Before automating the accounts payable process, leaders at Wildman Business Group were hampered by some 50,000 paper invoices a year that would land on desks and fill filing cabinets.
The company, based in Warsaw, Ind., reached a crossroads where it needed to add more staff or purchase accounts payable (AP) automation software, according to Claudia Keirn, assistant controller at Wildman Business Group. They chose to purchase software.
The company, which has 226 employees and offers uniform and linen, facility services, apparel and utensil products, purchased on-premises ABBYY FlexiCapture for Invoices through a reseller, User Friendly Consulting -- which also helped with planning and implementing the application -- and went live with the AP automation software a year ago.
"It's been awesome," Keirn said.
Printing is reduced
Before deploying the accounts payable software, an AP clerk would file paper invoices in cabinets, she said, adding that under the old manual process, the invoices would be printed and delivered to leaders of five different divisions for approval.
With the new automated process, invoices are emailed in PDFs, and then with a point and click, they are put into a folder in FlexiCapture for Invoices. The software uses optical character recognition (OCR) to read key points on the invoices to match it with a purchase order, Keirn said.
The AP clerk now determines where to route the invoice, but the company is working on automating the process for routing the invoices to the correct people for division approval, she said.
Tool connects to ERP and SharePoint
A division leader will look at the invoice, and he or she can approve it and send it to an approval queue.
The AP clerk will run a validation in the AP automation software to ensure a purchase order existed, for example, and then click a button for her approval and send the data into the company's Sage ERP for managing transactions. ABBYY FlexiCapture for Invoices is also integrated with Microsoft SharePoint for electronic filing, Keirn said.
"I love that portion of it," she said. "No more filing cabinets."
She said the system saves more than 30 hours of work a week, considering the AP clerk was working 50 to 55 hours and is now working 40 -- and the company was planning to hire a part-time worker in lieu of purchasing FlexiCapture.
New AP automation planned
The system also has eliminated the printing of more than 50,000 invoices a year, Keirn said. She praised the application, which is used by about 10 to 12 people, and said it will be even better once more automation is added for the routing of electronic invoices to divisions.
"Our AP clerk can still do the job, and every day we are getting more and more invoices; that process is growing. And we still have one clerk, and she has time to do all of her statements and she is doing more things than she ever could have dreamed of doing before."
Fast growth for AP automation
AP automation software is growing rapidly, largely because it can relieve a lot of pain for businesses.
According to Daneen Storc, senior product marketing manager at ABBYY USA, Wildman Business Group is among 800 to 1,000 companies in the world using ABBYY's FlexiCapture for Invoices, which was launched two years ago. ABBYY, based in Milpitas, Calif., has three additional headquarters, including Moscow, Munich and Kiev, Ukraine, and most research and development projects are done in Moscow, according to its website.
Storc said FlexiCapture for Invoices is a "true enterprise solution." Because the technology delivers highly accurate results out of the box, is quick to deploy and offered at a good value, it is now more applicable to SMB and smaller AP departments, she said.
Software cuts invoice cycle time
Storc said the AP automation software, which ABBYY plans to release as multi-tenant cloud-based software as a service during the second quarter of this year, can dramatically reduce the time required to process invoices, improve accuracy and visibility, and eliminate piles of paper.
FlexiCapture for Invoices can cut the "full invoice cycle time," or the date of the invoice to the date that it is ready to pay, from 18 to 20 days to 5 days or less, she said.
In addition, she said, for a paper-based, manual AP department, automation can reduce the cost of processing each invoice from $21 to $30 per invoice to $3 to $5. And, she said, e-invoicing reduces human error during manual entry of information into AP systems and, therefore, eliminates the potential for disputes.
Paper invoices are still rampant, she said, but there's nothing that gives leaders in finance more heartburn than seeing paper invoices sitting on someone's desk, partly because of the risk of missing invoices and compliance issues.
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