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David Bickerstaff 08 November 2023 3 min read

Process Automation - Magic Happens on the Road

“Magic happens on the road!” ...Or in my case, on holidays in Europe.  

As I travelled across France, Germany and the UK recently, I was struck by a few fascinating observations while out and about. In this 2-part blog, I’d love to share those magic insights from the road with you. I hope you enjoy the journey and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.  

The (not so) open road 

In France, it seems the entire motorway network is subject to tolls and charges. There are a few exceptions of course, but generally French drivers are accustomed to paying for their road use.   

As they go about their commute, drivers can pay for road tolls in a variety of ways – credit card, debit card, even cash. Electronic payment tags do exist as well, but adoption isn’t mandated and is still far from universal.  

Driving along the beautiful, scenic highway on our way to Provence, my wife and I cruised along with the rest of the traffic, occasionally hitting an impressive 130km/hour. The flow of cars on the road was smooth and swift.....

...until suddenly, it wasn’t.    

Either we hadn’t noticed the signs or couldn’t read them – but there was no mistaking the wave of cars braking suddenly as a row of toll booths appeared before us. Some drivers were attempting to change lanes at the last minute, others were beeping horns in irritation.

Slowing to a crawl, we eventually pulled up to our booth where a machine spat out a ticket. Reminiscent of a low-tech parking garage, the ticket was printed and the boom gate lifted. Unsure whether we needed to do anything further, we drove on, slightly confused by what had just happened.  

Returning to our previous cruising speed, we were back on our way, only to be stopped abruptly about 40km later, at another toll booth! At this one, we got the wallet out and paid the toll. We were astonished.  


Manual processing bottlenecks 

All this investment in road infrastructure, the free-flowing traffic of tourism, logistics and commerce. And yet, here we were in 2023 - stopping.

Incredibly, the manual intervention of toll booths is allowed to persist, even despite there being better solutions available. Solutions that don’t create bottlenecks, confusion, or accidents.

It was eye-opening to witness on such a scale, and it got me thinking once again about automation 


Automating for speed

Like the motorways of Europe, many businesses have invested in tech and digital infrastructure. Innovating with powerful ERP systems, ecommerce platforms, and data intelligence, business operations should be exponentially more efficient than they were 20 years ago.  

But the problem is toll booths. Without integrating the various processes, without streamlining them through automation, businesses are relying on swivel-chair integration - 'manning' their systems with toll booth operators.  

Here’s an example:  

Consider the B2B customer who runs an inventory re-order report, which automatically generates a purchase order in their procurement system and emails it to their supplier. Before the supplier’s warehouse can pick, pack and ship that order, it gets stuck at the toll booth.  The toll booth operator comes in the form of our data entry clerk, reading each incoming purchase order and manually keying it into the supplier’s ERP to create a sales order.  

Instead of turning to an automated order processing tool, the supplier is allowing an outdated toll booth practice to halt the movement of data and slow down commerce.   

A superhighway with roadblocks is really no superhighway at all. Likewise, a business process hindered by swivel-chair integration is far from efficient.   


Driving productivity

At Commerce Vision, we’ve claimed 2024 as the ‘Year of Productivity’ and it’s our mission to help businesses achieve it.

We know that digital tools like automation are critical for leaders looking to remove friction from disjointed processes and drive efficiency within their supply chains.    

If your business is still ‘manning’ toll booths and it seems time to clear the roadblocks, we’d love you to come talk to us!  

In the meantime, check out Part 2 of our Magic Happens on the Road series. It's all about the greatest asset in any business: People.