DIRTT manufactures highly customized interiors by combining its proprietary ICE® 3D design, configuration and manufacturing software with integrated in-house manufacturing. The resulting prefabricated interior construction method is a unique, end-to-end solution for the notoriously inefficient and fragmented construction industry. In 2014, DIRTT implemented an automated invoice processing solution in its accounts payable department.
Manual invoice processing: inevitable bottleneck
DIRTT Environmental Solutions had strong business growth. Despite 70% of its vendors sending invoices by email, the firm’s accounts payable process was highly manual. When AP staff members received an invoice via email, they would print it out and get it approved. Sometimes, in order to have an electronic copy, staff would scan the invoice after it had been approved.
“We were essentially taking an electronic process and making it manual,” says Brody Leitner, DIRTT Project Manager. “There was no way to track who was not approving invoices or where a particular invoice was in the process.”
Aligning actions, demonstrating values
At DIRTT headquarters, boxes and filing cabinets of paper invoices were in stark contrast to the company’s sustainable approach to building. “We pride ourselves on being environmental,” says Leitner, “yet we produced and consumed loads of paper in our AP process.”
Meanwhile, the filing cabinets were an unavoidable eyesore in the office—they were visible on client tours the company’s founder and CEO, Mogens Smed, enjoyed giving.
“Our motive to automate was pretty simple.” says Leitner. “We wanted to become paperless and get rid of the filing cabinets.
Going paperless to remain corporately agile
DIRTT has made responding to growth and change a standard practice, and it was clear that outdated manual invoice processing constrained the company’s agility. DIRTT faced a dilemma common for companies experiencing growth but still processing invoices manually: how could the company scale up operations without hiring more AP staff?
In the search for a scalable application, Leitner says DIRTT considered solutions with differing levels of integration. “Ultimately, we decided we wanted a solution that was natively integrated with our accounting software,” Leitner says. DIRTT enlisted ACOM Solutions. It was ACOM’s philosophy as software developers that sealed the deal. “They understand software and they think how we think,” Leitner explains. “We could tell in the pre-sales calls how open they were to getting developers on the line to talk about integration.”
Another reason that DIRTT selected ACOM was its partnership with Kofax, a company Leitner acknowledged “has one of the most powerful OCR technologies in the world.”
Seamless integration and support
ACOM completed the automated invoice processing implementation in five weeks and rolled it out to all three of DIRTT’s companies at once. “The integration between our ACOM and ReadSoft technologies is solid,” Leitner says. “If an issue does arise, DIRTT can get immediate assistance with either technology.”
Gaining 100% visibility
After implementation, DIRTT gained full visibility into its invoice processing, which gave the CFO greater control of cash management. Within AP itself, the increased visibility helped staff find and eliminate bottlenecks in the workflow.
“In a paper world,” Leitner says, “it’s hard to know what’s really happening, whether you’re behind, and, if so, why? For the first time, we can see what AP is doing. As soon as we have the data, we know where things are.”
Greater employee efficiency, satisfaction
Another result of automation is that some AP staff can now focus on higher-value tasks. For example, Leitner says, DIRTT no longer needs an employee dedicated to the task of manual invoice matching. Automated invoice processing renders this cumbersome task obsolete. Instead, summer interns optimize invoices.
“They analyze the performance statistics,” Leitner says, “to determine which vendors’ invoices can automatically flow through without manual intervention.”
Wide-ranging benefits, documented success
DIRTT has increased the number of invoices processed from 120 per day to 230 per day. The AP department archives its invoices digitally, and they are instantly available.
As for the greatest benefit of the new process, Leitner says each person—from AP staff to the VP—has something he or she likes best. “It’s all the little things that make up the whole solution,” he says.
DIRTT CEO Mogens Smed says one the best things automated invoice processing did is eliminate 16 file cabinets. In fact, he replaced the paper storage with a foosball table and insists that employees play every day.