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Automated invoice processing - how to process invoices at scale

Paul Quigley
August 5, 2022

Automated invoice processing is the modern, scalable solution for invoice management. Automation solutions are becoming a core component for accounts payable (AP) departments when processing invoices at scale.

Today, leading organisations across all sectors are discovering the benefits of invoicing automation. This is resulting in significant operational improvements and cost savings.

Eliminating manual data entry

From receiving invoices to issuing payment to the vendor, manual invoice processing can take up to 45 days per document. These time-consuming manual processes are inefficient and, when you consider additional risk factors such as human error and burnout, the total business cost becomes even higher. Thankfully, these issues are solvable through automation.

By implementing accounts payable automation, AP teams can all but eliminate processes such as manually entering data into company accounting systems. 

Keeping up with these digital innovation trends, experienced individuals and teams are able to eliminate the vast majority of manual work. This enables them to establish a competitive edge within their respective industries by focusing on strategic, growth-driving initiatives. 

AP automation

What is automated invoice processing?

Automated invoice processing is the use of digital software to improve all elements of AP operations. For the average department, these are: 

  1. Matching an invoice against a purchase order (PO)
  2. Extracting, checking and validating invoice data (seller details, line items, total due etc.)
  3. Invoice approval
  4. Updating info in company ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or accounting system
  5. Issuing payment to vendor

The goals of automation are to reduce operational costs and hours spent on manual processes, as well as improve data accuracy. Solutions can be cloud-based or on-site, depending on organisational requirements.

There are, however, numerous other benefits to invoice automation, including improved business relationships and fraud prevention. The latter can save companies millions of dollars per year. A prime example of this is a 2019 accounts payable scam which cost Facebook and Google over $100 million.

What are your options?

There are a number of ways to automate your AP process. In order to choose the solution which best suits your needs, you will need to consider a variety of factors. These will include the size of your team, your current digital software, and average volume of documents processed per month/year.

A quality invoice automation solutions provider will offer two primary options for you to consider:

  1. Self-Service - With a self-service model, you perform your own data annotation and extraction (after initial training has been completed). This option is less costly and is far more efficient than manual processes. However, the need for inhouse monitoring means the time and cost savings are typically less when compared to a fully managed service.

  1. Fully Managed Service - With a fully managed automated invoice processing service, you simply upload the invoices you want to process and the vendor does the rest -  this includes data annotation and extraction. With this addition of human support, commonly referred to as human-in-the-loop (HITL), data accuracy is 100% guaranteed.

In addition, most vendors will enable integration with existing ERP and accounting systems, as well as RPA platforms such as UiPath, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism. This enables complex workflow automation, from automated extraction of invoices from emails through to approval processes.

What can be processed?

With today’s natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning technology, automated invoice processing solutions are capable of deciphering even the most complex document layouts. This means that all invoice data can be processed quickly and accurately, including:

Financial details:

  • Line Items
  • Net Total
  • VAT/ Tax
  • Other Costs
  • Rebates
  • Gross Total
  • Total Due

Invoice details:

  • Invoice Number
  • Invoice Date
  • Due Date
  • Payment Terms
  • PO Number
  • PO Date
  • Order Number
  • Order Date

Seller details:

  • Company Name
  • Company Address
  • Account Number
  • Sort Code
  • Company Number
  • VAT Reg Number

What is the cost of automation?

According to the Institute of Finance Management (IOFM), manual processing costs can vary from $1 to $21 per invoice (including paper invoices), depending on various elements such as invoice volume, complexity and inhouse resources.

Through automation, these costs can be reduced by 75% or more. In addition, the long-term savings and improvements delivered through automation will continue to pay dividends in terms of spend management and overall business performance.

If you’d like to learn more about what’s possible with automated invoice processing solutions, book a demo and test your own documents with a member of our team.