Repetitive jobs are time-consuming, costly, and error-prone for any business. And employees often find them monotonous and demotivating. In all sectors, automated solutions are being sought for all kinds of tasks. It is well-known that machines have long been able to do much more work, far more efficiently than doing it manually. And more recently, robots doing detailed jobs have been making their appearance.
But automation and robotization can happen on another, less tangible level, particularly for work done behind a computer. RPA, or Robotic Process Automation, is the automation of administrative business processes. So, not a robot with gripping arms, simply a software BOT - a 'digital worker.' These kinds of workers already exist specifically for the fruit and vegetable sector. In this article, Keelings Knowledge introduces Daisy - Digital Artificial Intelligence System.
"The Keeling group decided, more than 25 years ago, to not purchase a software program, but to develop its own one," begins Rick Rebergen of Keelings Knowledge, which is part of the Irish fruit and vegetable group, Keelings International. "Business analysts and developers were hired. And, for 15 years and counting, the company has used that ERP package. For the last decade, it's become so fully-fledged and, broadly and deeply oriented that we could market it."
"That's why, in 2012, Keelings Solutions, which eventually became Keelings Knowledge in 2019, was founded. We believe we're a knowledge center. After all, the Keelings Group covers all facets of the supply chain, from cultivation to shelf. Our software program, which we named KBS - Keelings Business System - reflects that know-how."
Unique Selling Point
There are, of course, plenty of software programs for managing business processes. So what is KBS' unique selling point? "It was developed by us, in the industry," is Rick's definitive answer. "We know exactly what's needed to run a fruit and vegetable business well. Many programs are developed from an IT perspective. Our software reflects a pure fruit and vegetable mindset coupled with 95 years of experience. We manage all the processes in the chain, so we built our program very logically. You get to where you want to be, every day, in just a few steps."
Invoices, currency, and bank accounts
How does Daisy work? Keelings Knowledge offers a solution for, for instance, processing and paying incoming invoices. Here, too, the approach, as with all automation processes, is to avoid repetitive, time-consuming, error-prone (control) tasks. "A company's ERP system usually includes supplier agreements about a particular delivery. At some point, the hard copy or digital invoice arrives."
"That's compared with the program's agreements, and if the data's correct, the system automatically forwards the invoice to the finance department for payment. Some companies rely entirely on the system; others choose to do a last manual check. If the invoice is incorrect, say, because of a different amount, the administration department is asked to rectify the error with the supplier. We've now gotten to where the software can take a further step or two to assist the company," Rick explains.
"Another solution we offer has to do with exchange rates. It's a fairly simple yet essential tool for companies doing international business. Normally you'd have to find the exchange rate somewhere on the Internet and manually enter it into your system. Daisy now does that for you. Sometimes businesses with branches or sales offices in different countries work with multiple bank accounts. We have a solution for them that reconciles those various accounts."
RPA and AI accounts
"RPA is often integrated with AI, but it involves quite a lot of human intelligence too. AI is strongly data-driven, but, of course, companies also have to know exactly what its objective is and what it wants to achieve with that information. You have to, therefore, give the BOT software a clearly defined task. And several AI solutions don't offer that. We've standardized several processes, and we are also training our clients to do their own repetitive work," Rebergen continues.
"We help them with that and can, eventually, license that development function to them. It's always about repetitive, recurring work. But that's precisely why those processes can be automated, which, in turn, motivates employees who can then do more interesting tasks. And because it saves time, it saves money. An hour of RPA solution saves the customer about 7.5 hours of time. So, last year, those clients who use Daisy probably saved €500,000 in total."
Price comparison analysis and sales orders
An automatic consumer price comparison analysis could prove very useful for fruit and vegetable companies, too, especially for brokers. "We have that kind of RPA solution for Ireland and England. It gives brokers daily Irish and British retail market price overviews. The software collects all fresh fruit and vegetable end product prices from the Internet. Traders can adjust their prices or negotiations accordingly," Rick adds.
"On the sales side, about two years ago, we developed software for processing orders. Orders received electronically as a PDF or text are processed immediately and entered into the existing sales order program. An overview of the desired products and agreed-upon prices with the relevant customer for that particular period is put out. This software component is very popular. We have a similar solution for the supplier side. In that system, administration directly processes the purchase, in one easy step."
Keelings International is fully committed to the process-oriented automation of repetitive, error-prone, time-consuming business processes, or RPA. "RPA truly adds value. Our Daisy system already has some 20 users throughout Europe. It's resulting in fewer errors and is saving time and money."
"You can use it 24/7, it's easily scalable, and it reduces the number of repetitive and demotivating tasks. That, in turn, allows employees to be more creatively engaged in other activities. We currently have about five solutions available for repetitive processes. But we're pretty sure we'll have a dozen or so applications available by the end of the year," Rick concludes.
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