Automated Data Capture Frees up 70% of Business Managers’ Time at Cushman & Wakefield

How can you automate a heavily paper-based real estate sector? Rossum, OpenBox, and Cushman & Wakefield went on a mission to create a next-generation data capture tool to reduce physical filing, simplify data retrieval, and save business managers’ time. Read on for a detailed overview of this award-winning data extraction solution and the results we were able to achieve together in just one month.

Automated data capture for the real estate sector - Cushman & Wakefield, Rossum, Open Box

The Need

Cushman & Wakefield is a leading global real estate services firm that delivers exceptional value for real estate occupiers and owners. In the United Kingdom, their Business Rates Management (BRM) Area provides a service to clients with large national real estate portfolios that includes the management and payment of business rates to local councils.

The annual rates demand documents are predominantly paper-based, requiring Cushman & Wakefield’s Ratings Team to process over 10,000 demands from 400 different Government Departments and Councils over a two-month period. The demands are opened, sorted, manually reviewed, compared to estimates in the Riverlake Rates Management system, and either rejected or approved and paid. Once processed, the paper demands are filed away, making them difficult to retrieve quickly whenever queries arise later in the year.

Automated data capture Rossum and Cushman & Wakefield

The Opportunity

Open Box delivers software and services to the real estate industry, specializing in the field of Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The company is a partner of Cushman & Wakefield in their RPA program in the EMEA region.

Both companies identified rates demand management as a high-priority candidate for automation. The KPIs for the Ratings Team were efficiency and productivity gains, and the creation of the team’s capacity to focus on more value-added activities for clients. Cushman & Wakefield also wanted a solution capable of reducing physical filing and simplifying data retrieval.

 

Data Capture Automation Success Story Rossum and Cushman & Wakefield

The Challenge

The format of a rates demand document is similar to that of a vendor invoice, which suggests the use of invoice-scanning artificial intelligence (AI) software would allow for the digitization of rates demand processing. However, while the captured fields are similar in nature to those of a vendor invoice (e.g. property description and address, billing authority, rateable value, and total due), there are significant differences in a practical context.

One crucial disparity is the itemization of payment installments, which is sometimes written as a table (similar to line items), a multi-column list, or in other unprecedented formats.

Cushman & Wakefield, OpenBox, Rossum automate data capture for the rates demand managers in the real estate sector.

The Solution

1. Cushman & Wakefield

The BRM team scans all inbound rated demands and emails them to Rossum's platform as PDFs.

2. Rossum

Rossum processes the scanned PDFs and performs automated data capture, locating data fields in the PDFs and applying OCR to read field values.

3. OpenBox

The OpenBox automation engine performs a daily retrieval of all exported documents.

4. OpenBox

Links to the SharePoint copies of each file are added to their respective records in Riverlake.

5. OpenBox

Any rates demand documents that do not match are summarised in a report that is sent to the BRM team.

6. Cushman & Wakefield

BR Administrators review issues in bulk, make corrections and resubmit documents to the OpenBox automation engine for comparison and approval.

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Implementation

  1. The OpenBox solution team mapped the entire data capture process.
  2. Rossum’s solution engineers provided consulting sessions to iron out the data capture workflow.
  3. Rossum developed a seamless plugin to handle exceptional installment-related data.
  4. Roughly 2,000 samples of UK rates demand documents were uploaded to the platform and processed manually using Rossum’s built-in validation interface.

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Results

8 Weeks

from project approval to production

70%

reduction in man-hours that BRM requires to process rates demand documents

58%

of documents are perfect, requiring no manual corrections

97.5%

data extraction accuracy for the top 4 fields

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Positive Impact

No need to sort, date-stamp, label, and file paper documents

All demands are uploaded to SharePoint and linked to their corresponding items in Riverlake for easy retrieval.

Fast search for specific copies and properties

It took just 20 minutes to retrieve copies for 50 properties in the middle of the team's busiest period. This task took the team much longer when it had to sift through paper copies.

The bulk validation of files

Managers and senior managers no longer have to do on-demand comparisons and approvals; therefore, they can prioritize other activities and optimize the service they give to clients.

Only about 10% of rate demands need a review

Managers are now only required to review demands that have genuine issues that need to be queried with the councils; simple typos and incorrectly entered information can be identified in bulk and corrected by the administrative team.

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