Coffs Harbour City Council AP Automation

April 12th, 2016 Posted by Blog, Case Studies 0 thoughts on “Coffs Harbour City Council AP Automation”

The advantages of the ELAP Accounts Payable automation solution are substantial and multifaceted. Physical paper handling and manual information entry is reduced by 80% or more, with most of the required textual data being automatically extracted from the images. Order matching is also automated.

As a consequence of these advantages, processing time is reduced which does not only save time and money but is also an efficient and satisfying way of operating a business.

The Council’s Executive Manager – Finance, Dale Allen said

The city’s status has been recognised by the NSW state government, which has designated Coffs Harbour as a centre for strategic growth, highlighting its economic and social importance to the state.

To enable economic growth and to assist the local business community to reach their full potential, Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) decided to set local trends by optimising their investment in administrative processes by re-engineering inefficient business processes. The council embarked upon its programme of functional optimisation by automating their Accounts Payable (AP) process.

THE CHALLEGE

Prior to automation, hardcopy invoices were receipted by council staff, who usually instigated the procurement process via mail. If an electronic image was sent to Council it was printed and processed as a hardcopy. The hardcopy document was stamped with a “goods received” stamp which prompted for a signature to acknowledge that the goods or service had been received and that it is OK to pay. The creditor clerk would manually identify who the purchaser was, if it was not clear from the data on the invoice.

Where no purchase order number was quoted, the clerk would also request a purchase order number to be supplied by the purchaser.

The hardcopy invoice would then be physically delivered to the identified purchaser at one of council’s offices and depots disbursed throughout the Local Government area. After the invoice had been approved, it would be physically returned to the purchasing branch office where it would be manually processed by a creditor clerk. The creditor clerk would then enter textual information from the invoice into a transaction data entry screen of the financial system before matching the transaction to the nominated electronic version of the purchase order.

The council was not only wasting time by transporting hardcopy documents around physical locations, but also would often lose track of where invoices actually were in the process. Documents would often get lost or misplaced, resulting in even more processing inefficiencies. This approach to accounts processing also led to the system costing balances being delayed as a result of the processing time required to handle the physical document and manually enter information.

THE SOLUTION

When the council heard about the Efficiency Leaders Automation Platform Rapid AP at a TechnologyOne™ User Group Meeting, their staff were surprised by the extent of technological capabilities available to assist them in making their business processes more efficient.

The council started their process improvements by setting up a dedicated email address for receipting invoices and contacted all suppliers requesting that, in future, they email PDF copies of invoices in order to eradicate hard copy document processing. In a second step, Council decided to take full advantage of the Rapid AP Accounts Payable automation solution, enabling automatic processing of both scanned hardcopy documents and imported electronic images. After an intelligent image clean-up and data extraction process, pre-defined business rules are automatically applied against the extracted information for validity checking. The extracted data and the invoice image are presented to the AP operator to check validity with the option to correct exceptional invoices. Part of the automated validity checking involves database queries being invoked by Rapid AP to check that the purchase order exists, the supplier details exist in the financial system, and the ABN details are valid.

Once the operator is satisfied that the image, pagination, data extraction and validation is correct, the textual information and images are exported from Rapid AP to Microsoft SharePoint. When the export is complete, an automatic Rapid AP workflow process is then triggered which accesses the information which has been exported to SharePoint. The automated process follows a pre-defined workflow which updates the information stored in SharePoint as appropriate.

Invoices which have been successfully matched to an order or backorder and which have been approved for payment are given a “Ready for Export” status. The credit officer decides when invoices are ready to import into a batch (Document File) within the financial system. Another workflow is then invoked which collects the requested information from SharePoint. The approved requests for payment are then automatically uplifted into the financial system database import table with a pointer to the path and name of the invoice image file. SharePoint is updated to identify which invoices were exported together as a batch to aid in the reconciliation process.

Once posted, the costing transaction retains the image so it can be accessed via the financial system for ease of reference at a later stage.

THE BENEFITS

…Furthermore, the hard copies do not get lost or misplaced anymore, queries by suppliers can be researched and responded to more easily and quickly and supplier ABN details are more closely monitored and updated.
This is very pleasing from a finance perspective in that the financial system actual costing balances are updated sooner as the purchasing branch staff do not have to enter details of all the goods and services in the financial system. The purchaser approval and matching is used to allow the receipting to be done with the order matching and posting in the financial system.

The benefits of Rapid AP Automated Accounts payable were such that Coffs Harbour City Council decided to go into the next phase of automating business processes within Council.

This is the beauty of Rapid AP, it is made to work organisation-wide

commented Dale Allen after the successful Accounts Processing implementation project.

Coffs Harbour City Council are currently in the process of planning additional Rapid AP process automation implementations for Payroll timesheet processing as the next phase in their enterprise-wide process automation strategy.

About Coffs Harbour City Council

Positioned halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, Coffs Harbour is a thriving regional coastal city of around 70,000 residents who enjoy a unique lifestyle created by Coffs Harbour’s geography and climate. Nestled between the coastal slopes of the Great Dividing Range and the 80 kilometres of golden beaches that form its boundaries, Coffs Harbour has gained a reputation as a dynamic and rapidly expanding economic hub.

The city’s status has been recognised by the NSW state government, which has designated Coffs Harbour as a centre for strategic growth, highlighting its economic and social importance to the state.

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