That’s enough – the logistics industry needs to change.

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The logistics industry needs to change.

I know, its contentious, but I’ve said it. Logistics as an industry needs to change. I’ve met far too many businesses in this industry that are still using the processes and systems that were put in 20 years ago, that should have been replaced by something less manual. It’s not just the workers or revenue that suffers from repetitive and clunky fulfillment but the customer expects better, especially in an age where you can order something today, and track it all the way to your front door by tomorrow.

I don’t think it’s the big bucks

The reason for the lack of change? Well there’s a few, but it’s certainly not the lack of spend in the market. In 2018 US, companies spent $1.5 trillion on logistical expenses! That’s 8% of the entire US GDP*. In my opinion, the main reason for the lack of change is the concern on implementing modern systems, integrating them with back office processes and the disruption to the supply chain. It’s not like a business can stop for a few days to change systems and then deal with the consequences for up to months on end (I’ve seen this too). But what if there was a solution that could automate your processes to meet and exceed customer expectations, with no change to your processes, no interruption to your supply chain, no corrections needed downstream and with a cost of a few cents a document?

Here’s how you can automate and accelerate your freight invoice processing – a relatively simple but dramatic improvement to processes, using lite touch technology, without business interruption.

Freight invoice processing can be tedious and challenging, and often exacerbated by the dependence on OCR systems or manual keying data from an invoice. The struggle is real – its a labor intensive process and is prone to high error rates when capturing data. Everyone accepts this, recognizes that automating these processes is the key to improve processing times, maintaining customer satisfaction and to removing resource heavy processes from employees daily tasks.

Accurate, efficient and saving your time and money

If my comments in the paragraph above resonate then you should consider Universal Capture from CloudTrade.

We’ve expanded our technology stack and now provide a one-stop solution that automates the capture process for all types of freight invoices – digital files and image files and high or low volumes, with optimized accuracy.

It’s the only solution on the market, with a comprehensive rules engine, that can be tailored to your business’s exact requirements and it meshes perfectly with any ERP or TMS.

Send an email – is that it?

CloudTrade Universal Capture is the leading choice when it comes to capturing data as it removes the entry and engagement barriers of entry to use the solution – we guarantee high supplier adoption. All your customers need to do is send their Freight Invoice to a specific email address which CloudTrade sets up, then in the background we work our magic (well it’s science really, but that’s not quite as exciting), by capturing the data and validating it against your bespoke requirements using our world class rules engine. Then augmenting the data as required and submitting it into your systems automatically. If there is something amiss, its flagged before it enters the system, ensuring your business gets the right data every time 24 hours per day, 365 days per year – often processed and returned to you in minutes.

We know that accuracy is so important to our freight logistics customers because of the cost of rectifying mistakes downstream through the payment or audit process. Delivery failures, cost of returns and correcting volume or load board order errors is costly, and these days, unnecessary expense when the data is easy to capture.

All invoices are welcome!

The struggle for most businesses is trying to apply a ‘one-size fits all solution’ to their system or processes, even though invoices are received in different document types and volumes per supplier. With Universal capture, all invoice types and other documents are welcome, and the solution can be configured to handle a wide range of file types and sizes; when it comes to the processing of the data, we manage single page and multi-page document sets containing both data and images and separate these into single document sets to minimize human intervention and maximize data accuracy.

Universal Capture offers one inbound channel for all types of documents and can validate, sort and process those documents synchronously for organizations to upload into their TMS. Other types of documents are welcome too, from invoices to orders to carrier receipts to the large PDF invoice sets sent out by the larger carriers (we regularly process a 1500-page document into separate shipments for one of our customers).

But how is that actually possible?

So, we’ll let you in to our secret box of tricks. To get the job done, Universal Capture works by being versatile when processing data from different files. With high supplier invoice volumes, CloudTrade can guarantee 100% data accuracy by setting up a standard set of logic rules for data capture for that supplier. The data capture then follows the same rules for each invoice transmitted through CloudTrade, these rules are managed by CloudTrade support to maintain completely accurate data capture, even if the invoice design were to change.

Image files, while less commonly used, are still an important part of data capture and something that Universal Capture can process. Despite image files not containing a data layer (so characters are interpreted rather than extracted), CloudTrade can still offer accuracy levels of around 90%, as we use the same rules technology to check what we have captured – at the time of capture. If we can’t validate the captured data against your requirements, we will send it to our intervention portal where you can fix the problem and resubmit it for processing. Just to be clear some manual correction may be required with image files, but we can help with that to. We can set automated messaging encouraging the suppliers to submit digital files to help improve the accuracy of their data capture and we have found that most will do this if they can get their invoice paid faster!

Finally, for suppliers with low volumes of inbound invoices and documents, CloudTrade Universal Capture can use its learned experience from other invoice types to extract a generic set of the data. Once again, this will eliminate most of the human intervention that is typically required when it comes to processing documents.

Document automation during COVID

We know that these are uncertain times for businesses, but one thing is clear, the trucks will keep on rolling and goods still need to be moved quickly and reliably. In the midst of the current pandemic, human intervention in these processes has, for some organizations, been a challenge and in some cases, it was just not possible with a home-based workforce. The good news is that we were able to help. Our technology is delivered as SaaS, accessed via the web and our portal is accessible from all well-known browsers. We have been able to offer an enhanced service to our clients for their home based workers that guaranteed high capture rates and access to our intervention screens for any data capture or mapping issues – now if only you had known that 3 months ago!

With Universal Capture from CloudTrade, you could use just one solution for all inbound freight and other documents, with implementation in as little as two weeks. Within 15 mins, you can find out how we can help your business and we’ll prove our solution works.

Go on, book in 15 mins with us, it could be the first step to an automation reality.

*Flock Freight (2018) For the Love of Logistics

Intelligent Ocean Freight Invoice Processing

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Aerial view container ship carrying container in import export business logistic and transportation of international by container ship in the open sea.

Ocean freight invoice processing is a very manual process for many companies, primarily because they rely on keying in data from paper invoices, or using legacy OCR systems that have limited functionality and accuracy.

An ocean freight invoice is a lengthy but important document in the shipping supply chain. It documents the breakdown of items shipped including relevant product coding’s, shipment details and costs involved in the shipment.

Manual Data Entry and Legacy OCR
Without a comprehensive freight invoice, customs officials will not accept the shipment. As a result of document complexity, ocean freight invoice processing is an intensively manual process for many companies, primarily because they rely on keying in data from paper invoices or using legacy OCR scanning solutions that have limited functionality and accuracy.

Minimal Manual Interaction
The challenge for many TMS solution providers is to find a system that can capture all the requisite data on an ocean freight invoice, withing minutes, and then validate the  data in an efficient manner  – with minimal or no manual interaction, to reduce the traditional manual capture model.

New Technology with 100% Accuracy
But good news Freight Invoice Processers! The technology needed to capture invoice data with 100% data accuracy IS available and exists RIGHT NOW. It is available as a SaaS Cloud based service and at a fraction of the price it’s probably costing you to process your invoices today! 

Is this your current operating model?

Legacy data extraction processes are out of date

Most current data extraction methods use OCR solutions to interpret the data on a freight invoice – this is likely to be a result of a decision taken some time ago when OCR software was the only option. The key term used for OCR is “interpret”, because it converts the document to an image of the invoice and then extracts the data based on what it thinks is there. Accuracy rates for OCR systems range from 70 – 90% but cannot offer 100% completely accurate capture.

Validation Uses Up Resources
On top of that, any freight invoice that has been captured in this manner has to be validated manually to identify errors and inconsistencies. OCR doesn’t have the flexibility to deal with fields moving over the page and inconsistent invoice page lengths.

CloudTrade technology has changed the game.

Data Extraction with 100% accuracy AND validation
All companies can provide an electronic format invoice (PDF, EDI, CSV, DOC, XLS), often sent via email to the buyer. CloudTrade’s unique technology can open the invoice and extract the data exactly as it was input by the vendor – that means the data extracted for entry to your ERP or TMS is 100% accurate.

Validation at the Point of Capture
CloudTrade also processes and validates the data at point of capture, to your pre-set business rules, within minutes of receipt. Suppliers send their freight invoices to a designated email address, the invoice is processed in the cloud by CloudTrade, and the data is then sent to you for input to your ERP or TMS.

Touchless Solution
Our solution is completely “touchless” and allows you to process freight invoices quickly and efficiently without manual keying or all the manual correction and validation required with OCR systems. If an invoice is sent and doesn’t fulfil your data criteria, it is sent to the CloudTrade portal whereby you can review the data before it is sent and ingested into your ERP or TMS system. 

What about your suppliers? They benefit too.

  • No cost for suppliers to use the service – no infrastructure changes or software is required
  • No change to existing processes – just keep sending an email with the invoice attached
  • Freight invoices are processed, and paid, in a more time-efficient manner

That’s why on-boarding rates for suppliers using CloudTrade is around 95%. 

Find out more about how you can process freight invoices more efficiently or to arrange a free demo, contact us today

Air Freight Invoice Processing Methods – Expect 100% Data Accuracy

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Air freight invoice processing can be a challenge for many organizations that need to accurately capture the invoice data for their TMS or ERP. Here’s a high level overview how companies are currently extracting freight invoice information along with how changes in technology are allowing for more precise data capture.

Paper – Manual Data Entry

Paper has always been the traditional method for air freight invoice submission. Many smaller organizations still extract the data using manual data entry because of the complexity of the invoice. Associated resource costs and manual error rates can be high.

Paper – Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

OCR is the most popular method :  paper is scanned and converted to an electronic format that can be accepted into a TMS or ERP. However, the inherent inaccuracies of even the most advanced OCR technologies require AP staff to validate the data with manual intervention. Accuracy rates are in the 80-95% range.

Email – Image PDF Files or Scanned Invoices

PDF image files require the same level of processing and manual intervention as described above for OCR, with the same manual validation and accuracy rates as OCR. This includes freight invoice file formats output by a scanner such as PNG, JPG or TIFF.

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)

EDI is the exchange of EDI documentation (EDI or XML files) using standardized languages transferred through internet protocols (FTP, HTTP or AS1, 2 and 4) between transacting organizations. Because the adoption of this system requires complete business process change and specialist resources, this method is often adopted by larger organizations that have an infrastructure to support EDI. EDI has 100% data accuracy rates.

The disadvantage for EDI is that supplier adoption is low because the technical, process and financial constraints encourage suppliers to continue to send paper freight invoices.

Invoice Portals

Invoice portals are often used by larger organizations to get suppliers to submit their air freight invoices directly into the buyer’s TMS or ERP. They’re not particularly popular and paper freight invoices continue to be sent to buyers.

That’s because portals require a supplier to export a freight invoice from their ERP and then raise the invoice all over again within the portal. Often the supplier must download a program to use and pay for the service, all of which are disincentives. Accuracy rates are dependent on manual entry.

Email – Data PDF Files – 100% Validated Data

One of the most inexpensive options for both buyers and sellers is extracting data from a PDF for air freight invoice processing. The data extraction is accurate because there is no “interpretation” of the data, as you would have in OCR.

CloudTrade extracts data from air freight invoices in electronic formats such as PDF, EDI, DOC, and HTML between a supplier and buyer via email with 100% data accuracy. This is done with patented cloud software that converts emailed invoices to EDI or XML files that are integrated directly into a buyer’s TMS or ERP.

Development of software that utilizes AI (artificial intelligence) languages and protocols maps the extractable data layer of the invoice. Validation occurs at the point of capture so manual intervention is unnecessary and the technology has a 100% data accuracy rate.

Find out more how CloudTrade helps its partners and customers seamlessly capture air freight invoice data with 100% data accuracy, without manual intervention and with no cost to suppliers here.

OCR and AI for Parcel Freight Invoice Processing

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OCR is still predominately used for parcel freight invoice processing (invoices in either paper, PDF or image files format), turning the information on the invoice into data that can be integrated directly into a buyer’s TMS or ERP.

But even though technological advances have reduced the errors encountered with OCR technology, there will always be an inherent percentage of error in OCR that requires the information be validated or enriched manually. So not only does OCR require manual resources, it also needs defined process steps to make sure you capture and validate the data you need.

It’s claimed that the best OCR on the market is 80-90% accurate. That means you’re going to have to touch every invoice you process to validate that data.

That’s because OCR “reads” information on a freight invoice as an image. It is not a direct transfer of data, which means that a small percentage of essential and crucial information could get “lost in translation”.

Bad data is not good data

Bad data entering your TMS or ERP means your decisions in the audit/payment lifecycle can be at risk, exposing you to issues such as payment delays, fraud, and non-compliance with regulations like tax and customs requirements.

There’s also the question of the SLA’s you have for processing a freight invoice or document chain such as the Order, BOL, POD and Invoice. Whether it’s a few fields you require or external documentation for reference information, it all adds up to substantial delays in processing a freight invoice.

The good news is that advances in AI and capture technologies gives you 100% accuracy in data capture from freight invoices and associated documents, with the data validated at the point of capture.

The majority of freight invoices are PDFs containing a data layer that AI capture software can access. So where OCR is interpretive, AI capture software extracts invoice data directly. And when you write specific business rules to interpret, amend and augment the data you create other efficiencies in the process that OCR just can’t compete with.

At no cost, suppliers send their freight invoices as a PDF to a specific email address, where all the data elements are extracted and validated against defined business rules and delivered to your TMS, payment and back office systems.

That means the invoice data going into your TMS or ERP is precisely what is on the invoice. No further validation is required and invoices are processed within minutes after receipt. That frees up time and resources for your organization.

Find out more about how CloudTrade can boost the efficiency of your parcel freight invoice processing.

Why Smarter Freight Payments Begin With The Invoice

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Money drives any business, but in the freight and logistics market, business cannot occur until funds are moved. Considering how crucial seamless freight payments are in the market, it’s concerning that issues like payment delays, errors and fraud remain so prevalent.

These issues can be traced to the industry’s complex nature, coupled with its ongoing use of legacy technologies that fail to deliver the accuracy and speed business partners need to conduct business. CloudTrade Logistics Vice President Roger Hatfield told PYMNTS in a recent interview that freight and logistics is “an industry driven by payments.” But to fix problems with B2B freight payments, solution providers must begin with the invoice.

In addition to being one of the first steps in initiating payment, the invoice holds key information that both sides of a transaction need to move money (and goods) efficiently. Today, however, the logistics sector continues to rely on paper invoices, manual data entry, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technologies.

“In the logistics vertical, a significant portion of freight invoices are processed using traditional EDI,” Hatfield said. “However, there is still a lot of paper being processed, due to a lack of resources for EDI projects – and the invoice volume is also too low. The accuracy of OCR solutions is not acceptable, and the fees for outsourced data entry continue to increase.”

The most immediate implications of a lack of efficient digital data exchange between two business partners in this industry include a customer’s delayed payment to a service provider, as well as the service provider failing to efficiently reconcile payments received.

But Hatfield explained that the knock-on impacts of this data bottleneck go deeper.

Data Bottlenecks, Business Delays

“If you’re capturing bad data, then all your decisions in the payment lifecycle can be at risk,” he said. “OCR or manual data capture is slow and often ridden with errors, and the complexity of some freight invoices means you only have time to capture a fraction of the information that’s contained on an invoice. This is all valuable data.”

This shortcoming exposes businesses throughout the supply chain to issues like payment delays and even fraud, due to the inability for companies to two- or three-way match an invoice against a purchase order or delivery documentation. It can also lead to non-compliance with rules and regulations like tax and customs requirements, which Hatfield said is “one of the biggest challenges to the industry today.”

Even when companies invest significant resources in developing compliance programs and establishing their systems and processes to remain compliant, a lack of accurate, timely data means mistakes can be easily made – no matter how many control points are in place.

Shippers relying on supply chain financing, factoring or dynamic discounting solutions also stand to lose significantly as a result of inaccurate or delayed invoice data, noted Hatfield.

“Since the invoice discount rate is driven by the age of the invoice, the processing cycle is critical,” he said.

Faster (Accurate) Invoices, Faster Payments

In B2B payments, it’s common sense that the faster an invoice is sent and received, the faster a payment can be initiated. While that’s not always the case as companies delay supplier payments to hold onto capital for as long as possible, Hatfield said there are tangible benefits to “invoice velocity,” as CloudTrade described it, including the ability for a supplier to be paid as well as the opportunity for a buyer to access early payment discounts.

Once again, data emerges as a valuable asset when it comes to faster invoicing, he continued, thanks to the ability to manage complex shipment invoices – which can contain multiple bills – in datasets for individual processing. In other words, faster invoicing means faster data analytics when companies deploy the right technology.

In CloudTrade’s case, that comes in the form of its digital invoice processing platform for the freight industry, announced earlier this month. The solution aims to deliver automated data capture and analytics while allowing industry players to continue the practice of sending PDF invoices by email. Hatfield also noted that the platform is more accurate than legacy OCR technology, and invoices can be processed in a matter of hours.

Key to the success of any automated solution is the availability of custom features, including support for unique business rules to promote compliance. And while faster invoicing and automated data capture are essential to accelerating B2B payments in the market, Hatfield emphasized the importance of the broader implications of seamless invoicing, payments and movement of data in the freight and logistics market, from compliance and fraud risk mitigation to quicker access to working capital and a more holistic view of business spend.

“Using CloudTrade, they can process files and payments faster than ever before, but more importantly, identify and capture incorrect spend from the detail on complicated invoices,” he said.

By PYMNTS Posted on February 28, 2019

Why we’re building CloudTrade Logistics

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In January this year, we launched CloudTrade Logistics, our solution that helps US carriers, freight audit and freight technology companies get 100% validated data from freight invoices with no OCR or human intervention. As we approach the end of Q1, it’s an opportune time to provide an update on how we’re getting on.

The importance of payments to freight cannot be underestimated. Few things slow business quicker than the late administration and execution of payments. Given the challenges that technology has been able to solve in other sectors, it’s hard to understand why such an integral part of the supply chain still suffers from a large number of problems. These problems lead to delays, errors, compliance risks and, in the end, costs.

We launched CloudTrade Logistics to solve these problems. By integrating invoice processing and digital data exchange for all parts of the US freight industry, we enable companies to overcome inefficient methods of freight invoice processing, giving them the opportunity to transact digitally with trading partners, regardless of size, maturity or complexity. Our users include logistics companies, business process outsourcing firms and freight payment providers who needed an alternative to EDI and OCR to process and capture data. The list of potential users is long and the potential for cost savings across the industry is great.

We believe that our solution is different from anything else on offer in the freight industry, for three reasons.

1. 100% compliant validated data –

We offer 100% compliant, validated data because our product allows our users to create custom-designed business rules and validations that run on the vendor supplied invoice; we don’t mistake an ‘I’ or ‘L’ for a ‘1’ which ensures the data we deliver is 100% accurate data. We remove the issues with incorrect data appearing in data fields such as Tax or VAT, account code or depot location data fields and when this is combined with our rules engine we can put in place controls to ensure that the PO is included and referenced on the invoice, that the PO is valid and sufficient funds available to pay the invoice and in some cases that the item/ship codes are correct – all of this helps the back office matching processes in TMS, ERPs and different finance systems.

A key risk for any business is collecting and using bad data. Audit and payment processes can be put at risk and an inability to process payments quickly can lead to problems with carriers and shippers. Even if a company uses compliance programs and systems that guarantee they remain compliant for tax and customs requirements, if the problem occurs at source, where data is inaccurately collected, mistakes will be made. This can lead to a delay in payment, increased audit activities and extra expense – and it’s one reason why CloudTrade Logistics is so useful for our customers.

2. Our solution is powerful –

Our unique approach to data capture means we are able to collect a large amount of data from an invoice. Most organisations make do with capturing “header-level” data only. But we go beyond this, capturing as much (or as little) information as our customers require, giving them the data they need for their back office systems and with the added benefit of being able to understand their detailed spend profiles. This means a company can process files and payments faster than ever before, whilst longer term, identifying and capturing incorrect spend from the detail on complicated invoices.

3. Our solution is fast and transparent –

We designed our solution to increase ‘Inbound Invoice Velocity’, which is a positive for all parties, as it means that payments can be made earlier, early payment discounts can be applied and cash/working capital can be made available immediately. Using CloudTrade Logistics also means that an invoice is always visible through the capture process, from when it’s been received, converted and then sent to the back office system.

Our solution can convert complex multi-bill carrier/shipment invoices into unique document sets for separate processing in the back-office systems; we can work with a single multipage document containing 1,000’s of pages, or process multiple files contained on one email – we haven’t failed a challenge yet!  We know, it can take a manual operator using a key-to-screen or OCR solution up to 30 minutes to capture the data on a multi page shipment or complicated invoice. CloudTrade Logistics completes this task in a matter of seconds.

Our solution is built upon our unique Gramatica technology and it offers 100% accuracy for most major carriers. Further, it’s also the first solution of its kind to allow freight payment providers, third-party logistics and business process outsourcing partners to increase efficiencies, cut operational costs and increase throughput, by doing away with the manual or OCR processing of PDF and paper invoices which invariably produce errors.

Global ambitions

We have recently launched the product into the freight and logistics market, and it’s been received very positively. We’ve seen an increase in new enquiries, our carrier reach is expanding and we have been working with our existing clients in the industry to help them increase ‘invoice velocity’.

Our plans for the future of CloudTrade Logistics include pushing further into the US. In time, we’re also looking to build upon our existing offering, enabling clients to process other complex documents that need rules and validations running against them. But that’s for the future.

For now, we’ve been delighted with the positive response we’ve had from US users and we look forward to working with them throughout the rest of 2019. Our focus will be on working with key partners and helping as many users in the freight and logistics industry as possible, providing a simple, best-in-class technological solution to a problem that we feel should have been fixed a long time ago.

CloudTrade launches CloudTrade Logistics

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  • CloudTrade launches freight invoice processing solution, offering 100% accuracy for all major carriers

LONDON and NEW YORK, February 14, 2019: CloudTrade, the leading provider of e-invoicing, e-order and complex data capture services, today announced the launch of CloudTrade Logistics, a bespoke solution, tailor-made for the freight and logistics sector.

Built on CloudTrade’s unique, patented Gramatica technology and offering 100% accuracy for most major carriers; CloudTrade Logistics enables companies to overcome inefficient methods of freight invoice processing, to transact digitally with their trading partners, regardless of their size or technical maturity.

CloudTrade Logistics is the first solution of its type to enable freight payment providers, third-party logistics (3PLs) and business process outsourcing partners (BPOs) to increase efficiencies, slash operational costs and increase throughput, by eliminating the processing of PDF and paper invoices.  

Roger Hatfield, VP at CloudTrade Logistics, says: “CloudTrade’s patent-protected software uses unique rules-based technology, with backward tracking search, to interpret, validate, and extrapolate semantic meaning from complex documents, of any type. So, whether it’s freight invoices, sales and purchase orders or advanced shipping notices, CloudTrade processes them automatically. Any of these documents can be used to integrate key supply chain data for improved landed costs analysis and reporting analytics.

“If you are a supplier or sender, we simply leverage technology that you’re already using – email – at no cost.  For a buyer or receiver, freight invoices are delivered via your preferred approach – email, SFTP, HTTPS, FTP – and are available for download from our on-line portal. Once CloudTrade’s cloud-based data hub receives the PDF invoice, we extract all the necessary data elements and deliver them into your transportation management (TMS), payment and back office systems.”

CloudTrade Logistics delivers benefits to both sides of the trading relationship, from cost reduction, to increased control. Improving the ability to pay on time, increasing visibility and transparency within your business. Suppliers can produce their freight invoices in an easy and non-disruptive way. Removing the need for changes to their applications, infrastructure or internal processes. Unlike traditional EDI, CloudTrade doesn’t require any additional technical resources.

Cecil Bryan, President of the Logistics Alliance Network, adds: “Due to the nature of machine generated PDFs, a format that almost all supplier systems can produce, freight invoices in the PDF format can easily be mapped into an XML or EDI file – ensuring accuracy of the data. With this approach and CloudTrade’s patented technology, a carrier no longer has any barriers to sending digital data, which means the onboarding process is very quick and efficient.

“With CloudTrade logistics, the invoice data can easily be delivered into your freight payment or back office system for processing in a file format that meets your needs, quickly and efficiently. Enabling users to send and receive tax and VAT compliant invoices, that are processed at 100% accuracy, at a line level detail and at a fraction of the cost.”

Early payment discounts and the invoicing solution

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Roger Hatfield, Vice President Cloudtrade Logistics,  North America discusses the benefits e-invoicing can bring to accessing early payment discounts in the US.

In early spring of 2018, interesting news came in from across the pond with the publication of the first edition of the UK Government’s new ‘name & shame’ report on late supplier payments. The good news is that just under half of all the invoices that were reported on, were paid within 30 days, but there were serial offenders, who made their suppliers hang on for 31+ days and longer.

While Europe is ahead of the USA with their e-invoicing initiatives, the figures shows that only 25% of the companies, who were reported on, offered e-Invoicing. What happened to the rest? Why aren’t they taking advantage of e-invoicing to manage their supplier payments? And what lessons can we learn for us here in the US?

My view is that while many organisations appreciate the problem of late payments, and the knock-on effects it can have on their supply chain they cannot change their modus operandi: they are hamstrung by their current systems, practices and processes and cannot make any change in the short or medium term due to help erase late payments. This is a global problem.

Missed Early Payment Discounts

It’s clear that the UK and US markets are different in their approach to supplier’s payments; with the UK using more traditional ‘direct’ banking methods to pay their suppliers; whilst, in the USA, a lot of organizations still use cheques but there is also a wealth of payment providers who provide a multitude of solutions from invoice receipt/processing, online vendor/supplier payment portals and invoice automation to help manage the payment process.

But I do wonder how many organizations are able to take advantage of the hard earned, and negotiated, early payment discounts (EPDs) from their suppliers?  Many of the payment solutions on offer in the US allow organizations to keep their existing bank relationships and pay suppliers by ACH, check, virtual cards and credit cards in a faster time frame than would normally be achieved by processing in-house. Using a payment provider can slash processing costs by up to 50% or more and gives a business’s accounts payment function full visibility into payment status and approvals. But what about those EPDs?

An opportunity for EPD gains

In comparison to the UK, the USA is streets ahead when it comes to paying suppliers – The Paystream Advisors 2016 Data Capture and Mailroom Technology Insight Report stated that nearly 92 percent of invoices received electronically are paid on time, compared to only 45 percent when invoices are received in paper form.

In my view this is where the problem lies – the Federal Reserve states that currently only 25% of US invoices are electronic, so that’s 75% of all US invoices being processed by other means – a huge opportunity for efficiency and EPD gains.

We know that reducing your Days Payment Outstanding (DPO) helps support your supply chain partners, and that shortening your DPO could provide additional margin to your bottom-line and improve your cashflow – so where is the problem?

The cost of OCR

Well, let’s consider the 75% of invoices that aren’t electronic – these will include, paper, PDF and other electronic forms, outside the traditional EDI or network-based channels.  A proportion of these invoices will have been outsourced for processing by an optical character recognition (OCR), mailroom or payments provider, who will provide invoice capture, management, and integration services to give users an end-to-end payables solution.

The attraction of this approach is that it gives organizations one solution for all their AP processing needs – no matter what format invoices are received. The service provider will typically process the documents using OCR, which means that every electronic document received is converted into an image for OCR processing.

We know that OCR is normally okay, when every invoice we receive is in the same format, size and the data fields remain in the same places on the image. But, suppliers tend to send complex documents, across multiple pages and with specific line item detail, which you need to process into your back-office systems to manually or automatically perform the 2/3 three-way match. This is where the costs mount up, as it is very likely that every processed invoice will need to be reviewed manually because the suppliers ‘standard’ invoice format changes dynamically with the addition of multiple lines and pages. An alternative approach that the majority of organisations use  is just to capture the header level and totals from the invoice, without the requisite line level detail, but this doesn’t help you understand your spend at a granular level and is exactly the data that you need for financial/supplier reporting purposes and to be able to claim those ‘hard negotiated’ early payment discounts.

Remember that every time your OCR or mailroom provider looks at, and corrects, an invoice, it is likely to cost you money – if the document is already electronic why convert it in the first place?

Could ‘true’ e-invoicing be the answer?

With the latest e-invoicing technology suppliers don’t have to do anything different. It allows them to simply create their invoice, convert it to a PDF and email it to a named email address. The technology uses the original invoice and extracts the data (100%) from the PDF and puts it straight into the buyer’s finance package. Simple.

More importantly, the supplier doesn’t have to pay or log into a portal. All they need to do is ensure their invoice is produced as a PDF (which their own finance package is able to do for them) and then email it over. For the buyer, the time-consuming process of keying and rekeying and matching line level detail in data is removed. There are no more paper invoices to hold on to, or potentially lose. The data is all held electronically.

As well as saving money on accounts payable processing costs, this simple approach means the invoice data is presented back to the payments system in real time. Immediately after it has been processed successfully, it will be in the payments systems, typically within 1-5 minutes of receipt, including full line level detail.

The latest e-invoicing technology can also apply validation against key data provided by the users and business rules can be applied against other key data fields on the invoice – such as rejecting invoices that don’t contain a PO number.

There is no doubt that e-invoicing provides the foundations that allow organisations, of all shapes and sizes, to put automation and controls around their invoice to payment function. Increasing their ability to pay on time, understanding what they are spending at a granular level and helping them reap the rewards of those EPDs.

Isn’t it about time you thought about how this could affect your organisation and the bottom line?

This article was published by EBN Online.

Unique 100% accurate data capture for invoice automation.

CloudTrade gets US and Australian patents for data extraction software

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In 2017, CloudTrade, the leading provider of cloud based e-invoicing and e-document processing services, announced that its proprietary document data extraction software had been awarded a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. Patent No. US 20130318110 A1).

The patent covers CloudTrade’s Gramatica software, which uses unique artificial intelligence (AI) rules with backward tracking search, to interpret, validate, and extrapolate semantic meaning from documents of any type; examples include invoices, sales and purchase orders and advanced shipping notices. CloudTrade’s Gramatica software is now protected by lasting patents in Europe, the U.S. and Australia.

CEO, David Cocks, commented: “CloudTrade is committed to developing innovative software solutions and this patent demonstrates the novelty of our approach to document data extraction. Using Gramatica, we have solved an old problem of how to get a computer to interpret a human-readable document by matching patterns using AI and this means we can automate document processing saving – time, money and paper.

“80% of all invoicing in the U.S. is still paper-based, so we are extremely excited to bring our unique approach to the U.S. At CloudTrade. We recognize that the biggest obstacle to e-invoicing and e-document processing is getting vendors to adopt, that is why CloudTrade, and our technology, is built firmly on the premise that it should be free for vendors, easy to use and non-disruptive – only then will vendors move away from paper.”

CloudTrade’s office in Boston, Massachusetts was set up to satisfy the increasing demand for its solutions in the North American markets.

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