Fresenius Innovates Invoice Processing

Medical Therapy; photo: Fresenuis

In today’s global world of business, where production, IT and development are internationally organized and where local branches can help to tap into new markets, the management of business processes is becoming more and more complex. Such a global orientation presents enormous challenges for an enterprises’ accounting. When documents are circulated internationally, different time zones and legal requirements abroad must be considered and language barriers overcome. Efficient IT solutions help to remedy these challenges. Following the successful launch of :psinova:InvoiceCenter for automated invoice processing in the German-speaking world, the globally operating health care group is about to roll out the SAP-integrated solution for its corporate accounting worldwide. The group is already processing international large scale six digit invoices electronically. The solution will be rolled out for more international offices, and the processing volume within the system is expected to continue increasing across all time zones. 

Fresenius, a globally operating health care group with 130,000 employees, provides in its four decentralized divisions products and services for hospitals, dialysis centers and outpatient medical care. The IT processes of the entire group are largely coordinated by the Fresenius Netcare GmbH, a subsidiary headquartered in Bad Homburg, where the corporate head office is located, too. With more than 400 employees in 40 locations, Fresenius Netcare GmbH helps to optimize business processes for national and international clients of the group. “All our corporate business processes are coordinated via SAP. In the broadest sense, we are responsible for everything related to SAP,” explains Monika Heymann, project manager with Fresenius Netcare, the company’s range of activities.

Outdated: invoices sent by internal mail

Heymann explains how it all started: “Whenever several employees had to approve a paper-based invoice, such an invoice was circulated through all involved departments via internal mail.  This often resulted in considerable delays, for example, in the case of illness or holidays. The approval processes and substitution rules were unclear, which led to delays and additional costs.” This situation made an SAP-integrated solution necessary to speed up these processes and provide a clearer overview and more transparency. What was important: The application was to use the existing SAP infrastructure without replicating the business logic or storing redundant data outside of the SAP system. Furthermore, the solution had to be suitable for international distribution. 

SAP-integrated solution facilitates more efficient processes

InvoiceCenter by PSINOVA best met  all requirements, which had been specified during the selection process for a new solution that would allow SAP-integrated automated invoice processing: SAP Business Workflow controls all individual processing steps, while the universal InvoiceCenter mask provides an ergonomic user interface in SAP that allows real-time coordination with SAP data without having to export the data from SAP. The result is a transparent and streamlined process for incoming paper-based and electronic invoices which reduces manual handling considerably. The invoices are scanned by the company upon receipt and archived in SAP. SAP Business Workflow automatically retrieves the invoice from the InvoiceCenter archive, sends it to the capture server and returns invoice-specific data and amount directly or upon processing via validation to SAP. In the background, plausibility checks and reconciliation with SAP data are performed, e.g. order or vendor specific, as well as standardization of SAP parameters, such as input tax code and vendor number.  “In the next step, the respective employee will receive – wherever he or she may be located – the scanned document in his or her personal SAP inbox,” explains Heymann. This has a major advantage: The approval process can be initiated directly in the SAP mask in InvoiceCenter via SAP or e-mail notification and web browser mask to integrate both SAP users and staff without SAP access in the invoice approval process. The invoice is automatically forwarded to the responsible case worker, if no response is received within two days: “That way, the document can be passed on to a colleague during sick leave and vacation periods,” says Heymann. “By limiting the allowable response time, we prevent late payments. The :psinova:letter wizard, an automatic response generator in the software mask allows the rejection of incomplete or incorrect vendor invoices and documentation of this process by archiving the response in the SAP archive to withhold the payment. This helps to reduce costs dramatically even after only a short period of use.”

photo: Fresenius

Electronic invoices save resources and are increasingly popular

Electronic invoices can help to cut costs even more by allowing largely automated invoice processing.  “They can be processed for less than one Euro per invoice. Handling of paper-based invoices, as well as digitalization and electronic processing of scanned invoices resulted in relatively higher costs both for processing as well as digitalization and validation of paper-based invoices than native electronic ones. Our vendors benefit from electronic invoice delivery as much as we do. Using e- invoices our vendors avoid delays due to postal delivery times as well as printing, mailing, logistics and handling costs of paper-based invoices. We no longer need to collect the mail, process, scan and validate invoices and are able to automatically process electronic invoices of high data quality or at least automatically verify them to the greatest extent possible,” explains project manager Heymann.

International roll-out for the entire group

Today, approval processes within the health care group occur much faster even beyond national borders. Fresenius processes paper-based and electronic invoices via several SAP systems in more than 100 organizational units (company codes) across various time zones worldwide, in one unified process. After the successful application of the software solution in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the BeNeLux and other European countries, its roll-out is continued this year: The corporation has adopted a rapid timeline, launching the new system each month in several branches in different countries. The rest of Europe and Asia, as well as the Pacific branches are currently being familiarized with the software, which is to be rolled out for all remaining offices worldwide in 2013. The new software solution facilitates international cooperation through an intuitive release mask integrated in the Internet browser, which can be operated via the :psinova:InvoiceFlow WEB add-on directly from SAP and is already available in ten different languages. Employees will in future be able to access this function even on-the-go via Blackberries and smartphones with the InvoiceFlow WEB – Mobile add-on which is currently prepared for distribution. Fresenius has been successfully collaborating with :psinova: on this project: “Every location has specific requirements, where solution and partners must come together like clockwork. Psinova has provided competent and flexible assistance,” reports Michael Herth, who oversees the global launch of the system at  Fresenius Netcare into international more than 80 subsiaries  scheduled to be completed by late 2013.

Release of version 4.0

In the first quarter of 2012, Fresenius has switched to the new :psinova:InvoiceCenter V4.0 version.  “This version comes with many interesting functions and extensions which will  assist us with our continuing roll-out and the optimization of our processes,” says Monika Heymann optimistically. In addition to a range of new features such as complex accounting entries, debt-side and credit-side invoices, – more than 40 new functions – version 4.0 offers additional modules such as an OCR converter for different OCR systems, an enhanced e-invoice interface and the aforementioned browser-based multi-lingual approval cycle for all international locations of the group. The update is expected to increase work ergonomics and efficiency.

For Fresenius, staff absence, language barriers and complicated approval processes will no longer result in delayed invoicing. The automated invoicing solution by Psinova has led to “healthy” invoice processing at the health-care group.