- When considering a new invoice management system, the traditional approach revolves around specialized systems solely dedicated to invoice handling. At ICA, we opted for a broader perspective, viewing the entire scope as an automation process, says Simon Harmark, Head of Automation at ICA, reflecting on how it all started.
Undoubtedly, it's no small operation. With approximately 1,300 stores, including the head office, ICA handles a staggering 175,000 invoices per month. The central organization at ICA as well as 800 stores have already embraced the new system, and efforts are underway to expand its reach and scale the automation further.
According to Simon Harmark, the initiative has been in operation for just over a year, and since its launch in April 2018, the level of automation has seen a remarkable surge. While precise figures detailing the amount of time and money saved are difficult to deliver, Simon Harmark notes that the automation rate has surged from roughly 40% to an impressive 90%.
At Neovici, it's crucial to distinguish their approach from ordinary software robots. Rather than relying on the conventional robotic process automation (RPA), Neovici prefers to emphasize the significance of Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). Patrik Kullman, CTO at Neovici, says:
-IPA is about achieving 100% automation throughout the entire process. Our platform applies its inherent logic to the customer's business logic, targeting the most significant problem areas, and utilizes data analysis and machine learning to identify emerging issues and symptoms. Consequently, we can automate operations at multiple levels, without limitations.
Patrik Kullman further underscores the necessity of establishing a solid foundation for the automation process, given the risks associated with machine learning algorithms potentially learning incorrectly.
-Vigilance is essential in detecting errors, and it's crucial to setup everything correctly right from the start. With automation tools like our platform, error elimination becomes an integral aspect of the entire automation process.
Patrik Kullman notes that while the platform is able to handle paper invoices, digital invoices are naturally more preferable. However, Simon Harmark highlights that not all suppliers have embraced digital practices. ICA still encounters paper invoices from local suppliers who opt for traditional delivery methods, and the same holds true for numerous foreign suppliers.
- Our starting point is that it should be as simple as possible for the store, because they want to focus on customers and sales, and not work with administration. So now the journey continues to simplify everyday life administration in the stores, says Simon Harmark.
*The above is a free translation of an article originally published in Computer Sweden on 2019-05-03. Since then, the automation level for ICA is 90%, and Neovici has continued to automate several workflows for the food retailer. Read the article in full here.