A recent Grant Thornton survey of CFOs sarcastically asked if CFOs wished they were back in the spring of 2021, a time previously thought to be very challenging.[i] Compared to 2022, for F&A professionals in manufacturing, 2021 might as well have been the golden days. Rampant inflation, limited supply in terms of workforce, lingering supply chain disruptions, rising capital costs and a risk of decreasing demand in the short-term future make not only long-term forecasting, but even short-term operations very difficult in the manufacturing space. Traditional solutions such as increased hiring or the investment in large technology driven productivity upgrades have challenging side-effects. Yet, F&A professionals in the manufacturing do now have a tool at their disposal to be the heroes of their business, driving productivity and important insights: business automation that is deployed in minutes or hours with no up-front, capital intensive investment. By investing in current employees, and helping reduce costs, manufacturers can not only survive in the current cauldron of challenges but distinguish themselves from competition.
“Manufacturers face the challenge of retaining top talent and attracting new workers while minimizing disruption in their organization. Using technology to drive efficiency and innovation is vital”- 2022 Marcum National Manufacturing Survey [ii]
The Problems with Old Solutions:
The problems facing manufacturing finance teams are well documented. Adding to the challenge, many of the traditional responses CFOs are considering can have unpalatable consequences and side-effects.
Increasing budgets for compensation can effectively create a “compensation arms race” at the same time when risks of “Wage spirals” are rising.
“Over the next two-year period, 77% of survey respondents plan to increase average wages by 5% or more, and of that 77%, a quarter are looking to increase average wage by more than 10%. So at least a quarter of your competitors are looking to increase wages by 10% or more in the next two years”[iv]
Investing in new data analytics capabilities is important, but by itself often slow to implement. Raising prices unfortunately can reduce competitive positioning and risk losing market share. So if many of the traditional options can have negative side-effects, what should finance teams do? What if instead, finance teams had a tool to help offset some of these side-effects, and do so quickly?
The Opportunity for Finance Teams to Be Heroes:
Kognitos is designed for business users, giving finance teams the power to automate processes in hours or days, by themselves. This drastically reduces cost and helps make analytics and forecasting processes far more efficient and accurate. With Kognitos, CFOs may not need to resort as much to some of the tough options above.
In the past, automation tools were either too simple to drive meaningful productivity, or required too high of a TCO, pricing out many business processes. If an automation tool requires a vast team of IT staff or “Center of Excellence” to manage and maintain it, it’s ability to be widely adopted will be constrained.
Instead, in manufacturing, automation should be moved to the functional role itself. Finance professionals in manufacturing spend a significant amount of time performing manual processes that are repetitive, or have to fill the gaps between applications that do not integrate properly. As a result, these hardworking professionals often become disillusioned with their work as they are not able to focus on the work that distinguishes them: problem solving and helping deploy the company’s capital for long-term growth.
But this changes when F&A professionals are empowered with the ability to automate away repetitive work, and focus on higher level, human centric work. With Kognitos, F&A departments can automate through regular conversational English. Finance professionals simply tell Kognitos what they wish to have automated such as “I want you to take all invoices received from Customer X, and process them through Epicor for payment.”. Kognitos then builds an actionable automation plan, and after approval executes this plan. This can be done in less than a day, while delivering ROI in excess of 200%. Numerous use cases for automation in manufacturing finance teams exist (see more examples here: https://v.fastcdn.co/u/f8b11a40/62179020-0-Process-Automation-i.pdf) and can be deployed rapidly.
“Increasing productivity was the most popular business priority for the coming year, with 60% ranking it among their top three priorities.”[v]
If manufacturing CFOs need better forecasting, more efficient operations, and high levels of retention to make it through the current crisis, finance teams can be the heroes. By automating manual, repetitive work quickly, and seeing ROI immediately, finance professionals can provide their leadership with the knowledge they need to make critical decisions and help make their company more competitive by eliminating cost, all while making their own jobs more enjoyable.
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[i] Grant Thornton, “As Inflation Soars, CFO Optimism Sinks”, 24 May 2022
[ii] Marcum, “2022 Marcum National Manufacturing Survey”, 4 August 2022
[iii] Grant Thornton