ERP Automation | Automation Benefits and Use Cases

Learn how you can eliminate manual task, execute key processes, and optimize core operations using ERP automation.

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    ERP automation offers many benefits for organizations. Streamlined processes, increased accuracy, cost savings, enhanced security, more reliable insights, the list goes on.  

    By leveraging automation, organizations have an opportunity to optimize core operations, fuel growth, and stay ahead of competitors in this complex environment.

    This article looks at the benefits ERP automation brings to the table. In it, we share examples from real orgs operating across a range of industries, using different business models, strategies, and solution providers. 

    What is ERP Automation?

    Automation uses technology to eliminate manual tasks, execute key processes, and optimize core operations. It’s about eliminating waste, reducing errors, and saving time. “ERP automation” takes that same concept and applies it to the solutions, processes, and flows within that core platform.     

    Key benefits of ERP automation include:

    • Streamline & Optimize Core Operations. Integrating automation into ERP operations allows orgs to boost efficiency on many levels. ERPs allow organizations to digitize key processes. This then enables them to automate manual, repetitive, or low-value tasks. This reduces instances of manual errors, quality issues, and compromised data.

    It also allows employees to focus on more value-added tasks rather than repetitive operations. This streamlines processes, saving time and increasing efficiency within an organization.

    • Tap Real-Time Insights. Automated analytics tools can pull data and generate reports in real-time, providing stakeholders with instant insights for informed decision-making.
    • Design Cross-Functional Processes. Companies are still using ERP automation to pursue more “traditional” goals like eliminating data entry or streamlining accounts payable processes. With tighter integration and embedded intelligence, orgs are shifting away from one-off improvements. Now, they’re building coordinated workflows that span the entire org. Users can design cross-functional processes that capture extra insights, which can then be used to support a wide range of goals. 

    Historically, the term “ERP automation” has been  used to describe the process of integrating automation tools and tactics into the ERP system  to achieve a specific outcome. Think — automated data syncing, real-time reporting, or process automations that eliminate basic tasks (i.e.: approval flows, order processing, billing, etc.).

    This is all still the case. But, within the last few years, a new definition has emerged. Now, when we talk about ERP automation, we’re likely referring to a strategy better known as “hyperautomation.”

    The evolution from traditional ERP automation to AI-enabled hyper automation marks a major turning point in digital strategies. While both versions improve efficiency and reduce human effort, they differ in scope, scale, and overall sophistication.

    So, What’s Changed?

    The updated definition has a lot in common with its predecessor, but makes an important distinction.

     See, the “traditional” model approaches automation on an ad-hoc basis. Users apply one-off strategies to inefficiencies, as they discover them. Often, without considering the broader context. By contrast, modern ERP automation describes a holistic approach. Strategies now focus on cross-functional coordination, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. 

    But, it’s important to understand that many of these changes point back to advancing technology. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s changed within these last few years:

    • Integration. Traditional ERP automation does integrate various business processes. But, the level of integration tends to be limited to the out-of-the-box capabilities of the ERP system itself. Modern ERP automation integrates a wider range of tools and capabilities into the core platform. Often, this involves creating a network of interconnected automation tools that, together, enhance overall ERP intelligence.
    • Technology. Traditional ERP automation tactics rely on predefined algorithms and simple robotic process automation (RPA) tools. The technology is usually straightforward, following specific, pre-set rules. Hyperautomation instead uses a combination of advanced technologies to drive improvements. These include AI, ML, RPA, advanced analytics, and low-code, process mining, among others. It’s not about any single technology or process. Instead, it’s about using the tools you have available to continuously optimize performance.
    • Flexibility. Traditional automation is less flexible. It works well for consistent, unchanging processes but can struggle with variability. Modern ERP automation strategies are more adaptable and better equipped to deal with variability and change. These systems can learn and adapt over time, making them better suited to dynamic business environments.
    • Intelligence. Traditional automation lacks advanced intelligence. Automations are based on predefined sequences of triggers and actions. They don’t learn or adapt over time, as your system gathers new information. Instead, it’s up to you to identify opportunities for improvement and make the changes that get your strategy back on track. 

    Hyperautomation brings a layer of intelligence and learning capability. It can analyze data, make predictions, and even make decisions based on real-time data. Here, everything connects back to a shared database. This enables real-time data syncing and on-demand access — across the entire network. You can combine and analyze data from disparate sources. You can redesign processes. And — you can optimize existing workflows. 

    Top Use Cases for ERP Automation 

    Like traditional automation strategies, “modern ERP automation” starts small.

    At first, you’re targeting the “low-hanging fruit.” Think — manual processes, error-prone tasks, low-value activities that waste time. You might look for ways to automate data-entry, document management, or streamline simple workflows. Say, generating reports, assigning tasks, or triggering approval flows. 

    Both versions also focus on building capabilities in incremental phases  – allowing users to capture data from each stage, then use those insights to drive the next round of improvements.

    Ultimately, the goal  is to build an intelligent system that automates and optimizes processes on its own — without human intervention. 

    One of the most compelling benefits of modern ERP automation is that it leverages existing data and built-in intelligence to build on what’s already there. Integrating advanced capabilities like machine learning, digital twins, the IoT, and generative AI with your core platform allows you to capture more data — and immediately start putting it to work.

    So, you might start with basic process automations. But — hyperautomation enables you to transform them into fully-formed strategies. Automations scale with your business and adapt to changes as they’re happening.

    In these next few sections, we look at some of the specific use cases for ERP automation – with examples from different industries and solution providers. 

    Finance

    ERP automation supports real-time financial reporting. Which, in turn, provides instant insights for strategic decisions. And — it allows orgs to automate key financial processes like accounts payable & receivable.

    Pfizer, for example, used SAP S/4 HANA to automate complex financial closing cycles and simplify regulatory reporting.

    Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance helped Kinara Capital rise to meet evolving requirements. The ERP enabled the company to automate and standardize reporting, capitalize on customer insights, and implement much-needed checks and balances in its accounting processes.

    Serco Group used SAP Concur to gain control of all global travel expenses and use spend insights to drive targeted improvements. SAP Concur helps orgs manage expenses, travel, and invoicing. 

    Unlike most spend management tools, Concur extends the ERP and CRM apps in the SAP ecosystem. Expense data integrates with core finance & operating processes and the rest of the network. Now, data that was long dismissed as outdated or unreliable is a strategic asset — with benefits that extend beyond the finance department.

    For Serco Group, Concur helped fill the gaping holes in its data strategy. End-to-end visibility provided the foundation needed to unify and standardize reporting processes. They were then able to find and fix critical problems. Then, from there, Serco’s financial team was able to establish controls that made it easier to meet complex requirements. 

    Later, the Serco team took that spend data and applied it elsewhere – leading to unexpected innovation.

    They built an online tool for sharing real-time travel data with their entire roster of international travelers. When COVID first hit back in 2020, in-house staff used travel data to react to flight cancellations and delays in real time. This allowed them to help traveling colleagues return to their home countries.

    They also created a reporting solution that tracks the company’s entire carbon footprint, down to the individual traveler. Users can now pinpoint specific improvement areas and take action toward sustainability goals. 

    Inventory Management

    Manual inventory management is prone to human error, such as miscounts or misplaced items. Automating  inventory management processes allows for faster, more accurate inventory tracking. This, in turn, reduces the time and effort required to count and manage stock, allowing employees to focus on more important tasks.

    Metal Fabrication company Excelta used SYSPRO’s ERP to automate production and gain real-time visibility into core operations.

    Customer Service

    Many ERPs now come with built-in CRM capabilities and integrate easi;u with e-commerce platforms, and other front-facing apps — improving customer interactions and outcomes.

    ERP automation allows you to streamline backend processes for managing orders, support tickets, fulfillment, and incoming inquiries. This makes it easier to manage support requests, repairs, and warranties.

    QuantAQ, used Katana’s serial number tracking functionality to connect serial numbers to customers and sales orders.

    Another company, Intralox, combined multiple D365 solutions to improve its omnichannel strategy. Overall, Dynamics 365 helped the company consolidate several different systems into one, unified ERP. The company was able to make small gains by automating processes such as converting customer requests into work orders, using intelligent bots to greet customers, solve problems, and route conversations to human reps, and manage multi-channel communications in one place. 

    Over time, Intralox was able to leverage process insights into more advanced automation strategies. For example, dispatchers now use D365’s Universal Resource Scheduling to match technicians’ skills to incoming work orders. The company is also exploring potential use cases for Copilot, Microsoft’s new generative AI assistant.

    Procurement

    You can automate production cycles based on real-time demand, use built-in automation to enforce QA/QC standards. For example, Proctor & Gamble is currently working toward enabling smart manufacturing at scale. P&G is already using AI, machine learning, and edge computing solutions  to streamline production processes. 

    Security & Compliance

    ERP automation helps organizations follow industry regulations, ensure data security, and develop proactive risk management strategies.

    Custom rules, automated policy enforcement, and AI-driven support help companies protect their data and follow regulations.

    Automated risk scoring, supplier performance analysis, forecasting help supply chain pros avoid potential disruptions. D365 Finance users can enable fraud protection policies and use the platform’s adaptive AI to detect and flag suspicious transactions. 

    CIO Dive points out that automation helps orgs avoid the problems that come with poor quality software. Users can standardize processes like testing and deployment. They can also implement guardrails to safely enable low-code innovation.

    They can also create secure, role-specific work environments. For example, D365, users can create analytical workspaces and reports in Power BI. They can also create private groups in Teams with enhanced security settings, say, to discuss risk mitigation strategies or M&A deals in-progress. 

    Final Thoughts

    In a rapidly evolving business world, ERP automation isn’t a luxury anymore. It’s a business-critical essential.

    Contact us today to learn more about our process, services, and what we can do to support your ERP journey.