Case Study - Automation of Accounts Payable Process

Automation of Accounts Payable Process

This case study illustrates how EBEX has brainstormed and put a robotic process automation bot for complete automation of accounts payable process thus increasing productivity multifold and reducing error to negligible.

Who was the client

Client

A leading business conglomerate having diverse business presence across Media, Entertainment, Packaging, Infrastructure, Education and many other industries, with worldwide operations (geographically diverse) and a workforce of over 10000 employees with the strength growing day by day.

What was the situation earlier

Existing Process

What were the challenges

The Problem

In the existing AP setup, although workflow is implemented, operations at each stage are manual and the system becomes prone to errors on account of monotonous and repetitive manual nature of job. It not only affects output, performance but also client satisfaction and accuracy/SLA commitments in the events of peak load days. As the processes were manual and involved a lot of paper being circulated around the business for approval. Invoices would often go “missing”.

  • To find an invoice we would need to go to the purchase ledger to find out the unique reference number, we would then have to find the filing cabinet and search for the invoice. It was laborious and a completely inefficient way of working
  • Problems also arose when staff members who approved invoices were out of the office, which caused delays in invoice approvals
  • There was no visibility of where invoices were in the approval system which created problems when suppliers chased for payments.
  • A lot of energy of the business users was going in unnecessary chasing of documents
  • A lot of duplicity of work
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The Scope

To transform existing AP process by right mix of technology intervention delivering a process operating with minimal human intervention and at the same time, which remains high on accuracy and efficiency.

Value Drivers

The Solution

Business process improvement solution suggested by EBEX team

The Approach

  • DMAIC approach
  • Relevant intervention of OCR and RPA
  • Phase wise implementation of transformation journey

EBEX designed and implemented a complete end – to – end system to process and approve invoices via a customised workflow. The approval process allowed approvals of invoices as per the clients defined limits and matrixes. With a manual system it was not possible to track if all the invoices are correctly approved or if some bypass the approval process for some reason. With the new system its easy to track and check every invoice as it flows through the approval process Thus improving controls over expenditure A new solution is designed with the right mix of human and machine, complementing each other. The manual processing is Automated with humans providing the right inputs, handling the exceptions and making machines learn to process same for future handling. OCR captures and digitizes text. The data gets auto-populated in the forms and flags the missing or unreadable information as exceptions and routes tasks to the right people. Each manual intervention improves the completeness. Validated invoice is sent to Accounts Payable for further processing. Here finally RPA further posts the information in the accounting system.

The results achieved

The Challenges

The business at EBEX grew exponentially over the time in last 4 years of its existence. A lot of new clients are added. New laws and statutory requirements were introduced by the government. Clients expectations and demands as their business requirement also increase. All this resulted in :-

  • Increase in Inputs / Information requirements while processing of Invoices. – With the advent of GST new requirements e.g. putting in HSN code, selection of proper CGST / SGST/ IGST tax codes for GST input credits etc
  • Increase in number of Invoices – due to a) Increase in client business b) new clients were onboarded. This was putting pressure on cost as 1) it required to hire more employees and 2) the employee hygiene cost [like workstation, laptops/ desktops, communication etc]
  • Stronger Quality checks and stringent SLA’s were to be maintained. Apart from the above process challenges the following were also observed as challenges :
    • Infrastructure Issues
    • Post-Implementation Adoption
    • Stakeholder Management
    • Multiple system behavioral issue

These challenges were overcome with proper strategy, planning & execution of end to end solution

The results achieved

The Results

  • 99% SLA achievement accuracy
  • More than 70% straight-through processing
  • Improved accuracy and speed of processing
  • Easy handling of large number of invoices
  • Seamless Integration to reduce duplication of effort
  • Automatic routing of invoices for approval and where required to allow user to code based on their area of responsibility
  • Full visibility of documents throughout the process with customisable reporting
  • Improved accuracy and speed of processing
  • Reduction in physical storage requirements as documents are stored electronically
  • Invoice approval on mobile devices

Apart from bringing 60-70% efficiency, there have been both tangible and intangible benefits of deploying BOTs. Few are :-

  • Cost of Agent – The manpower cost is the most visible cost saving area. Along with it savings associated with employee hygiene like staff welfare, workstation cost, communication cost etc have also reduced tremendously
  • Increase in employee satisfaction – Most of the mundane and repetitive tasks are now taken care by the BOTs. Agents now focus more on quality and tackling more complex issues.
  • Reduction in Mistakes – With the repetitive job taken over by the BOTs, the mistake due to human error have been erased. The Algorithm provided have reduced the operational mistakes also and with time this tackling of errors is also getting enriched with time.
  • Time saving – With consistent, faster and non stop processing, there is remarkable improvement in overall turnaround time of the process
  • Revenues Gain – Savings in time due to improved faster processing the opportunities to scale up the business, without any significant increase in manpower and infrastructure, is presenting.

Conclusion

Bandwidth consolation exercise led to a more robust network architecture offering increased reliability to end consumers (entities). Since in the To-Be solution considerable reduction is expected in the number of links therefore it will be easier to manage, maintain and monitor the reduced number of links. Cost optimization of approximately Rs.70Mn is expected through this exercise which is around 35% to 40% of total bandwidth cost.