Most aerospace companies handle thousands – if not tens of thousands – of invoices a month from many different suppliers. It’s important to have good relationships with suppliers to make orders and invoice processing go smoothly.
When trying to optimize the accounts payable (AP) department to handle large numbers of invoices and maintain healthy supplier relationships, implementing high-level automation is highly recommended. Through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, invoices can be recognized and processed simultaneously. When invoices are processed with speed and accuracy, they can be submitted to suppliers, not just on time, but early. Submitting invoices early opens opportunities for dynamic discounting. Getting paid early makes for happy suppliers, and taking advantage of discounts benefits the company.
With high-level AP automation, there should be multiple options for submitting invoices, including file upload, online entry, e-mail, and paper invoices. A supplier submits online entry invoices through an online portal, and once the information is keyed in and submitted, the invoice becomes instantly available to the customer. High-level automation solutions put rules in place so invoices can’t be submitted unless certain fields are completed – meaning fewer exceptions due to incomplete invoices.
Suppliers can use the portal to upload the invoice instead of keying the information into fields. Automation solutions use AI and optical character recognition (OCR) technology to read the file, validate the invoice through users’ requirements, and upload it to the portal making it instantly accessible.
E-invoicing is becoming more common but some suppliers still insist on only sending paper or emailed invoices. High-level solutions can accommodate for this without the AP department resorting to manual entry. The supplier sends an invoice to the automation solution’s designated address, instead of the company’s address. Once the invoice forms are received, AI and OCR technology begin validating the information on the invoices. Once the information has been validated, it’s uploaded as a file upload, and available through the automation solution’s invoice portal.
AI, ML ensure accuracy
Many automation companies began using AI to help with OCR and speed up the invoicing process. With the most basic level of AI, a user inputs a set of rules, and the AI executes the rules as entered. Paired with OCR, the rules remove some, but not all, manual processes from the AP department. AI paired with ML technology can remove almost all manual effort for the AP department. Basic AI can capture and reproduce numbers but can’t learn anything outside of the parameters it’s been assigned. If it’s unable to recognize something on an invoice, it must be marked as an exception for AP to review and fix every time. Now, ML technology can reduce exceptions, thanks to a confidence level. ML recognizes characters and patterns. Based on recognized patterns and historic data, the system can determine rules applied toward future automation. When AP manually reviews and fixes the AI’s error when it can’t recognize certain characters, the ML then updates itself based on AP’s correction. It can better recognize a similar situation in the future and solve the problem, giving a confidence level reading along with its correction. If the confidence level is below a certain percentage, the invoice is still marked as an exception and sent to AP for review, but the confidence level builds based on the correction. If the system reads above a certain confidence level, the invoice isn’t marked and will be submitted automatically, leading to fast and accurate invoice processing.
Improving supplier relations
It’s important to maintain relationships with suppliers. When paid on time, suppliers are happy, and processes can go without hiccups. The AP staff are tasked with making sure these relationships succeed. However, this often requires spending much time fielding supplier inquiries and returning phone calls, resulting in lost time better spent performing more valuable tasks. With supplier portal features that come with a high-level automation solution, suppliers can navigate their own invoices easily online. This decreases AP’s time spent dealing with suppliers and eliminates unnecessary phone calls. Suppliers can see where an invoice is in the process and leave comments or flag a dispute directly on the invoice, which AP can respond to online.
Another important feature that comes with high-level automation solutions is dynamic discounting. It’s not uncommon for suppliers to offer discounts for early payment, as it improves cash flow. These discounts aren’t easy to take advantage of when AP is working manually or relying on low-level automation – there’s too much to do in too little time. With a fully automated payables department, formerly manual processes are streamlined, giving AP time to pay multiple invoices early and reap the benefits of dynamic discounting. Many high-level automation solutions include a tool negotiating the dynamic discount between the customer and supplier based on the selected pay date. The two simply agree upon a date, and the solution’s software calculates a discount based on how early the payment is made.
Fast, efficient AP
Automation is a great tool for streamlining manual processes for the AP department, which increases productivity and improves supplier relations. An aerospace company valuing its relationship with suppliers and handling numerous monthly invoices would benefit from having a high-level accounts payable automation solution in place.
NEWS AND PRODUCTS
Monitor, control interface board
The USB-IO board, a versatile monitor and control interface board, features a comprehensive range of input/output (I/O) ports controlled and monitored using a single universal serial bus (USB) serial interface.
Designed and developed for embedded systems, Internet of Things (IoT) applications, and stand-alone equipment, USB-IO boards control and monitor external hardware and systems such as relays, smart sensors, actuators, lighting, and motors.
The USB-IO board features a general-purpose 16-bit Texas Instruments MSP430 microcontroller (MCU) enabling full user control and interrogation of all the on-board I/O ports, interfaces, and sensors.
SPE cabling, installation guide
The latest edition of IEC 61918:2018/AMD1:2022 Amendment 1 is the installation standard for communication networks in industrial plants, machines, and automation islands. Cabling infrastructure is clearly defined for all automation profiles, and cabling solutions using fiber optic cables, symmetrical copper cables, and for wireless media are considered.
The amendment to IEC 61918 addresses the new 1-pair cabling structures for single pair ethernet (SPE) and the associated remote power supply power over data line (PoDL). This closes the gap between classic information technology (IT) infrastructure and the Internet of Things/Industrial Internet of Things (IoT/IIoT). SPE enables the universal application of transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP)-based automation protocols even for long distances, as in process automation or for the simple connection of sensors and actuators up to the industrial field level. Higher data rates, more power transmission, and greater ranges than with classic fieldbuses pave the way for the IIoT and Industry 4.0.
Updated IEC 61918 provides a normative description of how and with which components a sensor-to-cloud data infrastructure in industrial applications must look. The tools for the implementation of IIoT are now available, device suppliers can now start the development and production of SPE devices with internationally ensured compatibility and investment security.
Compact automation solutions for high-mix manufacturing; MMS software and myFastems portal
The Flexible Pallet Tower (FPT) is a compact automation solution for APC and no-APC 4- and 5-axis machining centers with 300mm to 630mm pallets. FPT accommodates up to 24 pallets in 113ft2 and its configurable storage allows for different pallet heights, helping to increase machine tool utilization and lights-out production capacity. FPT can be integrated with more than 90 different machine tool brands.
The Manufacturing Management software (MMS) version 8 plans, runs, and monitors all automation systems and integrates with various other software and devices to enable flexible and cost-optimized production for any batch size. A new Insights module gathers and digests production data and turns it to practical, productivity enhancing tips related to machine, tool, and fixture usage.
Version 8 also offers a single-view user interface with drag-and-drop production orders for one-machine pallet systems, EasyRoute feature for introducing new workpieces into production in under 60 seconds, and an automatic Order Generator for recurring orders or maintaining a specified stock level.
The modular Robotic Finishing Cell can be used for machine tending, measuring, tool management, finishing, and deburring.
The myFastems portal provides real-time automation status information, alerts, system, maintenance history, and ways to contact support to improve customer value of the automation solutions. The portal also provides odometry and usage analyses for service interval optimization, and a spare part and maintenance order tool.
IMTS 2022 Booth #339186
Autonomous pallet mover
ePicker’s autonomous pallet mover, powered by Anantak, aims to make warehouse automation attainable and widely accessible. The first vehicle from the collaboration uses a combination of lasers, 3D cameras, vehicle telemetry, and a proprietary self-driving software package, allowing the unit to complement existing workflows instead of replacing them.
The autonomous pallet mover shuttles material long distances with on-board intelligence, and little effort is needed to deploy, maintain, and scale for any operation.
The autonomous pallet mover allows for rapid adoption by intentionally keeping a human in the loop at the front-end of the process, and then engaging onboard autonomy to allow for safe, reliable transport and drop-off to destinations in a facility.
This strategy allows for straightforward implementation, allowing facility leaders to quickly automate simple workflows. As workflows get more complex, or the number of robots increases, the fleet management capabilities expand, including a cloud-based platform allowing for remote support and over-the-air updates. The autonomous pallet mover ensures extended costs are limited by offering simple repair and service solutions that are easy to implement and cost effective.
Features of the autonomous pallet mover include manual pick, autonomous drop-off, in-line or in-grid mapping, and obstacle avoidance. The first autonomous pallet mover can automatically map any footprint changes and includes onboard diagnostics, showing users step-by-step how to solve serviceability issues on-screen.