We get questions about how to get Sales Orders entered quickly. Here’s an overview to give you an idea of what’s possible with your AccountMate system.

Even if you’re manually entering Sales Orders, there are improvements available—such as ensuring your system is configured for correct pricing (quantity price breaks, customer-specific pricing, etc.). But the real speed improvements are to be had with importing Sales Orders.

Before considering the options, we need to ask the following questions:

  • What’s the quantity of orders in, say, a month? Automating Sales Order import is only cost effective for a sizable volume of sales orders. For 10 orders a month, keep keying; for 1,000 orders a month, it’s almost definitely worth importing; for 100 orders a month, we’re in the grey area and need to take a closer look.
  • If there’s pricing in the import file, do you trust it and use it, or do you need to restate it?
  • Is the item number correct? Often it’s a customer item number that needs to be translated to your item number. It’s not a problem to automate that translation and it’s definitely a consideration.
  • Are there unit of measure conversions? e.g. The customer is ordering a 6-pack and the order should thus be for 6 cans.
  • If the customer-supplied file includes a Required Date, do you automatically accept that or will it need to be restated according to your business rules? Especially in light of current supply chain issues.

So, with those answers in hand, there are several options for improving your system efficiency by importing Sales Orders into your system! Here’s a list along with considerations for each.

1. Text file or Excel file from your customer: Also called homegrown EDI, these are often delivered as an email attachment directly from your customer. The format is “whatever you and your customer agree on,” which, unfortunately, is usually different for every customer. Still, you can make a big impact by focusing on your top few accounts that represent a large portion of your Sales Order entry time.

This is a simple option to implement as we can write a utility to re-format the customer-provided file into one compatible with the built-in Sales Order import format.

For every customer that has a different format, we have to build a different translator. So if your customers can agree to a single standardized format then this is easier to scale.

2. Non-integrated web/online entry: If you don’t already have your products online in your website, this requires more investment on your part. But if your customers will manually enter orders on a website, then there’s a single format for text import as above.

This basically moves the manual labor part from your staff to your customer, which works well when they would like to browse and compare products before making a purchasing decision.

If you have an online storefront at a place like Amazon or eBay, that you’re then keying in orders from manually, this is definitly the solution for you!

3. Integrated web/online entry: Similar to the second option but it’s integrated in real-time, so orders appear automatically in your system, perhaps as Sales Quotes so you have the opportunity to review them.

Numerous other functionalities abound with this approach as it’s then a small step to provide a complete customer portal so they can check their order status, see shipping and tracking info, make online payments, etc.—all of which make it easier for them to do business with you, and reduce the effort of your staff to provide that higher level of service.

4. ANSI/X12 EDI: This is “real” EDI (Electronic Data Exchange), with highly defined standard file formats for different transactions that pass through a VAN (Value Added Network), akin to an email server, to validate the senders and receivers plus transaction times. This is the holy grail of automating not only Sales Orders but numerous other functions and it easily scales to multiple customers as well.

A typical process flow between you and your customers will resemble the following:

i. Your customer sends you an 850 (their purchase order, which may include only their item number)
ii. You reply with a 997 (order acknowledgment) and/or an 855 (order acceptance)
iii. When you ship, send your customer an 856 (advance ship notice or ASN) and an 810 (invoice) or combine the two in an 857 (shipment and billing notice)
iv. Your customer pays via ACH or wire and notifies you with an 820 (payment advice)

Initial setup of integrated EDI is cost-prohibitive for a low volume of orders, but if your customers or vendors are insisting you get on board, then it’s possible to use a simple web interface and then manually enter orders in your accounting system.

A high volume of orders justifies integrated EDI, which connects directly into your accounting system, and automates numerous other functions in addition to Sales Order entry.

5) Incoming fax/PDF: This is the most tedious option for importing Sales Orders, so we’ve listed it last… Effectively, these are images of orders. So the first step is to convert the image to text with OCR (Optical Character Recognition). Then we follow the path for the first option of importing a text file or Excel file. While that sounds simple enough, it’s guaranteed that in this option every one of your customers has their own format and thus will require their own translation program.

Because this is a multi-step process (convert image to text, run reformat utility to convert to importable format, then import), it’s best suited for Sales Orders with numerous line items. A Sales Order with only a couple of line items is usually quicker and easier to manually enter.

While OCR is pretty good these days, it’s not perfect, so the error checking for this option has to be more robust.

All of the above are excellent opportunities to accelerate your Sales Order entry—and iSOFT is available to discuss the details of your particular order requirements and provide the best options.