C magazine

Working smarter: Leveraging virtual assistants

CHS oil tank truck

May 22, 2020

Working harder, faster and smarter is the norm for every business looking to improve efficiency and bottom-line results. But with only so many hours in a day, sometimes it helps to offload tedious tasks to nonhuman helpers.

Meet Ava, a robotic process automation program, also known as a virtual assistant. Ava runs in the background on a laptop, tracking and settling crude oil transfers from the CHS soybean processing plant in Fairmont, Minn., to the company’s soy refinery in nearby Mankato, Minn. 

“We’re still in the early phases of rolling out the program,” says Heidi St. Clair, director of supply chain automation, CHS Global Grain Marketing, “but it’s clear a virtual assistant can accurately and quickly process transactions without human intervention so employees can focus on higher-value tasks.”

Before Ava, it would take two hours to manually input data for about 50 truckloads of crude oil and settle each shipment one by one. Now it just takes a few minutes to prepare a spreadsheet for Ava to work from.

Ava is the first virtual assistant at CHS. Others include Gordon, who is being programmed to assist with rail services, and Finn, who will help with settlements at CHS grain terminals in Winona and Savage, Minn.

“Our goal is to improve settlement and payment times by automating the process, so we can create a better experience for our customers and farmer-owners,” says Steve Oberlander, finance and accounting manager, CHS Global Grain Marketing.

Check out the full C magazine with this article and more.