CEI - Automatic Invoicing saves time and reduces errors, freeing Accounts Payable team members to do more

Using Automatic Invoicing

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About the solution

Construction companies can process dozens and even hundreds of invoices each day from multiple vendors. Accounts Payable team members have to organize all of these differently formatted PDFs and paper invoices—some even handwritten—and get them entered, approved and paid with minimal errors and delays.

But manually inputting the many different pieces of data from each invoice means that errors are bound to happen eventually. And that’s assuming all the information the vendor provided was correct in the first place. It’s a time-consuming, brain-draining task that all too often leads to disengagement, burnout and turnover.

So after processing invoices for nearly 25 years, why does Tammy Cox practically whistle while she works? The accounts payable manager at CEI (formerly Concrete Express, Inc.), a Denver-based heavy civil contractor, Cox is responsible for handling 50 or more invoices a day. After using Automatic Invoicing for just a few months, she has a quick reply when asked what it’s done for her: “It changed my life.”

"Before using Automatic Invoicing, we were spending twice as much time inputting invoices, getting them approved and paid out,” she says. “There were far too many steps, most of which were high-touch and manually driven. With Automatic Invoicing, the steps are much easier because they’re largely automated, plus we can see the invoices easier as PDFs.”

How it works

The process starts by uploading invoices by dragging and dropping them or you can set up a forwarding email inbox right within the feature (multiple mailboxes can be set up to keep invoices for multiple operating companies separate). Data from uploaded invoices automatically populates into fields—including the vendor’s name, invoice number, date and total—which are displayed side by side with the original invoice for verification. Populated data is approved and sent to the ERP as a new invoice entry with the click of a button. Information can be added or corrected anytime before routing the invoice for approval.

Using AI and machine learning, Trimble Viewpoint initially trained Automatic Invoicing on more than 10,000 actual construction vendor invoices. This enabled the cloudbased technology solution to recognize different types of information—such as vendor names, dates, amounts and reference numbers—no matter how the information was formatted. For example, Automatic Invoicing knows what date is meant whether it’s written as “Dec. 25th” or “12/25” or “25 December,” and what amount is meant whether an invoice says “500 dollars” or “$500” or “500.00” and so on.

Microsoft Optical Character Recognition (OCR) enables it to read both typed and handwritten information, and accuracy continues to improve over time as more and more customers use Automatic Invoicing, which trains it to perform better and better. The solution is available as part of the standard Spectrum or Vista office license for Trimble Construction One customers. There’s no need to purchase anything extra to take advantage of Automatic Invoicing and start generating invoices with minimal manual entry.

What it means for AP

Cox says that thanks to Automatic Invoicing, she has been able to establish a daily routine that enables her to quickly zip through much of her formerly manual workload. That’s freed her to pursue more value-added activities for both her company and herself.

At the end of each day, she batches newly received invoices for upload into Automatic Invoicing overnight. When she comes in the next morning, she’s able to quickly and easily check the data for each invoice against the original PDF in Automatic Invoicing, then fill in additional information and assign the invoice to a subcontract in their Viewpoint ERP, before sending it off for approval.

With the “head start” that Automatic Invoicing gives her, Cox estimates that what used to take two or three days now gets done in a day to a day and a half, and “it does lessen the room for error.” In addition to reducing the number of manual keystrokes required to process an invoice, “I love that the PDFs are so much cleaner and easier to read. It’s not squiggled or blurred, and they are automatically straightened no matter what we are sent by the vendor.”

That’s given her the time and mental energy to more effectively address unexpected issues, help streamline her team’s accounting processes, and take advantage of self-improvement opportunities like enrolling in courses on the Viewpoint Academy and learning tips and tricks from other Viewpoint customers on The Network, where she is an active member. She’s also started mentoring and coaching other mothers working in construction.

Automatic Invoicing has made both a quantitative and a qualitative difference in Cox’s life. “I feel more in control,” she says. “It’s definitely the right tool for the job.”

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