REVIEWER: Darren Klaum, director – business systems group, PITT OHIO.
BACKGROUND: PITT OHIO is a privately held, regional Supply Chain and Transportation Solution company. Our primary focus is on the 11 mid-Atlantic states and Chicago, with international reach through our partnerships in The Reliance Network, which serves Canada, the United States, and Mexico. PITT OHIO has more than 2,500 employees who are responsible for the transportation of over 10,000 shipments daily with a 98 percent next-day, on-time delivery record, resulting in an estimated $315 million in sales annually.
PLATFORMS: We run our enterprise applications, including Kapow Katalyst, on Microsoft Intel based servers.
PROBLEM SOLVED: The use of B2B portals has dramatically increased over the past few years, driven by the desire to reduce costs. Rather than interacting through phone calls and faxes, most companies now insist that their partners and suppliers use their B2B portals to submit invoices, place orders, check transaction status, and perform other routine business transactions. Required use of a B2B portal benefits a company’s cost structure by passing the overhead of labor and resources associated to the business transaction onto the other party. The proliferation of B2B portals increased the complexity of our business processes with multiple logins, different navigation paths, and inconsistent data requirements as well as administrative hours due to the need to constantly monitor and manage websites to meet data and timing requirements. The manual transmission of data between various portals and systems introduced errors, reducing data quality. The increased volume and discrepancies limited our ability to view and analyze the data. The Web integration and automation initiative is a long-term strategic project within PITT OHIO to reduce employee interaction with external B2B portals through integration and automation while still meeting our customers’ needs. We analyzed various Web integration software products to determine which product could best accelerate and standardize the automation of each portal.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: After the analysis and a proof of concept period, we purchased the Kapow Katayst application integration and process automation platform. Kapow Katalyst facilitates access to and integration of Web data into and from internal systems. It enables the interaction between PITT OHIO systems and either public or private (secured) Web applications. We use the Kapow Katalyst Browser to automate the placement and retrieval of data onto Web applications as a virtual user. With the Kapow Katalyst Design Studio, we create robots in a graphical user interface that mirrors a Web browser and customizes the execution path. These robots perform the “work” of the process and extract data. We use the Kapow Katalyst Management Console to schedule and monitor all of the robots used throughout the extended enterprise.
STRENGTHS: Kapow Katalyst automatically captures data from our customers and freight payment processors and pushes it into our internal systems. C&C team members no longer spend time carrying out these routine transactions – and Katalyst has already paid for itself in improved productivity. Because it takes only a half-day on average to add support for a new portal, we can scale quickly.
WEAKNESSES: Other than a few user interface suggestions that have been communicated to Kapow Software, we have not found any major weakness in the software that has prevented us from using it the way we need to use it.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Kapow Katalyst combined all facets of integration required. Integration requirements included Web, email, XML and database-stored procedures. Through the combination of its integration capabilities, ease of use, standard interface and breadth of functionality, Kapow Katalyst stood out from the competition.
DELIVERABLES: In our credit and collection area, we have built 35 robots out of approximately 70 opportunities. We have increased productivity by up to 25 percent and reduced human error by eliminating manual data entry into our C&C software and the need for collections agents to verify data on a customer’s portal. Kapow Katalyst provides high-quality data more frequently, which has enabled better and faster decisions. Previously, we audited invoices that were 40 days past due based on information that was pulled every two weeks; now we can load invoice updates into our C&C software immediately after it becomes available. This has improved the process of auditing and responding to outstanding accounts, thereby increasing cash flow in faster timeframes. We’ve also reduced C&C costs by 90 percent by minimizing the need for a third party to obtain collections data. In customer service, we are building our second of six robots to streamline two customer service processes through automation and virtualization. We have increased productivity by eliminating the need for a customer service agent to perform Web-based tasks. We’ve reclaimed 90 to 95 percent of our agents’ time by passing the workload to a Kapow Katalyst robot. We’ve eliminated errors and reduced costs by 100 percent by automatically sending the data to customers’ sites as it becomes available, and we’ve eliminated complexity by removing or automating processing steps for our customer service agents. Finally, we have increased revenue by managing additional high profit accounts without adding staff.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Kapow Software’s preimplementation support was superb. Multiple demonstrations of the software and support through the proof-of-concept phase showed how quickly and effectively this software can be brought to use on a project. Post-purchase, training was a mix of book and hands-on/interactive training, effectively allowing us to build production-based robots through the training processes. Support has been attentive and quickly resolves problems. Upgrades of the software have been easy and flawless.
DOCUMENTATION: User documentation is complete and easy to understand. The software is actually intuitive enough that running it without documentation is possible.
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