Process automation in mechanical engineering with the Netfira Platform

Machine and plant manufacturers have been under pressure even before Covid-19 wreaked havoc. The industry is facing numerous challenges such as strongly fluctuating order volumes, decreasing internal value creation depth, increasing competitive pressure and complex interlocking of value creation structures. Added to this are rising raw material prices and tight markets on the supplier side. As a result, the mechanical and plant engineering industry needs to optimise its processes to remain competitive and future-proof. Process automation in purchasing plays an important role. High degrees of automation can be achieved through AI and the elimination of manual activities. The Netfira Platform enables process automation in mechanical engineering through automated document processing and electronic supplier connection.  


The role of procurement in mechanical engineering

Given the challenges and demands with which the mechanical engineering sector is confronted, the importance of procurement has grown steadily. An efficient procurement department can make a significant contribution to the company’s success and increase its overall resilience. As development cycles are shortening, especially in sectors where innovation is a key growth driver, procurement processes need to be flexible and efficient. The complexity of requirements is increasing rapidly due to fast-moving markets, which makes smooth and transparent processes even more crucial 

Operational purchasing in mechanical engineering: automation of manual tasks

The focus for operational purchasing should be on automating manual tasks throughout the supply chain. Automating steps along the Procure-to-Pay (P2P) process is central to the financial health and overall competitive strength of machine and plant manufacturers—especially if they are seeking to build value while reducing costs. These steps along the P2P process always involve exchanging data and documents and approving them. In most small and medium-sized companies – of which many are found in the mechanical engineering sector buyers must check, compare, and validate information manually before further processing. However, the manual processing and exchange of documents and data and paper-based record-keeping are no longer sufficient for companies that want an optimal return on their purchasing investment or a resilient strategic supply chain. Therefore, purchasing in mechanical engineering needs to rely on secure and reliable software solutions that automate operational purchasing processes and eliminate manual and repetitive work.  

Automated document processing for the mechanical engineering sector

Removing manual processes throughout the purchasing process improves process efficiency and cost savings. Purchasing needs to automate document processing to achieve these results. With the Netfira Platform, machine and plant manufacturers can quickly achieve high degrees of automation and process optimisation through automated document processing. As a secure cloud-based SaaS solution, the platform automates the bidirectional exchange of B2B documents and data. The Netfira Platform increases operational efficiency in purchasing by providing a solution that automates all documents (purchase order confirmations, invoices, shipping notices, purchase orders etc.) It automatically extracts relevant data, processes it intelligently and exports it into any ERP system. This automation eliminates time-consuming and error-prone manual activities. 

How the Netfira Platform achieves a high degree of automation in purchasing

Automatically extracting data from procurement documents with a software solution is not enough for companies to achieve automation and noticeable relief. True automation requires automation tools to not only extract but also understand, compare and validate data. This level of automation means users only need to be involved when discrepancies occur and action is required. As a result, automating the processing of documents does not just mean extracting information like price, quantity, delivery date etc. from a document and exporting it into downstream systems. True automation occurs when purchasing can automatically process previously defined deviations between B2B documents. For example, the Netfira Platform automatically processes pre-defined deviations between purchase orders and purchase order confirmations. This applies when purchasing requests an order to be delivered on a fixed date, but the supplier confirms a calendar week. If purchasing cannot process these deviances, a high degree of automation cannot be achieved because buyers will face many discrepancies that they must process manually. 

Electronically connecting business partners in the mechanical engineering industry

The processing and exchange of B2B documents along the P2P process can only be automated successfully if all important business partners are connected electronically. As in many other industries, supplier loyalty and delivery quality play a prominent role in mechanical engineering. When it comes to connecting suppliers, the aim is to reduce obstacles instead of creating additional work through a new solution. EDI is a set standard in some industries and sectors, such as in retail or the automotive industry. For many enterprises, however, EDI is not the right solution as it is too complex and expensive. For the mechanical engineering industry, there are innovative alternatives to the classic EDI solutions. The Netfira Platform electronically connects all significant business partners easily, quickly and cost-effectively. The unique Netfira Onboarding App allows buyers to connect with their business partners in three easy steps without burdening the IT team. As a result, suppliers are quick to adopt a digital connection because they do not have to change their systems, do not need any training and do not incur additional costs. 

Process automation in mechanical engineering through AI

Automatically extracting data from B2B documents is central to connecting business partners and enabling seamless B2B communication. Documents like purchase order confirmations or invoices need to be processed digitally. For that, OCR is often used to convert documents into a digital format. However, for many businessesOCR is not the right solution as it is too inaccurate and inflexible. Consequently, buyers still need to check data and correct mistakes manually. The Netfira Platform, on the other hand, offers a data accuracy of almost 100% with the help of AI. It enables unprecedented process automation for mechanical engineering because, unlike OCR, it captures documents not graphically, but in terms of content. Therefore, data can still be read out accurately even if, for example, the formatting of a document has changed. AI can identify the content that needs to be extracted. Moreover, the Netfira Platform can also capture information such as dimensions, declarations of origin, drawing numbers, etc. Industry-specific data can also be processed. In mechanical and plant engineering this applies to technical drawings, different units of measurement and material cost surcharges 

Documents the Netfira Platform can process automatically

Process automation through automated document processing

Future-proof procurement teams in the mechanical engineering sector work digitally and automatically. Procurement cooperates closely with partners in the supply chain to drive innovation and achieve sustainability goals, and it makes a strong independent contribution to value creation. With the Netfira Platform, the P2P process can be automated through the automation of document processing. The electronic connection of all important business partners and the AI-powered data accuracy of the automated document capture leads to noticeable process automation in mechanical engineering. 

Whitepaper: Document automation along the P2P process