Seeking a cloud-based automation solution that could easily integrate with its existing SAP interface, Albemarle, a developer and manufacturer of specialty chemicals, leveraged an on-demand accounts payable automation solution to bring improved visibility, increased productivity and significant cost-savings to its worldwide invoice processing operation.
Albemarle’s global invoice processing largely takes place at two shared service centers in Dalian and Budapest. These efforts were previously supported by an aging, four-line fax server. Manually processing approximately 13,000 invoices per month in multiple languages had a negative impact on visibility and productivity, and caused a number of other performance issues.
“We were expending a lot of time and resources manually processing our invoices,” said Eric Stratmann, Director of Global MRO Purchasing at Albemarle. “It was very limiting. Staff had to manually type in the invoice number, due date and amount, and getting visibility on invoices without a PO was nearly impossible. Our goal has always been to pay our suppliers in a timely fashion. But it was very challenging.”
Due to an antiquated fax system, state-of-the-art functional capability was also a challenge and was a requirement for any new Accounts Payable (AP) solution. Albemarle’s current fax server wasn’t equipped to be used on a worldwide scale, provide OCR, or create invoices in SAP.
Choosing An Automation Provider
Albemarle initially considered a "quick fix" approach, consisting of replacing the existing fax system but retaining the current process, as well as an outsourced solution where faxes would be delivered to an independent location. Albemarle looked into 4-5 different suppliers but selected the Esker Accounts Payable solution because it delivered the functionality they required at competitive pricing.
“We considered in-house development, but our expertise to provide a quick solution was limited,” said Stratmann. “We ultimately chose Esker because we liked the technology and price, and it fit perfectly with what we needed it for — to act as a gateway for our fax invoices, improve productivity and support email invoices.”
Albemarle has achieved a number of benefits since implementing Esker, including:
- 90 percent electronic processing rate. Utilizing email capability has allowed Albemarle to reduce the number of paper invoices received by mail from 60 percent to 10 percent.
- Higher productivity levels. Albemarle went from running an average of 60 invoice transactions per day per AP processor, to 85 per day per processor (the top processor has reached as high as 200 invoices in a single day).
- Improved employee efficiency. With better visibility and fewer manual tasks, less employees are required to process the same amount of invoices.
- Increased supplier satisfaction. With more time and resources available to dedicate to suppliers, satisfaction levels have improved, which has an effect on cost savings (e.g., ability to negotiate better pricing, etc.).
- Electronic archiving and anytime-access. Esker helps with the electronic archiving of invoices for Albemarle’s 8,500 suppliers globally, freeing up offices and warehouses, and allowing Albemarle to easily access those invoices from the same platform.
"Our implementation of Esker represents a significant step forward for our company as we continue our drive for global process improvement," said Stratmann. "Having full OCR and the ability to post invoices in SAP, and see them with 100 percent visibility, has had a significant impact on our company's overall success."