Empowering agile customer service with RPA - Case Toyota Material Handling
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Toyota Material Handling Norway AS (TMHNO), a leading supplier of material handling equipment, uses Robotic Process Automation to improve customer experience and build competitive edge.
Toyota Material Handling is part of Toyota Industries Corporation, which spans 17 different companies operating in five sectors. The company is a supplier of material handling equipment, including the market-leading truck, forklift, truck service, and storage equipment brands. In Norway, Toyota Material Handling Norway AS (TMHNO) is the largest player in the industry, with around 180 service technicians across the country. Although part of a world-leading group, TMHNO focuses on being the best at home. It offers its Norwegian clients localized service and a wide range of customizable solutions.
SERVICE PROVIDED BY DIGITAL WORKFORCE
Digital Workforce is the Nordics’ leading provider of industrial-scale Intelligent Automation services. Digital Workforce’s intelligent digital workers utilize different technologies, including Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), to automate and optimize its customers’ business processes.
Toyota Material Handling began working with Digital Workforce in 2020 because of its proven competence and expansive offering. This enabled TMHNO to meet all its automation service and technology needs through one partner.
Digital Workforce delivers automation solutions to TMHNO that utilize Blue Prism Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology. It also delivers online training to help TMHNO build internal competence in RPA.
INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION AT TOYOTA MATERIAL HANDLING
The key drivers for Toyota Material Handling to introduce digital workers
Create competitive advantage through excellent customer service by:
- speeding up lead-time,
- eliminating mistakes, and
- freeing up more time for customer interaction.
Enable growth by:
- reallocating time from administrative tasks to acquiring and serving more customers, and,
- streamlining processes to be able to handle greater volumes.
Increase work satisfaction by:
- eliminating tedious, repetitive work.
TMHNO introduced RPA to help enhance customer experience, increase the quality of deliverables and ensure a sustainable workload for employees. The first process selected for automation was the company’s sales order process, which – although complex – carried significant improvement potential for the organization.
The manual process involved four different systems and required retyping the same information on each system because of a lack of integration. The business-critical process was time-consuming, tedious to complete, and prone to costly errors.
The company recognized that by freeing up the sales team to do more customer-facing work, cutting lead-time, and eliminating mistakes, they could improve customer and employee satisfaction while simultaneously processing more orders.
Automated sales order process
Improved quality and lead-time
Increased ability to grow business and handle orders
INITIAL TARGET PROCESS
TMHNO began by automating its sales order process – an unusually complex first process – involving multiple systems, paths, and outcomes.
Inviting everyone who worked with the process and associated systems to the discussion was essential to formulating an effective plan. The inclusive approach allowed TMHNO to precisely map out each manual step and critically evaluate, standardize, and streamline the process.
"The devil is in the detail, and those devils tends to pop up when you automate something,”
Lars Petter Bjørgen
Sales Director, Toyota Material Handling Norway
To manage the scope of implementation, the process was divided into four parts:
1. Automated order requests
2. Data verification and control, populate back-office system and prepare e-sign
3. Build order to specification
4. Order submission
Some challenges were caused by the target systems using different ways to register information, all of which the robot needed to understand, transfer and translate between the systems. Digital Workforce consultants worked in close cooperation with TMHNO’s team to correctly resolve these issues. It also provided mentoring to the Toyota technician assigned to work on RPA.
“Our guy was included in the whole process and completed Digital Workforce Academy RPA courses. At the same time, he was applying the learning practically with the help of Digital Workforce consultants,”
Back Office Manager, Toyota Material Handling Norway
AUTOMATED SALES ORDER PROCESS
Toyota Material Handling uses Canon e-Forms for submitting customer orders for clear, concise and organized access to information. The smart forms can dynamically change based on previous submissions and perform simple calculations. Moreover, all information collected on forms can be conveniently saved and easily processed. In the sales order process, Canon e-Forms are used to structure data and ensure that all required order details are captured by the sales team.
The automation is triggered when a salesperson submits an e-Form. The robot picks up the new e-Form and extracts an offer from an XML file in TMHNO’s sales quotation program. Next, it adds the customer details to a back-office system and continues to another system to complete specifications about the ordered machine.
If the order is subject to e-sign or special design requests, the robot stops and notifies a human colleague to take action. If not, it completes the details on TMHNO’s ERP and back-office systems and submits the order. Orders that require human intervention return to the robot for completion after being approved.
Automating the sales order process has significantly improved the quality of TMHNO’s output by eliminating errors. This has led to a better customer experience, improved quality, and cost reduction in alignment with the company's original goals.
People whose work has been directly impacted by the robot have received it very positively. The team has already been able to allocate time worth two full-time employees for more customer-facing work and quality checks.
Perhaps most excitingly, the automation has enabled TMHNO to grow the business and handle more sales orders than was possible with a manual process.
"We had a record high March 2021, with a record number of machines ordered. I don't think we would have been able to process orders for so many if we didn't have the RPA solution in place. It enables us to follow the demands of the business and respond to the market quicker,"
Lars Petter Bjørgen
Sales Director, Toyota Material Handling Norway
Dependency on single individuals in the business-critical process has also been reduced, which ensures uninterrupted order flow at all times.
From the very beginning, TMHNO recognized the potential for scaling automation across the business. Many processes are shared across Toyota Material Handling’s global organization and could be easily replicated in the sixteen other companies. The same Sales Order Process ties up more than 500 full-time employees in Europe alone.
In Norway, the company has already begun to identify new use cases in areas such as after-market management. It is currently building automated handling of online orders to extend the existing automation. As Toyota Material Handling’s leading online country, many Norwegian clients submit their orders through an online form that is received by email. The processing of these online orders will soon feed into the newly automated sales order process.