Case Study: Accounts Payable optimisation

A typical example from our extensive corporate practice shows that even relatively basic optimisation actions can leverage considerable potential for success.

The challenge in financial process optimisation: “unbridled” documentation exchange flows

In addition to its headquarters in Central Europe, a globally successful group in the healthcare sector also has numerous branches around the world. Its business activity focuses on the development and production of a vast range of well-known medicines and other sought-after medical products. Both research & development are undertaken internationally, as is production.

A fact that not only presents the Supply Chain Managers of this experienced global player with huge logistical challenges. Secondary business and administration processes, such as invoice processing and document archiving, also have to meet the high requirements of such a complex system of goods, services and data flows. After all, these are increasingly becoming a crucial cost and competitive factor.

With this in mind, it was decided to appoint ASTERION’s experienced BPO experts to “tame” the innumerable incoming documentation flows in its Finance Department.

The key to success: gradual optimisation

Based on a comprehensive needs analysis, the ASTERION experts were quickly able to harmonise, digitalise and automate the entire incoming invoice process as part of a ground-breaking pilot project.

The sophisticated workflow for optimising the group’s internal Accounts Payable Function has since comprised the following stages:

  • Invoice receipt: ASTERION receives incoming invoices via various formats, media and transmission channels – such as on paper, as an email attachment or via secure data transfer.
  • Digitalisation: hard-copy documents are scanned both in the ASTERION Document Service Centre in Rüsselsheim and in a Digital Mailroom operated by ASTERION at the healthcare group’s headquarters.
  • Data extraction: a reliable read-out of the data contained in the invoices is centrally ensured via a highly-developed software solution for optical data recognition (OCR). Processes are regularly optimised, thanks to the automated, self-learning “KI” document analysis for extracting and classifying content. Fewer and fewer documents need to be manually followed up, which considerably increases time and cost savings.
  • Validation: depending on the requirements, the extracted data is formally audited either fully automatically using pre-defined audit guidelines, or by specially trained auditors (native speakers, if necessary), either locally or in one of ASTERION’s high-security audit centres.
  • Provision: the final documents and data sets are then electronically transferred to the healthcare group’s ERP system.
In future, ASTERION will also undertake the legally-compliant digital archiving of all business-related data and documentation and destroy any superfluous paper documents in compliance with the strictest security standards. The permanent monitoring of all process steps and the provision of real-time performance data will round off the overall package.

Upon completion of the test phase, the successfully trialled standard solution was adapted into an easily adjustable “blueprint” for the individual international sites, with their countless different touch points, requirements and national specifications. An approach that not only saved time and money, but also minimised sources of error and implementation problems. The solution was then rolled out in several stages – and this process is on-going.

The tangible result: effective and cost-saving

The processing volume currently stands at just under 500,000 incoming invoices from 40 different business units in almost 20 different countries. During 2017, further core markets in Europe and overseas are due to be integrated into this successful business process outsourcing project. The number of incoming invoices supplied to the group’s own ERP system by ASTERION in a fast, efficient and cost-saving manner will therefore increase to over one million – making a significant contribution to the firm’s success.

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