David Bickerstaff 22 March 2023 5 min read

Want to boost business productivity? AUTOMATE.

“While economic growth based solely on physical inputs cannot go on forever, human ingenuity is inexhaustible.”

- Australian Productivity Commission, 2022 interim report

Do more, with less - productivity depends on it

If you’ve been reading the news lately in Australia, you might’ve got the sense that the government’s Productivity Commission is feeling a little nervous. According to their July 2022 interim report, the country’s productivity growth is at its lowest rate in 60 years.

Of course there are several factors influencing this statistic (and to dive into the nuances here would be more than you bargained for in a blog post), but suffice to say - our businesses face a very clear challenge in 2023 if we wish to prosper and thrive.

Australians have an enviable quality of life and a comparatively high standard of living. That’s been made possible by steady productivity gains over time; if we wish to sustain this national lifestyle, we’ll need to keep productivity front of mind. After all, says the Commission, “productivity is the key to prosperity”.

So how can businesses boost their productivity? Automation is one very effective method.

Productivity growth is about working smarter

At its heart, automation is all about working smarter to drive efficiency. When you automate a manual process, you have the potential to positively affect all of the people and adjacent workflows along the way. Much like building the Pacific Highway.

Granted, the Pacific Highway is not a story of automation per se, but the analogy works (trust me).

As recently as last century in Australia, the journey from Sydney to Brisbane was a long and arduous one. Travellers had to navigate winding, disconnected, and often treacherous roads, stop frequently for rest and fuel, and face the risk of breakdowns and other setbacks.

Today, everything has changed. The Pacific Highway now comprises integrated motorways, efficiently connecting the two cities. Travel times have been dramatically reduced, safety has improved, and commerce has flourished. Travellers have reclaimed precious hours previously lost to driving. Even the planet breathes easier with the reduction in pollution and carbon emissions.

The benefits of automation can be just as transformative.

When a business automates a manual process, it's like building a new highway. Productivity blog stats v2 yellow cropped

What was once a slow and error-prone process becomes faster, more accurate, more cost effective. Employees no longer have to spend valuable time on repetitive tasks, and can instead focus on higher-value work that requires human expertise. 

Just as the Pacific Highway opened up new opportunities for trade and commerce, automation can streamline operations, increase productivity, reduce costs, and achieve new levels of efficiency and productivity.


Why automate now? 

If it sounds like there’s a sense of urgency, that’s because there is. 2023 is shaping up to be a challenging year - for business and consumer alike. The era of easy money is over; the current economic climate is tough. Inflation, the rising cost of living and resources, along with post-pandemic supply chain disruptions, are all putting increasing pressure on every last one of us.

Businesses now have no choice but to lift efficiency and productivity if they want to thrive from here on out. As the adage goes, a dollar saved below the line is worth $10 added above the line.

The stark reality is that those who don’t digitise, automate, and fully optimise their resources will quickly become uncompetitive, finding themselves overtaken by automation adopters.

Automation can be easier than you think

While the idea of automation can seem futuristic, expensive and daunting, in practice it really doesn’t have to be.

Consider the simple act of automating data entry for the emailed purchase orders a B2B business receives every day.  It sounds too micro-targeted to be effective, doesn’t it?

But when you stop to think about it, the act of reading the PDF purchase order and then keying it into the ERP is only one step in the order to cash cycle. Yet the flow on effects of optimising that one discrete step are many: 

  • With automation, the order is integrated to the ERP only moments after the customer sends it, no matter the time of day
  • The goods can be picked, packed, and despatched that much quicker 
  • The errors, returns, and write-offs are reduced
  • The customer receives their order more promptly
  • The invoice gets paid sooner
  • And meanwhile, the staff previously bogged down with data entry are free to do more important, value-adding work

In short, productivity soars. 

Five years ago, we brought an automation tool to market which does exactly what I’ve described above. Since 2017, Lucy has been helping B2B businesses worldwide automate their PDF purchase order processing. The Lucy solution is proven, it’s cost-effective, and it can measurably improve a clunky, manual business process in no time flat.

Well known Australian tool manufacturer Kincrome use Lucy to process the daily orders for over 20% of their 4,000-strong customer base.

  • They’ve improved same-day dispatch rates now that the warehouse receives orders almost instantly after the customer emails them.
  • Seasonal peaks which used to be almost crippling for resource allocation, are now handled in stride by Kincrome’s scalable Lucy solution. 

Foodservice and hospitality supplier Royal Foods have transformed the lives of their staff and streamlined their operations with Lucy.

  • Instead of starting data entry shifts at 3am (so the warehouse could pick/pack/ship the overnight orders from 6am), Lucy now processes these foodservice orders around the clock.
  • When the sous chef orders flour, eggs, and milk at 11pm for the next day’s brunch service, Lucy integrates that order into the ERP instantly, ready for picking.


The benefits are clear

Automation isn’t here to take over the world. AI can’t do your job the way you can. 
The human element is and will always be critical when it comes to creativity, problem solving, empathy, and interpersonal engagement.

But when it comes to productivity, automation is rapidly changing the way B2B businesses operate. With the right strategy and the right solution, automation can boost productivity in ways that ensure companies stay competitive in today's challenging business environment. 

If you're curious about how automation can boost productivity in your own organisation, why not explore sales order automation? We've made it easy to crunch the numbers with a simple cost savings calculator. Or if you'd prefer to chat, please get in touch