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ABB expands electronic invoicing capabilities with Unifiedpost Group

The globally active ABB Group is a leader in energy and automation technology. At ABB Germany, all accounting-related services are provided by ABB Business Services GmbH (BIS). In order to continuously increase efficiency, performance and quality, the accounting centre relies on the cooperation with Unifiedpost Group for the expansion of their electronic invoice exchange.

Since 2013, ABB in Germany has utilised Unifiedpost Group’s electronic invoicing services. The company and its five business divisions receive over 600,000 invoices every year; therefore the business required an electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) solution that could cope with the high invoice quantities.

ABB’s process before an e-invoicing solution

Until the introduction of the new e-invoicing solution, suppliers sent paper invoices to ABB as standard. These were scanned and transferred to the ERP system via text recognition systems for further processing by ABB’s Accounts Payable (AP) team. Until then, only 6% of invoices had been sent in a digitalised format. A figure that the team knew could be significantly increased.

The previous standard procedure did not seem suitable for a digitalised process. Among other things, the standard procedures required a high amount of manual effort, which involved time delays and offered limited scope for further optimisation.

ABB BIS therefore decided to opt for an electronic invoicing exchange solution to improve their efficiency.

ABB’s goal: Increase automation and efficiency

"Our aim was to increase the level of automation in order to reduce costs and make processes more efficient," says Franka Strache, Project Manager of e-invoicing ABB Germany. "We also wanted to increase the data quality of the existing e-invoicing system and improve throughput times - for example to increase the discount utilisation rate."

Unifiedpost Group's support

External support was needed to ensure the smooth achievement of objectives. The company obtained offers from several e-invoicing providers and carried out a supplier comparison with existing Unifiedpost Group customers.

“The fact that a number of ABB suppliers were already cooperating with the local area of the business, spoke in favour of Unifiedpost Group," says Strache. "In addition, Unifiedpost Group has a broad network of international partners, so that we can benefit from existing roaming agreements in the future internationalisation of electronic invoice receipt."

After the contract was signed in July 2013, implementation followed and finished by October 2013.

"The suppliers were initially approached via the respective ABB purchasing contacts. We then provided technical advice to the individual suppliers. The existing Unifiedpost Group customers were already onboard anyway. After an ABC analysis based on the document volume, the first step was to connect the A suppliers and those who were already working with us," recalls Unifiedpost Group.

High data and invoice quality

Because Unifiedpost Group's solution can be customised to meet specific customer requirements, it's therefore easy to achieve a high level of data and invoice quality. This is a crucial prerequisite for high automation and short processing times.

It also minimises the amount of manual checking required in-house. For example, mandatory field definitions and number ranges for order numbers can be checked. An initial validation of the invoices in accordance with paragraph §14 UStG is carried out by Unifiedpost Group. If the result of this validation is positive, the structured data record and the invoice image are transferred to ABB. If it fails (validation rules, mandatory fields), the invoice is sent back to the supplier with the corresponding error code. Further validations via mapping tables, for example the reading of keywords, supplement the electronic invoice receipt process and contribute to its efficiency.

Automated processes secure potential savings

"The expansion of e-invoicing will increase the entire invoice receipt process and the automation rate of postings. This saves ABB valuable time and therefore costs," emphasises Jacqueline Sikora, Head of Accounts Payable.

As a result, the use of Unifiedpost Group’s services and the partnership with ABB paid off after just a short time. Plus, the percentage of digitally received invoices has doubled compared to the previous year.

Based on the positive experience, ABB is continuing to drive forward the switch to e-invoicing. New business partners are being connected on an ongoing basis and the first suppliers from other European countries have also been won over by e-invoicing with ABB and Unifiedpost Group.

The case study was originally in German, created by crossinx, the former name of Unifiedpost Germany - the German entity of Unifiedpost Group.