Improving Invoice Tracking with Invu Accounts Payable
ECM Vehicle Delivery Service’s manual paper-based accounts payable process meant keeping track of invoices when out for approval was challenging. With Invu’s automated invoice processing solution, they now know where invoices are at all times.
ECM (Vehicle Delivery Service) is an award-winning car transportation company based in Carlisle. Founded in 1979, they are now globally recognised as a market leader in Finished Vehicle Logistics with over 500 transporters.
Following rapid growth over the past 15 years, ECM realised their accounts payable process had become outdated and inefficient. With more than 50,000 supplier invoices to process each year, it was decided that it was time to improve the process.
“It was a bit outdated and there is technology out there to improve the process. There was a lot of wasted paper, a lot of wasted time and a lack of visibility over where things were with invoices. We just wanted to streamline things a lot more.”
Previous Paper-based Process
ECM’s previous accounts payable process was manual, paper-based, and time-consuming for the finance team. The approval process involved passing the paper invoices to each department and these then being passed back to finance when signed and coded.
The approved invoices would then be updated by the finance team on the accounting system ready for payment. Any disputed invoices were either held by the relevant department or returned to the finance team with the details of the dispute to put the invoice on hold.
The process was inefficient and problematic:
Invoices would sometimes go missing, and it was difficult to track where an invoice was and who had it. Sarah Graham, the Finance Manager at ECM, said, “There was less traceability of where things were, and invoices sometimes had to be reprinted and sent again for approval.”
Errors in Data
As the indexing and data entry was a manual process, this increased the risk of mistakes. Invoices could sometimes be coded to the wrong supplier or with the wrong dates, invoice number or amounts.
It was difficult to respond to supplier queries when they called unless the finance team had the approved invoice or details of any queries to hand. Often the finance team would need to investigate further before being able to reply.
Sarah decided it was time for a change, saying, “It was a bit outdated and there is technology out there to improve the process. There was a lot of wasted paper, a lot of wasted time and a lack of visibility over where things were with invoices. We just wanted to streamline things a lot more.” They then committed to improving the process and looked to automate invoice processing.
“There was less traceability of where things were, and invoices sometimes had to be reprinted and sent again for approval.”
ECM reviewed the market for Accounts Payable Solution providers and decided on Invu. Allen Stuart, ECM’s Finance Director, thought Invu was a perfect fit for their needs. “We were quite impressed after the first meeting and thought that Invu was something we would like to pursue,” Sarah affirmed.
Despite the system being implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic, ECM found the implementation and training process to be relatively straightforward. The Invu Professional Services team were always on hand to advise, review progress, fix any errors and provide additional training where needed.
ECM now have a fully automated accounts payable process, and no longer need to print out invoices and send paper copies around the building. The risk of invoices going missing is eliminated and ECM always knows precisely where an invoice is in the process. Their new process is as follows:
Invoices are emailed to a dedicated Accounts email address, where ABBYY data capture pulls the attached invoice and captures relevant data. The finance team then use the new solution to double-check that all the correct data has been captured before initiating an automated workflow for approval, coding and processing. The invoice is automatically stored in Invu’s Document Management software, where the finance team can see the current status of each invoice.
The finance team run a report to find out which invoices have been fully approved, and these are then exported into the accounting system ready for payment. Once paid, the status of the invoice is updated in the Invu Document Management system as paid and dated. As ECM no longer print out invoices, this frees up storage space within the company. Sarah added, “From a filing point of view, you don’t have to get out of the chair anymore, we can access what we need at a click of a button.”
“We were quite impressed after the first meeting and thought that Invu was something we would like to pursue.”
ECM has made substantial time savings as they no longer need to print out invoices, re-scan them and manually key in the data into the accounting system. This also saves money in stationery costs and supplier enquiries can be responded to more effectively and quickly as they can see exactly where each invoice is in real-time along with any notes. The search functionality in Invu Document Management is exceptionally effective in this respect: “I really like the search function, when somebody rings up the invoice and status comes up really quickly,” Sarah noted.
The new system has been described as user friendly, with the rollout to all staff implemented over a short timeframe. Sarah exclaimed, “The users that have gone onto the system have been positive about it. You worry about how they’re going to accept the change, but most people have said it has been a lot better.”
Due to a more efficient process, ECM finance staff now spend much less time processing purchase invoices and invoices are processed and approved much quicker than before.
“I really like the search function, when somebody rings up the invoice and status comes up really quickly.”
Stronger Reporting Capabilities
One of the key benefits for the finance department is the reporting capabilities which are now available to them. ECM had five reports written to their requirements:
A Status Report that allows ECM to enquire which invoices are at a particular status in the workflow, running this for accepted invoices checks the imported invoices into the accounting system.
A Statement Checking Report which runs invoices for a particular supplier to enable supplier reconciliation.
An Accruals Report which runs invoices not uploaded to the accounting system to a particular date that require an accrual at month-end.
Two Payment Practices Reports that enables ECM to calculate the figures required to comply with the Government’s reporting requirements.
Using the new Invu solution has enabled ECM to achieve its digital transformation goals. Invoice processing has been automated and streamlined. ECM’s reliance on paper copies of documents has been eliminated and the automated workflow means that they always know the precise status of an invoice in real-time. Sarah added, “We are very happy with the system.”
“The users that have gone onto the system have been positive about it. You worry about how they’re going to accept the change, but most people have said it has been a lot better.”
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