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Lean accounting thanks to pioneering electronic invoicing

ASSA ABLOY Sicherheitstechnik GmbH, part of the ASSA ABLOY Group, produces and distributes mechanical and electromechanical security solutions for protection, security and convenience in private and public buildings. The international group employs more than 43,000 people in over 40 countries.

As the largest company in its sector, ASSA ABLOY has always seen itself as a technology leader and prefers to focus its investments on areas that directly benefit the customer: High-quality products and outstanding service. Administrative processes that have no direct customer benefit are to be accelerated accordingly and kept at a lean level.

Manual processes dominated the work of the accounting team

In Germany, ASSA ABLOY Sicherheitstechnik GmbH currently has around 10,000 customers, which equates to 230,000 outgoing and 35,000 incoming invoices per year.

The accounting, processing and reconciliation of these documents is handled by a shared service centre. In the past, this was a manual reconciliation process of all individual paper-based invoices and purchase orders. The manual work tied up resources, as it took up to four minutes to process each invoice.

The centralisation of accounting for the various locations in a shared service centre was a step towards greater efficiency. The conversion from manual invoicing processes to electronic was the next logical step with the introduction of an electronic ordering system.

A uniform standard process for electronic invoicing

ASSA ABLOY therefore set itself the goal of converting the exchange of order and invoice data to electronic processes and to create its own standard format. By doing this, customers and suppliers can now exchange information on a uniform basis.

"When looking for a suitable partner, we focused on four criteria," recalls Jürn Jakob Schultze-Berndt, Head of the Shared Service Center Accounting at ASSA ABLOY Sicherheitstechnik GmbH. "It was important to us that the solution of choice should work independently of SAP, grow individually with the needs of our business and would fit into the inhomogeneous IT landscape of the ASSA ABLOY Group. We were also looking for a provider who could guide us through the implementation and would accompany us during the changeover."

After a thorough market analysis, the decision was made in favour of the e-invoicing solution from Unifiedpost Group.

The start of the transition

First, the invoice receipt was converted. Unifiedpost Group also took over the onboarding of ASSA ABLOY's 150 largest suppliers.

Unifiedpost Group recalls: "During the onboarding of the suppliers, we also had to integrate a large number of small and medium-sized companies. In addition to the corresponding, we also had to offer a wide range of technical solutions to meet the infrastructural needs and requirements of these suppliers - from medium-sized production companies to small craft businesses. Another challenge was the fact that ASSA ABLOY Sicherheitstechnik GmbH uses different ERP systems at its sites in Albstadt and Berlin. The systems work with different logics, which we had to take into account and reflect in our solution."

Scanning and converting the invoice dispatch tasks complete the process

In the next step, ASSA ABLOY decided to integrate Unifiedpost Group's scanning OCR solution. Suppliers who then continue to use paper-based invoices can send them to the Shared Service Center.

The Service Center sends them to Unifiedpost Group for scanning, where they are processed accordingly, prepared electronically and bundled once a day and sent to ASSA ABLOY. This is an important aspect in terms of a uniform file standard: regardless of whether the invoice is electronic or paper. Unifiedpost Group converts a wide variety of invoice formats into a standardised format specified by ASSA ABLOY, which the company can then process smoothly.

Finally, Unifiedpost Group also took over the complete outgoing invoice process for ASSA ABLOY Sicherheitstechnik GmbH; both in electronic form and - for the recipients who continue to receive paper documents - in printed form.

Since then, ASSA ABLOY Sicherheitstechnik GmbH has benefited from the clear advantages of electronic accounting. In addition to the significant time savings, the business has increased reliability of the invoice process, which is secured by appropriate error logs. Invoices that have been checked electronically and match the order documents are no longer passed through the hands of employees at all but are instead directly booked via a digital workflow.

Actively shaping new solutions together

In the near future, further processes are to be added such as a workflow for the digital processing of invoices without a purchase order reference. Here, the exchange of documents, including the approval processes, will run completely electronically via a corresponding portal.

"Our decision to use Unifiedpost Group was absolutely right. The increase in efficiency that we have achieved by switching to electronic accounting speaks for itself. But what impresses us the most is Unifiedpost Group's ability to actively drive forward technical developments," adds Jürn Jakob Schultze-Berndt. "With Unifiedpost Group as a partner, we are part of these further developments and can live up to our claim as market leader to initiate and shape developments in our industry."

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