Automating order entry has speeded fulfillment and improved employee morale at Safety Step Corp., a manufacturer of industrial-grade step stools, the company says.

Order processing is one of the most important aspects of a B2B supplier’s business, but if it is not automated, operations can suffer. That’s because manual order entry is labor-intensive, can lead to data entry mistakes and delay order processing, all of which are the bane of suppliers.

It’s a lot easier to process orders than before.

While adding an ecommerce site can help automate order processing, it won’t solve the problems associated with manual order entry if it is not connected to the supplier’s business management and accounting systems. Orders received through siloed ecommerce sites still require orders to be manually entered into back-office order processing systems. The same goes for orders received by phone or fax.

BenWisdom-SafetyStepCorp

Ben Wisdom, quality assurance manager, Safety Step Corp.

Safety Step Corp., a manufacturer of safety step stools used in factories, hospitals, airports, homes and other facilities, found itself straining from having to manually enter orders gathered through its ecommerce site as well as those placed by phone or fax, into its AccountMate business system, Safety Step says. The process was so labor-intensive that staff assigned to handle the order entries were becoming overwhelmed. At the time, it was operating an ecommerce site built using a Word Press plug-in.

A more user-friendly website

“The old ecommerce site just wasn’t very user-friendly, either for customers or for us,” says Ben Wisdom, quality assurance manager for Safety Step. “When a customer placed an online order, we’d receive an email and then process it manually.”

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As part of his job as quality assurance manager, Wisdom sought new ways to streamline order processing and reduce the amount of time it took to manually enter an order. Safety Step’s search led it to TrueCommerce Nexternal eCommerce and TrueCommerce EDI because they were integrated out-of-the-box applications, Safety Step says. The connectivity between the two applications enables Safety Step to send data from online orders to its AccountMate business system.

Orders received as a PDF file can be converted into a format compatible with Nexternal eCommerce using an application called Docparser, and then transferred to Safety Step’s accounting system using TrueCommerce EDI. Docparser is a data capture solution that gathers documents from various sources, extracts the desired data and moves it to another file, such as an Excel file.

Since launching its new web site in March at SafetyStep.net, Safety Step has reduced order processing time by 60% to 70%.

“It’s a lot easier to process orders than before,” Wisdom says.

Since implementing Docparser about three months ago, orders received as PDF files and converted for importation to AccountMate represent 15% of Safety Step’s total volume of orders for the last eight months, Wisdom says.

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Cutting the number of phone orders

While Saftey Step still receives about 60% of its orders by phone, Wisdom is confident that figure will shrink and orders received through the company’s ecommerce site will grow. One reason is that customers placing phone orders are sent a confirmation email that includes the address for the web store. Safety Step recently logged its 1,000th order through its new ecommerce store.

In addition to implementing Nexternal eCommerce and TrueCommerce EDI, Safety Step is using Nexternal for Fulfillment to route orders to its two warehouses. The application ships orders to the warehouse in a batch the same day, as opposed to one or two orders at a time. Warehouse managers can track which orders need to be shipped by logging in to the system. Under Safety Step’s prior system, it could take up to a day or longer for manually entered orders to reach the warehouse, Wisdom says.

Orders sent to the warehouse feature a comments box that allows Safety Step to include instructions for each order as needed. This feature has significantly reduced communications with the warehouse.

“On average, we exchanged about 20 emails and 10 phone calls a day with warehouse managers,” Wisdom says. “Now we are down to about two emails and one phone call a day.”

The efficiencies gained from implementing TrueCommerce eCommerce and EDI have improved company moral. “Manual order entry really taxed the personnel responsible for it,” says Wisdom. “Now those employees can go home at the end of the workday. TrueCommerce brought us into the 21st century.”

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Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.

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