With the advent of digital transformation, most large institutions are working towards inventing methods to automate their operations to remain agile and stay ahead of the change curve. Techniques like Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analysis, along with the Internet of Things, have created software and applications to complete business operations without manual interference.
As analyzed by McKinsey, global standards infer that at least 30% of all activities across 60% of the various occupations and business functions can be automated using readily available or customized technologies.
Notably, the emergence of automation does not mean a reduced requirement for human intelligence or manual labour. It only means that these people’s skills and personal experiences can be utilized in more relevant fields or operations.
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What Activities are Deemed as 'Back-office' Operations?
Typically, operations that are termed back-office happen to be roles where there are no front-ending interactions with customers, vendors, leadership, and other stakeholders. While this differs across industries and sectors, most General and administrative tasks that are repetitive fall into this bucket. Further, the common roles within a traditional back-office would be data entry and transcription, document scanning, document/records management, and transaction processing.
The current workforce refers to these as ‘operations’ as the ‘back-office’ concept is obsolete. Decades ago, back-offices existed in typical office layouts of stores where human resources, accounts, administration, legal, procurement, IT, and compliance teams would be based.
Conceptually, these operations do not require many face-to-face interactions, can sometimes be repetitive, and are usually cost-centred rather than a profit provider. However, it is important to understand that having a good back-office foundation helps scalability, stability, and agility for any industry or business. These tasks cannot be eradicated; however, they can be automated to ensure operational and financial success.
How can Automating Back-office Operations be Beneficial?
Traditional back-office set-ups cultivated the habit of encouraging teams to work in silos without any interactions and c0-ordination. Automating these tasks can eventually help increase integration and communication. It also ensures more transparency, security, and visibility across the organization, aligning all teams toward a common goal. Fraud and wasteful resource management can also be brought down to the minimum by automating back-office functions.
Another downside of manual back-offices is the lack of flexibility and the over-dependence on human staffing. As many management decisions need to be proactive and preventative rather than reactive and detective, an automated solution for these tasks helps meet the requirements.
Another major benefit is the ability for all teams to work with accurate data that remains clean and updated. Further, it frees up employees’ time as they would not have to repeat mundane administrative tasks in the automated environment. This ensures higher productivity, and advanced efficacy, with employees having increased value for the work they perform.
What are the Top 5 Back-Office Operations that can be Automated?
For this blog, we have tailored the list of back-office activities that can be automated within the key functions in the warehousing and yard management sectors. In addition to the list below, other general administrative tasks like human resource management accounts, payables, and billing can also be computerized.
1. Data Entry and Cleaning: Typically, software and tools can complete a manual process like data entry without human presence by scanning documents and extracting the required information. The main benefit of automating this repetitive task would be access to data free of errors and duplication. Further, the data can be sorted into standardized formats, making it more accessible and consumable. Data integration and analysis is the next step toward achieving goals, supporting informed decision-making and monitoring KPIs.
2. Monitoring and Surveillance: Automated processes provide live data during various steps. From when an order is placed to when the truck is expected to arrive for pick up until it completes the delivery, all points on this journey can be mapped through software. The additional visibility and relay of live data can help with surveillance and monitoring to ensure effective operations, reduced resource wastage, and increased driver productivity. Automated exception alerts and rulesets can be built into the program, ensuring alarms are raised when deviations occur.
3. Identifying Shipping Information: The logistics industry is volatile, and many stakeholders interact constantly to ensure that the right shipment leaves on the right vessel or container. Automated platforms created with artificial intelligence can collect and assimilate shipping information concerning rates, routes, dates, and durations in a streamlined, centralized database. This helps make effective decisions without scrolling through various carrier websites and scouting for additional information. An extension of this tool is where operational processes like quote creation can also be automated, along with flawless communication and data flow.
4. Dock Scheduling: Keeping track of multiple vendors and carrier appointments and schedules manually can be a cumbersome task. It is simple to program an application to filter out scheduling needs and make reservations accordingly through a series of applied constraints and rules. Further, crucial notifications can be enabled to control the stock flow to ensure it does not reduce below critical standards. The repetitive task of managing inbound and outbound traffic can be coordinated and optimized through these tools, allowing heightened visibility.
5. Managing Yard Operations: As a yard manager, it is often hard to keep track of all assets and ensure optimum throughput through the gates. Utilizing software can help streamline these manual-intensive tasks, including shipment planning and communication, by digitizing the extensive yard operations. Automating these activities provides control over dock congestion and optimizes door utilization. Further, monetary benefits can be achieved with reduced detention costs, optimized volumes, and increased productivity. Report generation and big data analysis can also be digitized to access accurate data and detailed trends.
Automating back-office operations can be straightforward and less capital-intensive. Automation's advantages help boost employee morale, productivity, and transparency. C3 Solution’s suite of products, including C3 Reservations, C3 Hive, and C3 Yard platforms, can help streamline the planning and execution of all yard and warehouse management activities.