Each morning, when the accounts payable team arrived at the office, a staff member could count on spending hours just shuffling paper. Processing a batch of invoices took a little over a day, when it could have taken less than an hour using a document management or enterprise content management (ECM) system.
This was the situation a few years ago at Comfort Systems USA, a national provider of heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) services.A staffer had to open and photocopy the invoices, then sort and distribute them for approval. The original would go in a filing cabinet. Once it was paid, it moved to a different cabinet. That paper-based process had to happen almost 4,000 times every month, as invoices arrived via mail, email and through the company’s FTP site.
Clearly, Comfort Systems needed to find a way to streamline its invoice processing for accounts payable, as well as payroll and receivable invoice creation and distribution.
The organization was looking for a document management or enterprise content management (ECM) system that would allow it to:
▪ Eliminate paper-based workflows and lost documents
▪ Speed up invoice distribution
▪ Reduce manual tasks and allow employees to focus on higher-level tasks
Implementing Digital Document Management
After evaluating several options, Comfort Systems implemented a digital document management system and installed one Kodak scanner and five multi-function devices to round out its scanning needs.
In the new workflow, paper invoices are scanned into the document management system at the front desk as they come in. Meanwhile, electronic invoices received via email and the company’s FTP site are automatically imported into the system for indexing. Instead of time-consuming manual data entry, Comfort Systems employees simply point and click on different parts of the electronic document to index it by work-order number, invoice number, invoice date and amount.
The results are remarkable: By moving to an electronic workflow, the accounting team is able to process a batch of invoices in less than an hour — compared to a day with paper-based processes.
“This increase in productivity allows us to both pay our vendors and bill our customers more quickly,” says Julie Priest, controller for Comfort Systems.
While the ECM system was originally implemented to improve accounts payable, the payroll and accounts receivable departments soon adopted it as well.
The accounts receivable department now creates invoices with its accounting software, then uses ECM to automatically index, store and route them for approval using an electronic stamp. The operations manager has all the billing information at his fingertips when approving each invoice and releasing it to be sent to the customer.
“We service large corporate accounts that have specific requirements for receiving invoices,” Priest says. ECM allows staff members to meet these different requirements in an efficient, automated manner. Staff members are able to quickly create an electronic packet of backup information to accompany each invoice, and instantly email, print or upload the documents to a web portal, depending on the customer’s specifications.
3 Benefits Of Comfort Systems’ New ECM Solution
For Comfort Systems, the benefits of switching to ECM continue to grow. Here are the three main improvements the organization has seen since implementing the new systems:
- Greater efficiency through electronic workflows: Automating paper-based workflows gave Comfort Systems new efficiencies, providing transparency and ensuring no documents are ever lost.
Staff members are able to look up a document in so many different ways that it’s easy to answer questions. Digitally placing annotations on a document ensures that any staff member has all the information necessary to resolve an issue and improve their customer’s experience.
The time and energy saved also gives employees the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and pursue professional and personal growth.
- Better customer service due to short document retrieval times: Adopting a digital workflow with electronic stamps has sped company processes, allowing both invoices to be distributed faster and suppliers to be paid quicker. This has resulted in better cash flow and the ability to take advantage of early payment discounts.
- Increased office space: Comfort Systems has been able to reduce paper and printing costs and remove 20 to 30 filing cabinets, freeing up the former file room to become new office space.
In the end, implementing an ECM solution has resulted in dramatic improvements for Comfort Systems, from accounts payable to payroll, helping the company become more successful. “All of these new efficiencies are helping us to grow in a healthy way,” Priest says.
Ready to learn more about successfully implementing an ECM solution at your organization? Read our free e-book, An ECM Insider’s Guide: The 7 Factors For Success.