This past Summer, I worked as an intern at Material Handling Services LLC. in Perrysburg, Ohio. At this internship, I worked primarily in gaining cash flow visibility across all business units under MHS. I used Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications in order to automate the transfer of transaction reports downloaded from Material Handling Services’ bank’s website to a master workbook in Excel. From there, the scripts I wrote would transfer the data into cash flow reports for the different business units to assist with corporate cash allocation decisions.
I learned that I try to make things operate as simply as possible, and that this might not always be the best way to handle a problem. In my time at MHS, I was working on automating data extraction from a (sometimes) very complex system of zero-balance bank accounts. I often ran into issues with the scripts I was writing because of the way certain bank accounts had to operate in exception to others. This gave me some perspective on how certain problems may be too complex for automation or set-in-stone rules for operations.
As my work came to an end in the last couple weeks of the internship, I began to see that my job had become almost obsolete as I was working on automating data entry. The tools I provided MHS with were very valuable, however I did run into some problems with getting things automated. There were some technical issues with how bank accounts were set up that made some reports inaccurate as my scripts relied on ZBA activity. In finding these issues out, I had the opportunity to learn about the complexities of a multi-business unit organization and how their bank infrastructure required a lot of malleability.
I also found that my outside perspective allowed some of my superiors to review their data visibility situation with a more critical eye. This gave them room to improve their efficiency in consolidating data in order to make decisions. The scripts I wrote then became a valuable asset as they were able to gather the information necessary for a weekly cash disbursements meeting that would normally take up to an hour with just the click of a button. So I did find automation to be very useful but not without its drawbacks.
In my time working on automation, I also designed reports that compared cash flow forecasts to actual cash flow results. This allowed me to see how upper management made its cash disbursement decisions based on the accuracy of these reports. I was surprised to see exactly inaccurate these reports could sometimes be, and wanted to create a statistical model to assist upper management with its decision making. However, in a meeting with a superior, an explanation of the actual operations underlying one of the business unit’s cash flow forecasts I was evaluating revealed some variables that were not quantifiable. This shed more light on how not all aspects of running a business can be easily taken care of with a computer.
In learning about the faults of automation I gained the experience necessary to see where it can become very useful for a business and where it may be better to think critically. I learned that the fundamentals behind the numbers on spreadsheets must not be overlooked and that a critical evaluation of any given situation allows for the creativity necessary to make decisions that will help any business operate in the long run. Academically, this was a straight-forward lesson. As far as my professional career is concerned, my insights here have given me some great perspective on what it takes to become a critical thinker and efficient decision maker, only fueling my desire to pursue a career in finance.