Improving Cash Flow with Accounts Payable

Tim Nissen | Improving Cash Flow with Accounts Payable.

Founded in 1934 to make steel castings for the U.S. Military, this company has grown to be a top specialty manufacturer in the US. Their continued growth is based upon acquiring new customers while maintaining and growing loyal accounts through investments in innovative production abilities and proactive customer service.

A Paper-Based Problem

Improving cash flow with Accounts Payable.

One area of inefficiency this company realized was its plethora of paper processes. According to their Database Administrator, “We had a real need to go paperless to enhance accuracy while saving time and money.” The DBA and the company’s Controller agreed that an automated, paperless flow would benefit Accounts Payable (AP) and their interdepartmental colleagues, making sure that important documents never sat on anyone’s desk too long. It would also help the company with issues involving multiple document copies, outdated information circulation and duplicate payments.

The DBA indicated they had been using Quadrant Software’s Formtastic™ and FastFax™ solutions when they began their quest to go paperless, and they were excited to discover that IntelliChief enterprise content management (ECM) was a partner product of both Formtastic and FastFax, and could help them reach their document management and business process workflow goals. At first glance, the solution seemed like a perfect fit, but the company decided to evaluate other ECM options for comparison. In the end however, IntelliChief’s process workflow-matching configuration, and seamless integration with the company’s enterprise content management (ERP) system, made it the right choice for them.

“All the paper was costing us a lot of time and money,” the DBA relayed. It also resulted in too many mistakes. “We ended up double paying vendors two or three times a month, well, that we knew of. We had a team of four in AP who were struggling to keep-up with the increasing paper volume. They were doing the best they possibly could, though the backlog of ERP information keying and constant ‘walking-workflow’ put them in an unwinnable cash flow situation. IntelliChief was our way to fix this through automation.”

Piles (and Piles) of Paper

Before the IntelliChief implementation, all purchase orders were created manually. An initial requisition was drafted, and once approved three copies of the document were made. One went to AP, another to Purchasing and the final to the requestor. The information was then manually keyed into their ERP to create an official purchase order for the requisition. This PO would then be printed in triplicate and distributed. At this point in the process, the DBA explained that, “at least six pieces of paper had been generated to secure a single item.”

Once the item requested arrived, its receipt would be entered into their ERP. The receiver who signed for the goods would, according to the DBA, “hopefully be able to send the packing slip over to AP that day, preventing processing hold-up, or worse – documentation loss.” If the packing slip made it there, AP would then attempt to make a 4-way match, trying to marry up the original requisition, the PO, the packing slip and the inbound invoice from the vendor. Often however, all four documents did not make their way to AP, causing AP to have to request new copies from various parties within the process. If any originals did resurface, some items were entered twice, and invoices paid twice.

The time was right for the company to implement IntelliChief and activate additional tandem features within their ERP that would enable them to reliably go paperless.

Paperless Purchasing

The first thing the company did was to activate the Requisition Approval function within their ERP. This ability automates the requisition process, meaning no hard copies are produced. Once the requisition is approved in their ERP, a PO is generated within the system and faxed or emailed directly to the vendor through FastFax. No copies of the PO are required – every document within the purchasing process is archived within the IntelliChief system.

The company also activated the Receiving function within their ERP that’s integrated with IntelliChief, which allows the company to scan a packing slip at Receiving. AP no longer must wait for the physical slip; once it’s scanned it becomes available electronically via IntelliChief to all authorized users. When an invoice arrives (whether via fax, mail or email), it’s captured by IntelliChief and made available via their ERP screen, often with touchless, straight-through processing, eliminating data keying. Users can retrieve all related AP documents quickly on the screen together, making the 4-way matching process a snap. Also, there are no more checks to print, copy and file, as IntelliChief retains copies of each payment’s documentation, through automated capture and archival.

If a snag ever arises within the purchasing process (IE. the quoted price on a PO doesn’t match the price on an invoice), IntelliChief makes it easy to resolve the issue, through item cross-reference normalization. There’s no more walking paper across the building; instead AP simply forwards the item within IntelliChief’s process-specific workflow to the proper parties to resolve the issue. The best part, said the DBA, is that “all transaction documentation history is organized and stored in IntelliChief, making it very easy to archive and retrieve any aspect of any transaction, with all the steps and notations added in workflow retained.”

Automated Cash Flow Improvement

The DBA feels that IntelliChief has fundamentally changed the way the company conducts business. Most of their AP filing cabinets are gone. Everything and everyone are comfortably more efficient, helping to add dollars to the company’s bottom line. According to the DBA, “IntelliChief has really streamlined the invoice matching process and approvals, and payment scheduling, greatly enhancing our cash flow. We’re also benefiting from vendor discounts for the first time in our company’s history and finding them to be significant in our case. The multi-pay errors are virtually non-existent now.”

The Future

With IntelliChief, the company now operates a paperless Order-to-Cash operation. While they haven’t had the system in place long enough to fully calculate its payoff in this area, they’re already benefiting from on-screen visibility to order projects that they, and all their colleagues involved in fulfilling each order, haven’t previously had. The days of running between departments to retrieve, review, add notations and secure approvals are over. The Shipping Department is also better equipped to work with Customer Service, with both having real-time access to each order’s status. Any customer-requested order documents may be sent to them directly from IntelliChief by email or fax.

When asked if they would recommend going paperless with IntelliChief to other companies, the DBA responded, “Absolutely! Get rid of the paper – it will immediately save you time, money and frustration!” They also said that for most people letting go of paper was easier than had been expected, and that the few who struggled were convinced after just a few days, as they realized how easy it was to retrieve a document from IntelliChief. The DBA stated, “the IntelliChief search function is as intuitive as an Internet search engine. Whether the documents are linked to their ERP or they’re stand-alone items created within IntelliChief, the system makes it very easy to search for and access them right away. We’ve moved in the right direction – away from filing cabinets.”