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Independent fresh food retailer Harris Farm Markets gets focused on growth by automating routine workflows and reports with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) from Sherpa Works and UiPath



22nd January 2021, Sydney.

The independent fresh food chain Harris Farm Markets announces the successful roll out of its first RPA (Robotic Process Automation) projects in conjunction with Sherpa Works and UiPath.

With 26 stores already and 3,000 staff across New South Wales and Queensland, the family-owned business is poised for major growth with four new locations opening in the next 12 months. To enable key staff to focus on growing the business as well as managing day-to-day finance operations, the company’s CFO, James Williamson, brought in Sherpa Works to identify processes in the finance department that could be automated.

The broader objective was to prove the use case of RPA in the Finance department before championing the initiative across the rest of the business.

“The process began with a Discovery Report,” explained David Barlow, Co-founder of Sherpa Works. “Matt (Skinner, Co-founder & CTO) and I get the buy-in of the executive team and then spend time with the frontline staff to understand their processes. After “buddying up” with these Subject Matter Experts at Harris Farm Markets we identified over 20 processes fit for automation with Robotic Process Automation. The report also covered how best to structure the investment, the estimated pay-back period, and other meaningful business outcomes.”

Harris Farm Markets picked eight of these processes to automate initially, ranging from processing concession store charges and invoices, data refreshes, warehouse and price reporting, recharges, and the like.

Winnie Wen, Senior Accountant, produces report for internal production, issues invoices, and updates stock journals. She explained the impact the RPA project has had on her day. “I used to spend my mornings doing invoices and stock journals, but now the bots do them. Instead of spending time producing the reports I can now spend that time analysing and digging into the data the bots give me. This means I can add more insight for our teams, telling them which lines are most profitable for example. It not only saves time it also cuts down on errors as we’re not manually typing data into the system, so I certainly have more trust in our reports now.”

James Williamson and team were excited about the initial results. He said, “Once we saw the software bots working in our environment, the team and I became excited at the prospect of what we could automate.”

Harris Farm Markets not only sells its own produce, it also sub-leases areas of its stores to tenants, who sell their own produce. Sales going through the tills used to be put into Excel files, which Joyti Marwaha, Assistant Accountant, had to manually add up, then deduct rent and payment processing fees, before paying vendors the net. “Now the bot does everything,” she said. “It does the calculations, creates the invoices, enters them into the accounting system, and even saves them as PDF files and prints them.” This has allowed Joyti to get to more engaging and rewarding work rather than undertaking simple data entry.

Financial Controller, Josh Banks, said that the main benefits of the RPA project so far have been time saving and accuracy of information. “We’ve saved a lot of time, but this is just the beginning and we look forward to using RPA more in the future. We have plans for payroll, pay awards, more journal stuff, as well as accounts payable. The possibilities are endless.”

Another member of the accounts team compiles and sends out daily trading information to the leadership team and store management, including reports on the performance of seasonal product categories and promotional activities. These reports, which are now produced entirely by bots, help foster competition between stores and drive sales. Having these processes automated enables the Finance team to provide more relevant information to the business much more quickly, and accurately. As they don’t have to collate the data by hand it also gives the team more time to analyse the information first and suggest areas for improvement. According to James Williamson, “We were able to report on a new business line within hours, which led us to a better understanding of the commercial drivers and resulted in improving its profitability.”

The most recent project with Sherpa Works, and the first outside the Finance department, came about when the business switched to a new Human Resources Information System (HRIS). Integrating that with the existing recruitment system in a traditional manner would have been a significant project, however James Williamson saw the opportunity to use Robotic Process Automation to meet the requirements of the Recruitment team and keep the HRIS implementation on schedule and budget. “Given the limited daily information that needed to be transposed between the two business systems we used Robotic Process Automation to bridge the two technologies,” said James.

The whole team at Harris Farm Markets has been delighted with the success of the processes automated using RPA so far and is excited to transform more areas of the business. Williamson concluded, “We are more agile and can meet the fast-changing needs of the organisation. Sherpa Works has enabled us to solve a range of business problems which otherwise would have been too expensive and too slow to solve. We have just started our Robotic Process Automation journey and are now exploring further opportunities outside the Finance team.”

 

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About Harris Farm Markets

Since 1971 when David & Cathy Harris opened their first store in Villawood, we've believed in something greater than just selling fresh food. We’ve believed in nature itself. The land, the sea, the air, the elements. It’s a remarkable thing. It brings families together, supports communities, and gives farmers a means. It offers nutrients to our bodies, and joy to our taste buds.

At Harris Farm Markets, we don’t just respect it, we’re driven by it. Our prices, our produce, our specials– all determined by nature. It enriches everyone and everything.

Which is exactly why we’re doing our best to make it all it can be. From sustainable initiatives like Imperfect Picks, to showing love for local farmers and producers, we believe that all our actions can make a real, positive difference.

And we believe that moving with nature isn’t just better for the environment. It’s better for our customers too. ‘Cos sometimes nature sees fit to provide us with a bounty of blueberries. And we think that’s pretty special – so we put them on special!’

Better tasting produce from sustainable suppliers. Bigger value from unexpectedly bigger harvests. More variety from truly seasonal conditions. The highest quality which can only come from years of experience and a close relationship with farmers and their land.

For over 40 years we’ve remained 100% family owned and operated. We’re 26 (and counting) stores across NSW and Queensland and home to around 3,000 wonderful employees all with a common purpose, to reconnect Aussies with the joy of food. It’s this purpose that see’s us continue to bring the best that nature has to offer to you our customers each day. Because we stand for more than just the good food we sell.

 

About Sherpa Works

Sherpa Works is an Australian owned and operated Robotic Process Automation (RPA) consultancy specialising in helping SME and Mid-Market businesses achieve business process automation.

RPA, also known as Software Robots, unleash your employees from boring, low-value, routine and repetitive tasks, so they can focus on taking your business to the next level of growth and beyond.

Talk to us about setting you staff free to do the jobs you hired them for, not the repetitive tasks you pay them for.


About UiPath

UiPath has a vision to deliver the Fully Automated Enterprise™, one where companies use automation to unlock their greatest potential. UiPath offers an end-to-end platform for automation, combining the leading Robotic Process Automation  (RPA) solution with a full suite of capabilities that enable every organization to rapidly scale digital business operations.


Press enquiries

Please contact David Barlow on david.barlow@sherpaworks.com.au or call 02 9121 6274.