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The facts of friction episode 1

A scientist and a sales representative walk into a bar. Before your mind wanders to the punchline, consider this story not a joke but an epic union of unlikely like minds. What could these two people possibly have in common, you might ask? Simple: a force called friction.

The sales rep and his company deal with friction in the supply chain—the inefficiencies, errors and obstacles that slow down purchase-to-pay operations—and help some of the world’s largest Buyers and Suppliers remove it to operate more smoothly. However, this friction can sometimes be difficult to conceptualize.

The scientist, of course, knows plenty about friction—not necessarily in a business sense, but in its purely physical form. Demonstrating friction is remarkably easy, he tells the sales rep, and can be done in many different ways.

Imagine a heavy stack of paper sitting on the floor of an office, he says. Something that weighs around 1,000 pounds. Try pushing it across the floor, and you’ll be met with one very immovable stack of paper. This is friction at work. When the floor and the paper attempt to move against each other, friction prevents it from happening, says the scientist. Put the stack of paper on a cart, however, and the paper will move with ease. Why?

Because of the wheels. The scientist explains that because the wheels hold tightly to the floor at every point of contact without the need to slide across it, friction is no longer a factor in preventing the paper from moving. In other words, the wheels remove the friction that would otherwise keep the paper rooted to the ground, offering a faster way to move the entire stack.

The sales rep understands. 1,000 pounds of paper is about 25,000 sheets, the approximate quantity of paper invoices that the accounts payable department in a mid-size company might process in a year. If you hadn’t caught on yet, this salesperson is an employee of Tungsten Network, and moving invoices from one place to another is his company’s specialty.

Tungsten Network is not just in the business of electronic invoicing, but also of removing friction from the supply chain. Without the forces that make the P2P process as difficult to move as a massive stack of paper, Buyers and Suppliers can lower their costs, make timely payments and eliminate invoice exceptions.

From physics to P2P, scientists and sales reps alike agree that that a lack of friction makes for a smoother operation.

About the author

Connie O'Brien

As CMO, Connie is responsible for the Tungsten Network brand and ensuring the firm is at the forefront of the digital transformation of the purchase-to-pay process, with a focus on how we delight our customers through automated, scalable, dynamic and personalised experiences. Connie joined Tungsten from Affinion Group, an international membership and loyalty company where she was Chief Digital Officer. She has over twenty years’ experience driving digital marketing strategies for businesses, and has delivered campaigns for brands including GlaxoSmithKline, P&G, Kraft Foods, AXA, John Hancock, AT&T, Vonage and Verizon.

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