11. May 2023

Improving sustainability through intelligent automation

Improving sustainability through intelligent automation

Harnessing cost-efficient processes to do more with less

We’re in the midst of what the World Economic Forum calls a “global eco-awakening”: demand for improved sustainability and waste reduction is being driven by consumers around the world, placing pressure on businesses to embrace sustainable practices in all aspects of work.

But the issue of sustainability isn’t only important to meet rising customer expectations. Between a globe-altering pandemic, persistent supply chain instability, and ongoing geopolitical conflict, businesses over the past few years have been forced to operate in an effective “crisis mode,” prioritising survival over sustainable business practices. 

This crisis management mindset was instrumental in saving countless businesses from succumbing to short-term economic pressures. But as those same businesses plan for the future, “crisis mode” is not a blueprint for long-term value creation and success. Instead, it burdens business operations with a raft of inefficiencies and waste, undercutting productivity and profits while reinforcing bad habits in how your business operates.

True sustainability means achieving more with less. Every business needs to consider how digitisation and automation can achieve new efficiencies, address operational challenges, and balance short-term resilience with long-term performance.

Rethinking sustainability as a tool for value creation rather than an administrative burden

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) regulations are growing more complex all the time, forcing businesses to adopt more sustainable and socially responsible business practices. In Europe and around the world, governments are implementing more robust ESG regulations to curb carbon emissions and push private industry toward greener business practices.

Sustainability requirements are increasingly being found in standard contracts for vendors and other partnerships. These contracts may require that partner organisations operate environmental management systems (EMS) and/or maintain documented policies addressing energy consumption and other environmental best practices. 

Given the opportunity cost of failing to meet these partner requirements, the value of sustainable operations is greater than ever.

Independent from these regulations, business leaders are increasingly aware of the role ESG propositions can play in reducing costs, boosting productivity, optimising resource utilisation, and driving greater top-line growth for the organisation. Between consumer demand, government incentives and the financial benefits of becoming more efficient, businesses across all industries are realising the opportunity at hand.

Building a sustainable business through intelligent automation

Intelligent automation is the engine that drives sustainability. By digitising processes and harnessing the speed and efficiency of automation, your business can easily reduce its overhead, accelerate productivity, and realise new efficiencies across its operations.

The more your business can automate, the more efficient—and sustainable—your organisation becomes. This improves your short-term resilience while making it easier to scale operations over time. 

As the use cases for intelligent automation continue to grow, businesses can transform virtually every aspect of their operations to become more efficient and sustainable. Here are some of the most powerful ways automation can help achieve those sustainability goals.

Paperless office via intelligent data capture and document management

Paper-based processes are often the first place businesses look when adopting sustainable business practices. And paper waste reduction is both an effective and attainable step in the right direction, reducing an organisation’s material costs, manual labour requirements, physical storage expenses, and frequency of data errors. But paper only becomes unnecessary when better alternatives exist.

Digitised documentation improves productivity when data from those documents is accurately classified, collected, and organised.

Intelligent, automated data capture solutions make this innovation possible by delivering paperless processes that run faster and more efficiently than their paper-based counterparts. When Montgomery approached us for help in enabling a paperless office, we designed and delivered tailored solutions that not only eliminated paper processes but also improved oversight across the entire accounts payable workflow, reducing the man-hours required for invoice processing.

Supply chain management through workflow automation

Sustainable supply chain management is crucial for ESG initiatives. Supply chain inefficiencies can lead to unnecessary shipping costs, inefficient energy consumption, and a wide range of errors—from customs to compliance—that require manual intervention at a high resource cost. 

Workflow automation and process monitoring can analyse supply chain and shipping processes and use automation to eliminate repetitive tasks while addressing inefficiencies. This sustainable approach to supply chain management accelerates the time of delivery, minimises fuel and energy expenditures, and lowers the resource cost of overall supply chain operations.

Digitised documentation achieves new efficiencies while reducing paper waste and the risk of misplaced customs documentation. With less manual review and physical packing of documents, parcel processing can move faster, reducing labour costs while increasing productivity for distribution centres. 

Through a workflow automation solution that digitised shipping documents and the document management process, the Inpute team helped luxury goods retailer Bulgari achieve a 43% reduction in paper volume within the first month of the solution’s launch, as well as a  reduction in delivery processing time from 3-5 minutes to under 1 minute. Bulgari achieve a 43% reduction in paper volume within the first month of the solution’s launch

Process mining to identify unsustainable practices

As organisations work to maximise the reach and business impact of their sustainability efforts, process mining can uncover deep insights into how systems work, identifying smaller processes and tasks that can be improved through automation. By addressing the root causes of these inefficiencies, process mining can offer a blueprint for optimising workflows and achieving more with less.

Inpute’s process mining solution is delivered using ABBYY Timeline, a cloud-based process intelligence platform that uses AI to identify and rank automation opportunities within process workflows. It scores each task based on complexity, the difficulty of automation, and the potential cost/time impact from automation. New automation instances can then be planned by prioritising the changes that offer the greatest sustainability impact for the organisation.

ESG reporting

As businesses face increasing pressure to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and its impact on the environment and society, ESG reporting has become a critical tool. More than just a compliance requirement, ESG reporting has become a strategic imperative for companies that want to stay competitive.

With the help of intelligent automation, businesses can streamline their ESG reporting process, making it more efficient and accurate. Intelligent automation tools can gather and analyse vast amounts of data related to sustainability metrics, such as energy consumption, waste management, and social impact. By automating data collection processes, companies can gain deeper insights into their ESG performance, identify areas for improvement, and make informed data-driven decisions.

According to research from McKinsey, the benefits of implementing an ESG reporting framework are significant, with a direct correlation between a company’s resource efficiency and the strength of its financial performance. Cost reductions resulting from lower energy consumption, reduced water usage, paper reduction and other resource savings can also make an impact on an organisation’s bottom-line, improving operating profits by up to 60 percent.

Improved sustainability, increased productivity

Change doesn’t have to be hard. Although sustainability initiatives can require a dramatic shift from an organisation’s current status quo, this transformation brings improved productivity and performance that works effortlessly across multiple departments.

ESG requirements are only getting more rigorous. Customer demand for sustainable services and products will continue to rise, and the financial rewards of sustainable operations is only increasing. The faster your organisation embraces this change, the greater your overall reward.

Sustainable business practices create new efficiencies and capabilities that allow your business to achieve more with less. Our tailored solutions take a pragmatic, no-nonsense approach to turn your sustainability vision into reality. And by adding a strategic layer to your technology implementation, our in-house experts enhance the fit, value and performance of your intelligent automation solutions. That’s what Inpute does.

Even when systems and processes are running smoothly, there’s always an opportunity to become more efficient. At Inpute, we make it easy to build a sustainable future for your organisation. Talk to our experts to learn more about sustainable transformation.

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