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Prior to automation, Brickworks relied on a team of Accounts Payable (AP) clerks to manually process 10,000 invoices per month. An invoice was generally handled eight times during processing which increased the possibility for delays and manual errors. As part of their continuous improvement practices, Brickworks recognised the opportunity to improve this business-critical process and turned to Efficiency Leaders to implement Kofax’ Business-Critical SharePoint solution. The outcomes of the deployed solution were maximised by connecting and better utilising their existing line of business systems and Microsoft® SharePoint® 2010 for improved efficiencies and return-on-investment.
When Damien Frost, General Finance Manager, arrived at the company in 2007 he found a paper-based workflow in place to deal with around 10,000 invoices a month in support of Brickworks’ operations in over 60 different locations across Australia and New Zealand. The typical flow of invoice processing was to create a manual purchase order then upon receipt of the goods, the invoice would be stamped, reviewed and approved by a manager who would sign it and then send it to accounts payable with the purchase order attached. The data would be keyed into the ERP system, generating a batch that would be reviewed by a manager who would manually review the invoices again before the batch was released for payment.
“Invoices getting lost was quite common and they bounced around different locations trying to find the right person to approve them. We did a process flow analysis and found that an invoice was generally touched eight times by our staff. We had a dozen staff doing data entry in accounts payable alone and our processes were years behind where we needed to be.” – Damien Frost, General Finance Manager
The large number of suppliers, over 11,000 individual firms, with a wide variety of invoice formats, meant that any automation project would have to address the requirement of extracting the invoice data, without the use of templates, before entry into Brickworks Maximise ERP software. Additional complexities facing AP automation included multiple currencies, multiple versions of the ERP system and more than 20 company entities that would need to reference the different versions depending on the recipient company that was invoiced.
Brickworks decided to introduce automated accounts payable workflows and increase efficiency in their business-critical processes by connecting their existing line of business systems with SharePoint. Implemented by leading market solutions provider, Efficiency Leaders, the Business-Critical SharePoint (BCSP) solution integrates Kofax Capture, Kofax Transformation Modules and Maximise Financials via Microsoft SharePoint 2010. It provides user interaction for both workflow and image and data storage and includes complex routeing for review/approval and receipting for processing invoices.
Brickworks employees are now able to raise and approve purchase orders online rather than manually so that these can be automatically matched with scanned invoices. The solution delivers automatic classification and separation of documents. The solution also caters for supporting documents which are combined with the invoice and stored as one file linked to the finance system, enabling easy retrieval when the need arises.
After scanning, all invoices are still checked by an operator for accuracy, and then if the scanned invoice is matched with a purchase order it will go straight through to the ERP platform for payment. Otherwise, it is delivered in a workflow so that the PO raiser can action any unresolved items. In the case of non-PO invoice, the appropriate manager receives an email with a digital copy of the invoice for approval. Once they submit it for payment, it will check that the manager has the right authority as set out in the ERP system.
SharePoint 2010 had never been used at this level of integration. Making the user experience as seamless as possible required all products and parties to work closely together.
“In our test locations, we have had around a third of invoices going straight through with a match to a PO. If I am able to replicate that across the business our savings will be significant and our ultimate target is even higher than that. We can now go into our ERP software and click on a link to view the associated paperwork relating to the transactional information, which across 65 sites has been magic and saved a lot of phone calls and emails.” – Damien Frost, General Finance Manager