Innovations in Digitization: GEP

Published October 15, 2022

Category: Innovation | Operational

Can you outline why your team embarked on this project and the problem that needed to be solved?

The client, a Fortune 500 CPG company, wanted to improve its procurement resource efficiency, speed up operations and enable the team to focus on strategic goals and value creation rather than on day-to-day repetitive, administrative tasks.  
  
The overall goal was to improve the turnaround time and establish a standard process across all regions and workstreams for indirect categories. The commitment made during the business case to the client was: “Journey toward best-in-class with high digital adoption.” The objectives were to:  
  
• Build efficiency into processes  
• Speed up transactions, reduce turnaround time (TAT)  
• Decrease manual effort involved in completing procurement transactions  
• Eliminate repetitive, error-prone tasks and improve accuracy  
• Enable value creation and optimization of skillset   
• Reduce procurement’s time spent on administrative tasks to focus on core deliverables  
 
To facilitate this, the company decided to bring in GEP for its proven expertise in providing AI-powered procurement and supply chain technology solutions. A thorough assessment of the current processes revealed opportunities for procure-to-pay automation, which would reduce time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks, improve accuracy, and optimize process efficiency significantly.   
  
The project presented GEP with the opportunity to demonstrate its expertise in providing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions and strengthen its position as a provider of niche offerings in procurement technology.
 
 

How were things done originally and what was the inspiration to innovate the process?

Prior to this project, there was no automation, and all P2P transactions were being processed manually. A few examples:   

  • On-time delivery: Buyers had to follow up with suppliers for purchase order (PO) confirmations within 48 hours of PO creation. A follow-up email had to be sent to the vendors. The time taken for each email was 5-7 minutes. On average, each plant has 7-10 vendors and there were more than 50 plants in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.  
  • PO change request: The user was required to search and open the PO on the procurement software, enter the PO, identify the correct line number, and update the relevant fields, i.e., price, quantity, delivery date or payment terms. All these steps were done manually.  
  • Closing a PO: The user had to navigate through multiple screens, select the relevant PO and line number, choose action to close the PO and submit the request, which involved multiple steps and was a long process.
 
 

What KPIs did you use to measure success for this project? (For example: performance, customer satisfaction, revenue, sales or relevant financial gains?)

  • Opportunity assessments were conducted for each of the processes identified and before-and-after measurements were taken for key SLA, metrics, and TATs  
  • Process mapping was developed for before and after states. Benefits in steps reduction and time taken for manual steps were recorded and the efficiency gain was calculated  
  • Employee surveys were conducted to assess the impact of RPA implementations  
  • Client feedback was taken to assess the changes this has brought to their processes 
 
 

How do you plan to ensure that the new model remains relevant and adapts to the future needs of the market?

  • An RPA Center of Excellence and a governing body have been established to understand various updates and assess new technologies emerging from markets  
  • Internal synergy council meetings have been set up to understand and learn from different teams and verticals  
  • Periodic opportunity assessments are conducted with various teams to understand new needs and how GEP can help   
  • GEP reaches out to business schools, interns, and consultants for new case studies to understand new requirements 
 
 

What advice do you have for those who may want to implement this innovative approach in their own organizations?

Many organizations are highly motivated by the success stories of RPA and are taking strides to implement it in their organizations.  

In the hope of reaping RPA benefits quickly, companies often become myopic and don’t see the big picture, risking automating a bad process. Therefore, before implementing RPAs, it is very important that companies look at their current processes, analyze them and try to remove any complexities or redundancies they may have. They should take steps to improve and simplify processes first, and then implement RPAs. Automating a bad process may have short-term efficiency but in the long run, will not be sustainable. 
 
It is recommended that companies establish a strong Automation Strategy Framework before undertaking RPA projects. For example, companies can adopt a 4-quadrant framework based on complexity and value potential parameters, which provides an objective view to identify and build a pipeline or a roadmap for RPA projects.  
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Companies should also be flexible and have an omnichannel approach in leveraging various technology platforms to implement RPAs. The most important aspect is to define clear roles and responsibilities/RACIs for easy flawless governance. Having mechanisms in place for activity logs, strong password management, and strict controls will help avert any data and network security breaches. 
 
 

With innovations in digitization occurring very quickly in our industry, how do you see this specific project further transforming in the future?

Yes, GEP has many strong processes and projects that already bring immense value to our clients, but RPA has become a key enabler in maximizing this. 
 
The particular use case was critical to the transformational journey – it was directly tied to GEP’s cost to serve. This RPA project was that catalyst, enabling the transformation of the processes to become more efficient and effective. 
 
GEP is already recognized as a leader in the procurement and supply chain consulting and outsourcing space. This RPA project enabled GEP to offer these services in a more cost-effective way and enabled us to bring this unique value proposition to clients. 
 
This project has demonstrated and firmly established GEP’s competence in RPA and strengthened GEP’s position as a market leader in procurement outsourcing services.

 

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