Standard SAP Workflow for Fast and Transparent Invoice Processing at Linde Gas Germany

Linde Gas Germany Two staff members controlling a central gas supply.

Unified SAP WorkFlow, multiple benefits:

  • timely account settling
  • trade discount utilization
  • transparent invoice process
  • efficient human-resource allocation
  • supplier bundling

The Linde Group pursues a strategy of earnings-based growth, focusing particularly on the targeted expansion of its international business through trendsetting products and services. The result is a dynamically increasing invoice volume.

Determined to handle this volume without increasing headcount, Linde decided to implement a uniform SAP process at its various European subsidiaries to electronically check and process incoming invoices.

Formidable, fast, flexible

To ensure that hard-copy invoices from suppliers are captured and processed accurately in the SAP system, Linde opted to install FrontCollect Invoice, supplied by Beta Systems Software AG, and chose SAP system reseller FIS GmbH as its project partner.

In particular, Linde chose FrontCollect Invoice for its

  • high rate of document recognition
  • high-speed processing
  • freeform recognition capabilities
  • international adaptability.

Compared with other solutions, FrontCollect Invoice did not require a separate template to be created for each of Linde’s 8,000 suppliers to enable invoice recognition. All the international subsidiaries within the Linde Group work with the same SAP system, but each has a customized FrontCollect Invoice solution that is tailored to its specific requirements. In Germany, for instance, the key date for invoice processing is the billing date, whereas in the Czech Republic, it is vital that the system recognizes and captures the delivery date.

High recognition rates despite low-quality hardcopies

Before implementing the solution, Linde requested all of its suppliers to include the necessary SAP information on their invoices and to send them direct to company headquarters in Pullach. These invoices include so-called “FI invoices”, which relate to orders placed by fax rather than electronically, and invoices for deliveries and services that were ordered through the Materials Management (MM) software in SAP ERP.

Every day, some 500-600 incoming hard-copy invoices have to be prepared for scanning and then digitized. The ScanClient saves the image to the integrated archiving system and at the same time transfers it to the Beta Systems software. This reads in the invoice data and transfers it to the SAP workflow as a data record. This data is then checked and compared with the SAP master data in vendor accounting.

The recognition rate for invoices depends to a large extent on the quality of the hard-copy and of the scan: The main challenges for FrontCollect Invoice are gray backgrounds, color sections, and differing document formats.

FI invoices are read with a recognition rate of 85 to 90 percent and forwarded to the company’s approved signatories via the SAP workflow. MM invoices are captured along with the line item data and sent to the SAP system. All the requester then has to do is register goods receipt so that the invoice can be posted automatically. The new system processes FI invoices within three days and MM invoices within five days.

Central, transparent, safe

Apart from achieving faster data capture, Linde has also been able to reduce the total processing time for invoices by half. Moreover, its suppliers can now be sure that their invoices have arrived safely and that they will receive payment on time.

Robert Prinzbach, head of vendor accounting at Linde Gas Germany, is impressed by the speed of the new electronic invoice processing system and is full of praise for its reliability: “With our new centralized invoice receipt process, we now know immediately when each invoice was received by the company and what its current status is.”

The objective of SAP project lead Gerhard Baumgärtner is to, “increase the proportion of MM invoices to a maximum in the long term. Because, with an SAP order, the corresponding delivery, and the valuated goods receipt, we can post a transaction even before the invoice has arrived.” A high order ratio makes it easier to assign product groups, bundle suppliers, and ultimately increase procurement success.