Transforming supply chains through Data Entry Automation – Product Review – Prompt

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data entry automation

Data is the new gold, Data is the new oil, Data is the new currency

prompt data entry automation - shipping and freight resource - product review

Many such phrases are being thrown around in the recent past, and rightfully so, because data is important for all businesses to gain insights into their operations, streamline it, ensure its profitability, sustainability and formulate business strategies..

Data in various forms has been around since the time human beings started calculating and accounting for things from the days of sailboats to the current days of autonomous ships and has become a key ingredient in every aspect of global trade and supply chains.. Global trade is hugely dependent on the flow of data and information globally..

Data is present in many forms across numerous documents in global trade.. The information extracted from this data is exchanged between the various stakeholders in the global value chain..

Carriers, Freight Forwarders, Ports, Terminals, Truckers, BCOs, Customs, Chambers of Commerce, Banks, and Joe Public, all need data in one form or another for global trade to progress..

There are several trade documents involved in global trade based on the sector where it originates from and UNECE has classified them into documents based on their sectors..

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  • Commercial transaction sector documents are documents exchanged between parties in global trade such as offers, quotations, purchase orders, invoices, despatch advice, and any other documents generally used for the conclusion of a contract..
  • Payment sector documents are documents that are exchanged between parties once the trade contract has been finalized and include but are not limited to documents relating to commercial transactions such as commercial invoices, payment advice, documentary credit such as Letters of Credit, bank guarantees, and such..
  • Transport sector documents are interface documents between customers and carriers and other stakeholders relating to the movement of the goods.. These documents include transport documents like bills of lading, cargo and freight manifest, freight invoices, arrival notifications, marine insurance documents, and such..
  • Official control documents are documents required by the various statutory authorities in the various countries who approve and authorize the movement of goods.. These documents could include but are not limited to export and import permits, licenses, customs declarations, Dangerous goods declarations, inspection certifications, trade control certificates, and such..

While each of the above documents has different functions and uses, they all have something in common.. Several of these documents are currently being transferred and shared manually between various parties and the information in several of these documents are captured manually into the systems of the various stakeholders involved..

This is where many companies are currently running into issues due to the manual data capture involved.. Manual data capturing leads to human error which leads to inaccurate information being passed down the chain..

It is also a time-consuming process and also an expensive one as you may need to hire several data capturers depending on your cargo volumes.. The errors could cause both direct and indirect costs in terms of losses and claims..

Imagine a commercial invoice which is a key trade document used by customs for the determination of duties based on the HS codes and other cargo information declared by the shipper.. For non-homogenous cargo, its descriptions and HS codes could run into hundreds of line items like the example below..

Imagine the manpower demand for the manual capture of this information into the customs processing system or to your ERP system and in addition to this, the errors that could happen due to incorrect capture of the information..

HS codes are very critical information required for the calculation of duty and any mistake in the capture could impact the customer heavily.. Incorrect declarations could result in increased customs duties or penalties due to misdeclaration..

For customers who are looking to automate their data entry operations, reduce manual labor, save costs and avoid errors, there is a cost-effective option in the form of OCR (optical character recognition) enabled software that can convert the data in the manual documents to information into any database or document repository system..

For many customers, deciding which software to use for their specific pain points is not a straightforward decision and is dependent on many factors such as technology, service provider, after-sales service, support, the platform used, accessibility, and many others..

Especially when you are trying to implement data entry automation in your business you will be looking forward to a nimble and versatile software that will help you address the pain points and provide efficiency and cost-effectiveness..

Prompt promises to provide just that.. Prompt is a technology firm providing data entry automation software solutions to solve some of the biggest challenges in the logistics industry including the big problem that is Data Entry, especially with shipping and freight-related documentation..

Here is a look at their proprietary software and how it performs..

Prompt currently provides solutions for data entry automation from below documents with more to come..

This process is highly beneficial to BCOs, Logistics Service Providers, customs brokers, and carriers for the processing of the above-mentioned documents which would usually be processed manually..

Several maritime disasters have been caused due to misdeclaration or incorrect declarations of information related to hazardous goods.. MSDS information for dangerous goods is usually shared by email on PDF, Word, or Excel documents or a printout from the manufacturer of the goods..

This information may be manually captured at various stages as it moves from the factory to the transporter, to the packing station, to the carrier, to the port, and eventually onboard the ship..

Any capturing error in any of these areas can alter the information supplied by the manufacturer of the cargo and could result in incorrect information passed onto the ship resulting in maritime disasters and loss of lives..

There have also been several reefer container claims due to misdeclaration or incorrect declaration of set temperatures to the carrier.. 25°C and -25°C are two different temperature settings and a missing minus symbol can result in thousands of dollars of cargo claims..

Prompt’s automated data software reads the critical information of the MSDS such as Hazardous Class, UN No., Packaging Group, Emergency contact details and transfers it correctly to the system..

While the above-mentioned could be standalone actions, for users who use the same template or format for their documents, considering the distinctive nature of the documents and bearing in mind the accurate and precise details required, Prompt incorporates a hybrid template and machine-learning based automated data capture system..

What this basically means is where specific document templates like a commercial invoice, packing list, tax invoice are used, users can map the information from the template to relevant fields in the system so that this information is transferred automatically to that field all the time..

Prompt’s system uses advanced learning methods to identify and earmark areas in the template which has the specific information and assigns the field name to the area and the information in this area is mapped to the right field in the customer’s system..

So, for example, when Prompt’s software sees the below information in the template,

it will identify it as an HTS code and automatically transfer the code 6111.20.6070 to the HTS code field in CargoWise or other customs software..

Similarly, all the standard information fields in the template can be mapped to the customer’s system saving a lot of time and repetitive effort for the client..

Templates play a very powerful role in automating data as they can be applied to many documents and can assist any size of the company as long as the fields and structure remain the same.. Once the template is saved, no more realigning of data areas and mapping of fields and no more rebuilding of templates.. It is all there for the user..

Prompt’s system uses Machine Learning which means the users do not need to define every parameter for the template.. If the details on a commercial invoice are repeated on subsequent pages, the system will recognise the initial pattern and repeat it in the system so that the user does not have to do it..

The usage of Prompt’s software was a breeze.. Upon sign up, you will be allocated login credentials to the web portal.. When you are ready,

  • just log in to the web portal;
  • fill in your login credentials;
  • upload the document; and
  • you are good to go

simple process of data entry automation using Prompt's software

Using intelligent automated data capture, Prompt’s proprietary web-based software reads the content from documents in PDF, Word, Excel, CSV files, and image formats and converts it information which you can upload into other systems, like SAP and CargoWise.. The data extracted from these documents can also be downloaded as an Excel, XML, CSV, or JSON file for further processing or verification..

The Prompt platform currently supports integration with

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system
  • Warehouse Management system
  • Order Management system
  • E-Commerce platform
  • Customer databases
  • Government entities
  • Carrier platforms

If the information in the document is embedded in a QR code, no problem, the software can also read and decrypt QR codes and convert that into information..

What impressed me was the speed at which the conversion took place.. Within a matter of minutes, the data was read and converted from both typed and handwritten text.. What is also impressive is that currently, the software recognizes data in 60+ languages from around the world..

It also recognizes the fact that different countries and customers around the world use different variations of the same term, so for Prompt, Inv#, Invoice No. or Inv No. are all the same and all will be converted to the standard field that you have mapped.. What’s more, it also identifies this field across the document and allocates it to the right field in your system..

The strength of the software seems to lie in its data formatting in terms of accuracy and structure.. The right data goes into the right field in CargoWise with no extraneous data with key information like currency and date layouts in the correct format depending on the various countries and languages it covers..

data entry automation accuracy - Prompt - Shipping and Freight Resource

The user has full control of the mapping and multiple pieces of one item (like cargo description) can be mapped to multiple fields in CargoWise giving the user complete peace of mind..

Accounts Payable (AP) Validation

The invoice (whether vendor or commercial), is the most important document for logistics, customs clearance, accounting, taxation, and VAT-related activities.. It is very important for this document to have correct data and for that data to be validated using electronic methods making Accounts Payable (AP) validation a critical function of any business.

Accounts payable costs keep rising, despite the outsourcing of data entry to low-cost labor markets and the influence of Web-based invoicing and electronic data interchange technologies. Character recognition engines can save you money if your overall invoice-to-data process is well-tuned.

Gartner

Currently, about 90% of freight invoices are processed manually, slowing cash flow, increasing risk of bottom-line errors and incurring unneeded expenses.

Invoice data capturing is a tedious, repetitive, time-consuming, and complex end-to-end process that requires multiple levels of validation to ensure quality.. The person capturing the invoice needs to have a full understanding of the particulars of the shipment and all the accessorial and peak season surcharges that were initially agreed upon..

Invoices that are transmitted globally could also have the added burden of having to deal with currency fluctuations.. Such inherent complexity of processing freight invoices by manual means results in mistakes and every extra step creates room for human error that directly affects the bottom line numbers..

AP (Accounts Payable) Validation by PromptOne of the highlights of Prompt’s system is its AP Rate Validation layer..

This additional layer in Prompt’s data entry automation software not only extracts AR (Accounts Receivable) or AP (Accounts Payable) data but also compares it to the data in CargoWise or other ERP systems..

This validation will tell you whether the charges on the invoice are correct or not..

Market research has shown that 25% of invoices have errors and this automatic process reduces reliance on manual verification or validation of invoice data and ensures that incorrect data is not pushed into your system without you knowing..

Prompt’s system provides a rich user experience for capturing and processing invoices using the same UI, eliminating the need to log into multiple systems for this function..

While the above sounds complicated, practically it is not.. The process is pretty simple :

  • You process a file as you would in Prompt’s web-based platform;
  • The software compares invoice number, parties, date, and services to find a match in CargoWise;
  • The software analyzes the data in CargoWise and compares it to the information processed from the AP Invoice;
  • It identifies differences and processes the invoice anyway (if they are within an acceptable tolerance that has been set by the user) or issues an exception with relevant information to the invoice sender

Simple enough, isn’t it..??

Prompt’s intelligent capture and coding boosts compliance with automatic invoice processing and the algorithms automatically match invoice data against shipments, consols, or based on a wide range of detailed information, including line items, line totals, or invoice headers..

Data from Prompt shows that using their data entry automation software certain customers reduced their commercial invoice processing time from 5 days to 20 minutes for a 200+ page invoice file with various line items..

Although Prompt’s software is easy to use and fully connected with CargoWise out of the box, it still comes with two different choices regarding data entry automation, with varying levels of engagement..

  • Manage it yourself end-to-end: In this option, Prompt’s staff will train your team on how to build, apply, and modify templates and push the resulting data into CargoWise
  • Managed Service: In this option, Prompt’s staff will do all the template building, application, modification, scanning, etc and the final data output will be uploaded to your software system based on service level agreements

As you are entrusting your confidential and sensitive documents to an electronic medium, there will naturally be a concern regarding security and how Prompt protects and safeguards your data, especially in this age of cyber breaches..

Prompt’s software protects your data through usage of leading Data Security Certifications such as SOC 2, ISO 27001, and GDPR..

As per IBM, “Data security involves deploying tools and technologies that enhance the organization’s visibility into where its critical data resides and how it is used. Ideally, these tools should be able to apply protections like encryption, data masking, and redaction of sensitive files, and should automate reporting to streamline audits and adhering to regulatory requirements.

Prompt has enhanced its data security measure by holding as little of your data as possible in their servers giving you complete control of your security and how much of your data you want to maintain outside of your secure borders..

In the event of any breaches, Prompt also has below insurance coverage for liability

  • Commercial General Liability
  • Professional Liability
  • Errors & Omissions
  • Cyber Liability
  • Data Privacy Liability

Summary

Prompt’s OCR technology is an intelligent and accurate document processing solution that can benefit the users in many ways.. Being web-based, this solution can be deployed on any device individually or across companies.. Its flexible structure and accuracy in data recognition provide an automated data capture solution that removes the need for labor-intensive manual data entry which is prone to errors..

The logistics and supply chain industry is filled with various documents with repetitive information that require capturing and Prompt’s technology can be seen as a viable option than having data capture centers in various parts of the world and teams to watch over them and manually audit those processes..

Prompt combines technology and human intelligence to provide a scalable and affordable document management solution to manage all your documentary needs..

Supply chain companies can highly benefit from the unsurpassed quality of data extraction, accuracy, data classification, and data entry automation that Prompt provides to achieve cost reduction, eliminate costly errors and above all achieve improved customer satisfaction and adhere to compliance requirements..

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