The IT team at World Precision Instruments (WPI) wanted to take back the night on behalf of employees responsible for running reports from the company's SYSPRO ERP system. Instead of requiring employees to manually trigger and generate reports from home at specific hours in a specific sequence on a nightly basis, the company wanted to automate the entire process without investing in custom programming. Automate business process automation saved the day—and the night—with a drag-and-drop automation strategy that also saved tens of thousands of dollars in coding.
As a manufacturer of over 5,000 laboratory tools and instruments used by researchers in the biomedical community, Florida-based WPI relies on SYSPRO software to manage its accounting, distribution, and manufacturing operations. The company needs 25 different accounting, production, and manufacturing resource planning reports produced at the close of each business day, plus more than 75 reports at the end of every month.
The complication lies in the timing. Reports can only be run at night when no one needs access to the SYSPRO system, and they must be completed before the company's nightly data backups. Before Automate was implemented, employees assigned to reporting duty had to be at their computers at home at the appointed time to connect to the corporate network via VPN, sign into SYSPRO, and configure each report on their task list individually before passing the torch to the next person in line. Five or six people were on call every night.
"Everyone was locked into a certain timeframe, and they were like prisoners until their part of the job was done," said IT support specialist Jackie L. Messmer. "That made it difficult for those people to truly get away from work. It was a strain on staff resources and personal time."
In searching for a way to untether employees from their computers at night, IT director Phil Thompson consulted the SYSPRO website. There, he came across information about Automate's pre-programmed automation capabilities and drag-and-drop workflow assembly. He then asked Messmer to take the reins on the project.
Within two days of downloading the Automate application, Messmer had taught herself how to use it and automated the first reporting sequence using a mix of keystroke instructions and pre-programmed plain-English actions such as “Move Files” and “Go to Print” dragged into the program's graphic task-building window. Two weeks later, she had set up all Monday-Thursday reports to run without manual intervention. Messmer then turned her attention to the more complex Friday and monthly reports required by WPI managers.
Today, Automate kicks off the first set of nightly reports at 7 p.m. every evening by opening the SYSPRO application and consulting a list of all required reports that Messmer created in SYSPRO's Favorites menu. As each set of reports is completed, Automate moves on to the next. If any of the processes fail for any reason, Messmer automatically receives an email alert on her phone.
Business users with appropriate privileges can retrieve needed data every morning from reports posted on the corporate intranet. Monday morning production reports containing manufacturing schedules for the week are saved as PDFs, sent to a special folder, and ready to print. Monthly reports were the next to be automated, eliminating an additional three hours of late-night paperwork every month.
"I'm not a programmer, but with Automate I don't need to be," Messmer said. "I taught myself to use the program, and there is almost no learning curve."
With Automate running the reporting show, WPI has said goodbye to the nightly grind of at-home report compilation. Employees formerly on reporting duty have reclaimed their free nights. No one has to wait for the previous person in the reporting chain to complete his or her job or run interference in the event of a faulty VPN connection or a temperamental SYSPRO system.
To extend the benefits, WPI plans to use Automate for other purposes. "Now that we have our reporting processes in place with Automate, other employees are coming to us with ideas of time-consuming tasks they would like us to automate," Messmer noted. "We have an FTP site where we send files, for example, and we could configure Automate to transmit certain files to the site automatically. The door is wide open for what we can do with this tool."
Meanwhile, Automate has passed its initial test at WPI with flying colors. And that means that personnel who used to be on the reporting team are sleeping well at night.
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