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Evonik extends its successful e-invoicing switch to other markets

Evonik is one of the world's leading specialty chemicals companies. From its headquarters in Germany, Evonik manages its activities for more than 100 countries around the globe. Profitable growth and a sustainable increase in corporate value are the two most important pillars for Evonik's successful future.

In Germany alone, Evonik receives around 1.2 million invoices per year via a central invoice receipt system. 38 employees ensure the invoices are processed promptly. In doing so, they must take into account tax and legal requirements as well as being able to account for them in both internal and external audits.

Until a few years ago, the invoices, which were exclusively paper-based, were prepared for scanning immediately after receipt, and were then passed through OCR (optical character recognition) processing. Evonik's entire invoice verification and recognition process is mapped via an SAP and Lotus Notes-supported workflow system.

Outgoing invoices are not issued centrally, but via the respective business units in Sales. The team enters orders, writes the corresponding outgoing invoices, and then transfers them to packing and dispatch.

Archaic processes stand in the way of efficient invoice processing

In order to improve efficiency, Evonik needed to introduce a new method to deal with all the manual processes. Existing processes, plus OCR solutions, only offered limited scope for efficient and optimal processing.

"Receiving invoices by post always involves delays in the mail or even the risk of losing documents," points out Dr. Frank Schersinger, Head of Current Account at Evonik. "In addition, the invoices must first be prepared for digital archiving in manual steps, for example by removing staples or adjusting the paper format."

The inquiry from individual suppliers as to whether they could transmit their invoices electronically finally provided Evonik the prompt for action.

Sustainable future with electronic processes

"We initially observed the market for electronic invoice processing for quite some time," recalls Dr. Frank Schersinger. "When it became clear that electronic invoicing was not just a flash in the pan, but a future-proof, efficient process alternative, we put various electronic invoicing providers to the test in a series of workshops in 2009. The choice quickly fell on Unifiedpost Group," adds Bernadette Hampl, Head of Invoice Verification.

This was partly due to Unifiedpost Group's global approach and involvement in numerous national and European associations, which underlined the business' global longevity. After all, an electronic invoicing solution should suit long term processes on an international scale.

From September to November 2009, Unifiedpost Group and Evonik implemented the technical interface and connected Evonik's telephone provider as a pilot supplier. Subsequently, Unifiedpost Group took over the connection of the most important suppliers.

"We chose the right solution for each company according to its size and technical requirements. This allowed us to smoothly integrate suppliers with a wide range of requirements and prerequisites," explains Unifiedpost Group.

At the end of 2009, both the electronic receipt of supplier invoices and electronic billing in the credit note procedure successfully went live.

To date, Evonik’s 200 largest suppliers have integrated with the new process. For the suppliers who have switched to e-invoicing, the time-consuming additional activities such as scan preparation, scanning and OCR processing are no longer necessary.

Evonik can also ensure invoices are transmitted in the appropriate format and on the exact date, which then flows directly into the further processing procedure. There are no media breaks, no loss of time and no risk of data loss. OCR reading errors are also avoided and the preliminary check of invoices in accordance with §14 UStG is conducted directly via Unifiedpost Group.

In light of the successful implementation of electronic invoice receipt, Evonik has now also converted its outgoing invoices in Germany. Here, the focus was on the different technical requirements of as many customers as possible. Unifiedpost Group provided customised solutions to ensure a smooth e-invoicing process.

Expanding the solution on a global scale

In the future, Evonik intends to further expand the volume of electronically transmitted invoices, all with Unifiedpost Group's solution. Belgium has already integrated successfully into the process and the integration of the USA with its specific market conditions is currently being examined.

In 2010, Unifiedpost Group and Evonik added a solution specifically for outgoing invoices in Mexico, together with the provider. This also involved mapping specific requirements with regard to the local tax law.

"In Mexico, we implemented the solution together with local partners and the local Evonik Business Unit in order to be able to respond optimally to local conditions and legal requirements," says Unifiedpost Group, explaining the process.

Evonik will quickly adapt to new global requirements with the help of Unifiedpost Group.

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