takes employees to manually create and distribute them.
It can be a repetitive process, susceptible to errors and ultimately a costly activity. A solution to this problem is to introduce document and report generation tools. With an automated solution in place, it is a lot easier and quicker to produce the documents and reports required, and they can be produced on a scheduled or event-driven basis. This is a situation that Aventi Holdings PLC found itself in.
“We invested heavily in Access Dimensions ERP which provides a plethora of employee-driven reporting capabilities. However, the nature of our business means that we require detailed, exception-based reporting. This is something that would have been costly to achieve manually because of the amount of employee time that would be required to monitor stock levels within the database. The only logical option was to automate our reporting procedures.” Adam Wheeler, Operations Manager, Aventi Holdings PLC.
Stock Level Report Automation
The management of stock for companies based within importation, distribution and wholesale is extremely resource intensive, with multiple departments and employees often spending many hours ensuring a smooth operation. Just one missed report and subsequent poor decisions could result in businesses carrying unnecessary stock or not having sufficient supplies to satisfy demand.
Wholesalers need to accurately anticipate time-phased inventory and customer replenishment needs. Reports therefore need to highlight the status of:
- Replenishment orders
- Inventory turn goals
- Slow-moving goods
A business process that Aventi Holdings PLC was keen to automate was the creation and distribution of ‘Free Stock’ reports each morning. Prior to automation, key members of staff would be charged with the responsibility of producing daily ‘Free Stock’ reports at 8am and distributing them to the sales team.
“To enable our sales team to maximise opportunities, it is crucial that they have up-to-date information whilst meeting with clients. By simply sequencing Codeless Platforms’ Scheduler, Query ODBC, Run Crystal and Send SMTP tools we’ve completely automated this process. The benefits of this automated process are twofold; the sales team benefit from perfect knowledge with regards to actual product availability and, internally, valuable employee time is not absorbed by this repetitive task.”Adam Wheeler
Sales Analysis and Forecasting
Sales will obviously determine the success or not of a wholesaler. Key business decisions will be made around sales figures and determine which products to sell and how much to stock. Sales analysis reporting is therefore essential and needs to be accurate and available in real-time. At the end of the day, everyone in the supply chain is reliant upon each other.
Wholesalers may not have immediate access to consumer demand patterns and market conditions and will therefore need to work closely with retailers to garner that information. Manufacturers need to be aware of these demands as well so that they can produce the right products at the right time for the wholesalers to distribute and the retailers to sell. It’s an ebb and flow process. Accurate sales forecasting and anticipated future inventory needs must be monitored and accurately reported all along the supply chain. A good wholesale distributor will therefore act as the key intermediary in the chain.
Performing this manually would be a laborious task and might even be overlooked. However, if an automated system was in place to gather the information and format it into accessible reports, all stakeholders in the supply chain would have a far better insight into the market place and be able to make decisions accordingly. Some that could make or break a company.
Customers and Credit
Wholesalers generally rely on credit agreements to conduct business. Having a good understanding of customers is therefore essential. From the outset, businesses need to know whether or not a customer is credit worthy.Reducing exposure to bad debt can be achieved by gathering this intelligence from credit referencing services or other valuable data sources, and generating a report so that credit limit decisions are based on the very latest available intelligence on that customer.
As with everything else, these manual checks take time to process both in the first instance and as the relationship develops. Codeless Platforms’ BPA Platform can automatically collate this information, generate a customer or credit risk report and distribute it to the relevant person or department.
Following this activity, Codeless Platforms’ BPA Platform and its document and report generation tools can run a task on a daily basis looking for invoices that have been issued, how old they are and the payment status. Different Crystal Report and Microsoft Word documents can then be automatically generated depending on the relevant combinations. At the appropriate time, a letter can be sent to the client, informing them that payment is due imminently. If the bill is not paid, a series of reminder letters can be sent chasing payment.
Purchase Order Processing
Any organisation within the wholesale distribution business understands the importance of timely and accurate Purchase Order Processing (POP) information. This information is critical to business operations. Historically, Aventi Holdings PLC would be reliant on employees to extract this information, which required a great deal of application knowledge and expertise to achieve. This meant that sizeable investment in on-going training was a necessity. To remove these training costs, and to deliver these POP reports in a more efficient manner, Aventi Holdings PLC turned to automation.
“We require our POP (Purchase Order Processing) reports to be delivered every 10 minutes so that key members of staff have the information they need to make effective decisions. Tasking an individual to continually produce these reports was not a viable or indeed productive option so we used the document automation capabilities of Codeless Platforms’ BPA Platform to dynamically create and distribute these reports. By automating our POP reports we have gained a number of visible business benefits. Primarily, we have eradicated costly administration from employee workloads, but more importantly to us, we now receive information when we need it.”Adam Wheeler
Strong ROI from Automation
Automating departmental reporting procedures can eradicate repetitive administration, safeguard against human errors, increase the visibility of information and improve management decision-making. When using Codeless Platforms’ report generation tools, the reports can be automatically distributed to all the company’s management, staff and trading partners, making sure that everyone has the right information at the right time.
“Through the real-time automation of our Pegasus and Crystal reporting systems we now have the fluidity of information that is not always present within companies operating from multiple sites. The savings in lost employee hours has certainly been evident from the minute Codeless Platforms’ BPA Platform was deployed. “Codeless Platforms’ BPA Platform has proven to be a powerful tool in reducing waste and increasing employee productivity. Now we have true automation, it’s difficult to remember why we persisted with the manual approach for so long.” Jonathan Hinchliffe, IT Manager, CB Imports Ltd.
If you would like more information on how document and report generation tools improve your wholesale operation, then please download the brochure below, or alternatively call us on +44 (0)330 998 8700.