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How to automate ACH processing in three steps

Updating processes to handle the new ACH third window doesn't have to be stressful

Read Time
3 mins
Filed Under
Last updated
Jan 12th, 2021

SMA Technologies wants to help you streamline your existing automation and add workflows to cover the upcoming third ACH window.

On March 19th, NACHA (National Automated Clearing House Association) will go live with an additional ACH processing window. To learn more about this window, please see the entry on the official NACHA website here.

Organizations that have had OpCon, or other workload automation platforms, installed often find their automation has been added ad hoc and piecemeal over the years. This can lead to a tangled mess of workflows that are far more complicated than they need to be. When you look at your workflow UI, does it resemble a clean, linear decision tree, or does it look more like a tangled spiderweb?


If you’re not happy with how your workflows are currently set up, don’t worry. In this blog we’re going to go step by step to demonstrate what a clean and simple ACH processing workflow should look like. A key thing to remember is that a single workflow can encompass quite a few dependent jobs (tasks), and the UI allows operators to monitor the status of each job in real time.

Step Zero

Before you leap forward and start creating new workflows, it’s time to take a deeper look at your existing workflows and see what can be combined to eliminate redundancy and unclutter your interface. There’s a very strong possibility that workflows added at different times over the years can be combined into a single workflow. You also have to ask the question, “Does this workflow still make sense, or is there a better way to accomplish this task?”

This is where you want to sit down with your team and diagram each process that needs to be executed to perform ACH processing to your own internal standards while staying in compliance with state and federal regulations. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to put them into workflows within your automation platform.

Common ACH workflow schedule configuration

The success condition for the ACH workflow is it must download, retrieve, parse, transfer, and process files automatically. It’s less complicated than it sounds.

Step 1 – Create a job that continuously monitors for incoming ACH files. You can set up the frequency and operational window to best fit your organization’s requirements. Typically, it’s set up to run every few minutes. This workflow can monitor for multiple files and ensure the full download of each before processing begins.

Step 2 – Once the monitoring job has recognized a new download, it automatically triggers a dynamic workflow to handle processing and validating the file. This new workflow will be dynamically named to match the ACH file. This allows real time process monitoring and simplifies record keeping for audits. It also ensures that only one file at a time will be processed.

Step 3 – The newly created dynamic workflow will validate and process the files. It will:

  • Move the file out of the download folder.
  • Validate the information in the file by checking header and trailer records and validates the total transaction amounts.
  • Transfer and process the file on the core banking platform.
  • Notify relevant parties of successful completion.

This is the basic workflow configuration we recommend for setting up ACH processing workflows. The steps within each of those processes are unique to your organization, but they can be done very quickly by an experienced automation engineer. You can add additional steps within them, such as manual approval of exceptions, or however you want to set it up.

If your organization lacks the time or personnel to do it, SMA Technologies can help you. We have decades of experience automating ACH for financial services institutions. There are two options you can pursue, depending on your needs. If you only want help streamlining existing ACH automation and setting up dynamic workflows to handle the third window, our Automation Consultancy team can typically knock out a project like this very quickly. If you’re looking for a long-term engagement, we recommend using our Managed Automation Services option. Our in-house automation engineers act as a dedicated extension of your IT team, implementing your automation roadmap while monitoring your OpCon environment and responding to issues.

SMA Technologies can help your organization get more ROI out of your IT investments

Over half of credit unions with over $200 million in assets choose OpCon as their automation provider. We have the experience and technology solutions to assist financial institutions with achieving scalability and resiliency in their IT systems by automating as many processes as possible. Are you ready to have a conversation about how we can help your organization meet the demands of the modern business climate?

In this article

Automate ACH processing to cover the 3rd ACH window and stay in compliance with NACHA guidelines.

Have a question about automation? We’d love to hear from you.

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