The unseen power of human-in-the-loop automation for automated document processing   

Human-in-the-loop (HITL) automation is fast becoming a game-changer in the field of automated document processing. As we navigate the landscape of automation and artificial intelligence, it’s increasingly clear that human intuition remains invaluable. In this blog article, well delve into the essence of HITL automation, the significance of human feedback for artificial intelligence and why human-in-the-loop automation is crucial for processing documents in today’s business world.


Riding the wave of automation 

Automation has redefined our workflows, transforming how we approach tasks in a broad spectrum of industries from manufacturing to healthcare. With its capability to perform repetitive tasks effortlessly, automation has introduced a new paradigm of efficiency and productivity. There are three primary types – basic, process, and intelligent automation. 

Basic automation, as exemplified by Robotic process automation (RPA), simplifies mundane tasks. Process automation caters to complex multi-step processes, integrating with multiple systems. The pinnacle of automation, intelligent automation, harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for more advanced tasks. 

AI and automation: A powerful symbiosis 

Artificial intelligence, as defined by Britannica, equips digital computers or computer-controlled robots with intellectual processes mirroring human abilities like reasoning and learning from past experiences. This learning capability underpins the continuous enhancement of AI-driven automation tools,enabling them to make informed decisions based on data analysis from past encounters. 

One might think that businesses should embrace full automation to maximise efficiency and optimisation. However, reality paints a complex picture. Given the inherent limits to full automation, human-in-the-loop automation becomes the bridge to this gap. 

Understanding human-in-the-loop automation 

Human-in-the-loop (HITL) automation, or human-in-the-middle automation, encompasses automated systems that integrate human judgement. It uniquely combines the speed and accuracy of machines with human creativity and critical thinking. This blend of human intuition and machine capabilities yields the best worlds. 

Human-in-the-loop automation vs full automation

While full automation may seem appealing at first, it isn’t without drawbacks. The lack of human intervention can lead to issues such as reduced control, decreased accuracy, and limited feedback mechanisms. HITL automation synergises human and machine intelligence to address these challenges, especially in areas requiring high accuracy such as data extraction and processing. 

Artificial intelligence and human-in-the-loop: The importance of human feedback  

Artificial intelligence and automation, despite their advancements, still require human participation for optimal results. In the training phase of AI models, the concept of HITL plays a central role. The HITL approach enables AI to gain experience through constant access to data and refining human feedback, thus making AI models more accurate over time. The more data and situational variations the AI is exposed to, the more intelligent and capable it will get. 

Automated document processing in businesses 

Document processing is the activity of receiving a document, understanding the information and inputting that information into downstream systems. Document processing is necessary in most business operations but is critical in procurement, accounts payable and sales processes. B2B documents which need to be processed include order confirmations, quotes, customer orders, shipping notices and invoices and others. Processing documents and data manually takes a lot of time, requires human resources and is prone to errors and inaccuracies. Automation tools have contributed to improving the operational efficiency in document processing and optimising business processes. Through automated document processing, the data contained in these documents is not processed manually anymore but with the help of automation software.

The role of human-in-the-loop automation in document automation

Automated document processing is an area in which human-in-the-loop automation proves to be invaluable. Processing documents automatically involves tasks like data extraction, document classification, the interpretation of information, the comparison of data, the definition of tolerances and the handling of exceptions or deviations. All those tasks require critical thinking, interpretation skills and judgment. This is where HITL comes into play. 

Human-in-the-loop automation in automated document processing enables humans to intervene in situations where a machine might falter, such as understanding deviations in a purchase order and to give input and feedback. In many cases, a human can insert an additional piece of information which the machine cannot find or understand on its own. Here, the human does not override the process, but rather supplements the missing information. 

In the HITL approach, humans maintain control over automated workflows, focusing on tasks where their expertise is truly needed. The AI-powered automation software handles the rest, processing documents swiftly and efficiently. 

Human-in-the-loop automation: success factor for automated document processing  

HITL automation proves instrumental for automated document processing. By merging human and machine skills, it addresses the demands and challenges of document processing effectively. Humans can react to unforeseen changes and handle complexity in documents, making HITL an essential element for enhancing automated systems in document automation.  

The Netfira Platform is a human-in-the-loop document automation solution which automates document flows along the Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) and the Order-to-Cash (O2C) process. This AI-driven automation tool leverages the human-in-the-loop approach, expertly handling exceptions and edge cases in automated document processing. The involvement of humans is more than just intervention – it’s the foundation for AI to learn and improve over time, ensuring optimal efficiency in document processing systems.  

Learn in our next blog article Embracing the Inevitable: Errors, Edge Cases, and the Role of HITL Automationin Automated Document Processing why errors and edge cases in automated document processing are inevitable and how Netfira’s human-in-the-loop automation solution is designed to handle them quickly and efficiently.   

Pfleiderer Case Study

Learn how Pfleiderer successfully digitised its procurement through process automation.