Reporting 2021

When artificial intelligence makes work easier

At BLG LOGISTICS, digitalization and automation are an integral part of our strategy. Now they are also finding their way into the Accounting department. A new document management system will streamline monotonous routine document handling tasks in the future. To this end, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation work hand in hand.

Document-Management-System (DMS)

“It’s always a good thing when processes are made easier,” says Vanessa Kalwait, Project Manager for Innovations and Digitalization Projects at BLG LOGISTICS. The innovation expert and her team develop solutions designed to take the strain off employees by enhancing efficiency and improving workflows. On a current project, she and her colleagues are using artificial intelligence (AI) to develop a document management system (DMS) that will reduce the amount of repetitive manual work employees are required to perform.

Attempts to replicate human intelligence in machines with the help of data and software and have the technology solve problems independently is becoming increasingly possible thanks to AI. “Essentially, our system is designed for extracting and classifying documents,” says Kalwait, explaining the pilot project, which is initially being rolled out in Accounting. The first step is for the new system to recognize whether an incoming document is an invoice or a delivery certificate. Based on training data, the intelligent system learns which information is relevant, for example the address of the invoicing party or the invoice date, and extracts this from the documents. Whereas today documents are still checked and relevant content typed out manually, in the future the DMS will take care of these tasks resulting in enormous time savings.

“Essentially, DMS is about extracting and classifying documents.“

Tobias Falke, expert for robotic process automation at BLG LOGISTICS

AI has already arrived in other areas at BLG LOGISTICS, for example optical parts recognition or human resources planning. In the case of the planned DMS, it would make sense from a technical point of view to host the application externally and use a cloud solution. This is because training an AI system only temporarily requires high computing and graphics capabilities. For production and normal operations, on the other hand, standard server capacities are perfectly adequate although high costs will be incurred if these are used to train the AI. The innovation team and the IT department are working closely together on developing a sustainable solution.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

AI needs humans and robots

Vanessa Kalwait and Tobias Falke

Vanessa Kalwait, Project Manager for Innovations and Digitalization Projects and Tobias Falke, RPA expert at BLG LOGISTICS.

Once the pilot phase of the DMS is completed, staff in the Accounting department will over the long term be able to look forward to an easing of their workload. Tedious tasks such as typing out invoice data will be significantly reduced. This is made possible through the combination of AI and robotic process automation (RPA). Tobias Falke has been responsible for robotic process automation at BLG LOGISTICS for a number of years. The RPA expert knows how well RPA and artificial intelligence complement each other: “We need AI to structure the data, because this is where RPA technology reaches its limits,” Falke says. AI reads data from documents and can, for example, recognize that important information such as the date does not appear in the same place on every invoice. “AI can extract such data, but isn’t able to transfer it to other systems. This is where RPA takes over,” says Falke. RPA transfers the content from the documents, for example to the internal SAP system, which can be accessed by various business divisions.

During the pilot phase, the DMS project is for the time being focusing on invoices in Accounting, but potential future applications include order confirmations and delivery certificates in Purchasing, shipping orders, and receipts of incoming goods. “Our goal is to make the process perceptibly easier for our staff, for example by reducing the effort involved in processing delivery certificates, and by easing time pressure,” says Kalwait. There may be an added value ripple effect in other areas, too, such as digital data storage. This not only enables more targeted and simplified searches; it also saves paper, which is good for the environment.

Vanessa Kalwait

“AI and automation are not replacing human beings. We will continue to depend on human beings in the future.“

Vanessa Kalwait, Project Manager for Innovations and Digitalization Projects

“The DMS gives employees greater scope to concentrate on more complex tasks,” Kalwait concludes. “AI and automation are not replacing human beings. However reliable the technology may be, we will continue to depend on human beings in the future.” In many areas, AI will even create new job profiles. The fact that BLG LOGISTICS is once again digitally ahead of the game is something Falke observes in exchanges with other companies. Falke and Kalwait agree: “BLG has recognized important future trends and is already driving them forward in many areas.”