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8 Ways Your AP Process Leaks Spend – and How AI Can Prevent It

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8 Ways Your AP Process Leaks Spend – and How AI Can Prevent It

Today’s companies put huge efforts into negotiating the best terms with their suppliers. Procurement teams regularly spend weeks or months going back and forth on contract terms and volume discounts to get the most bang for their buck.

Too often, these savings aren’t realized. Suppliers may ignore the negotiated terms when invoicing, and AP teams, faced with a deluge of invoices and limited time to get payments out the door, only sample select transactions and only do basic 2 or 3 way matching of volume and price. This inevitably means costly invoice problems fall through the cracks — from mismatched invoice and contract terms, to unapplied discounts, to completely bogus charges, and more.

Optimizing your AP process may seem like a big undertaking, but it’s much easier than it might seem and worth the effort. According to The International Association of Contracts and Commercial Management (IACCM), companies that work to improve controls over invoice payment will see a return of more than 4 percent of invoice value.

Even if you’re ready to improve your AP process, one pesky question remains: How do you actually do it? Once upon a time, it would have been necessary to hire more people to check every transaction. But today, technology can provide a crucial and cost-effective assist for overstretched AP teams.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more common in business contexts. Nearly 90 percent of companies planned to increase AI spend in 2019, according to a Deloitte survey. However, the idea of actually using AI may feel a little unrealistic for some. While more and more corporations are automating AP processes, 30 percent of businesses still rely on manual invoice processing, according to The Institute of Finance and Management.

If you’ve already implemented other technologies in your workflow, AI can fit in seamlessly. AI-powered spend automation software integrates with existing expense management, invoice automation, contract management, and ERP systems to augment rather than disrupt your status quo.

8 common (and costly) invoice problems

Here are just a few of the problems AI-powered solutions can help your team avoid during the spend audit process:

1. Fraudulent invoices: When it comes to invoicing fraud, if you can dream it, chances are fraudsters have tried it: From inflated invoices, to completely made-up charges, to shell companies, to vendor impersonation, and more.

Too often, the calls are coming from inside the house. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) found that occupational fraud (fraud committed by employees against employers) resulted in more than $7 billion in total losses in 2018. AI systems with a compliance component can spot risk factors commonly associated with fraud so your team has a chance to review these invoices manually before they’re paid out.

2. Duplicate invoices: Up to two percent of the average company’s invoices are duplicates, according to AuditNet. This may seem like a relatively small number, but for businesses doling out millions or billions on business activities, the figure is far from trivial.

Some vendors might double up charges on purpose, but often duplicate invoices are mistakes (after all, your vendors’ finance teams are overworked too). While some invoice automation systems try to catch these double charges, they usually only succeed if the invoices are labeled with the same number or have the exact same total — which isn’t always the case, particularly if there’s someone scheming behind the scenes.

 3. Missing discounts: You fought hard for volume discounts, but how often are you checking invoices to make sure they’re applied? AI-based systems can often compare contract and invoice terms automatically to make sure you’re not missing out on an early payment, loyalty, or quantity discounts. You’ll be notified of any missing discounts so you can remedy the situation before you pay. In the case of early payment discounts, this software notifies you that the invoice should be prioritized to get payment out in ample time.

 4. Mismatched service levels: You signed up for the standard package, but you’re being charged for the premium offering. This type of mismatch is all too easy to overlook amid your monthly deluge of invoices.

The correct AI solution can compare agreed-upon service levels in your contract with every invoice you receive to make sure that this type of costly problem doesn’t fly under the radar. When it comes to physical items, it can ensure you receive all the items you’re being billed for before you pay, by double-checking shipping documents against inventory systems.

5. Double payments: Double payments can happen as a result of vendors submitting duplicate invoices, but the problem can also originate from your own team. Accounting systems hold up an invoice for all sorts of reasons, e.g., it requires further approval or it failed a match. In many cases, an employee might intervene to get the invoice paid manually (to meet a deadline or because they’re being pestered by a supplier or don’t want to damage a relationship). Meanwhile, the invoice is still in your system and when the hold is later cleared up, it’s processed and paid… again.

This is another one of those sources of spend leakage that most companies never become aware of. AI-powered systems constantly cross-check invoices and payments and flag any duplicate payments before you send them out, so the money never leaves the front door.

6. Exorbitant pricing: It can be difficult and time-consuming to keep track of the market rate for all the various services and products your business requires. AI can regularly compare your current costs to thousands of other sources to determine whether your invoices reflect the market rate for the goods or services provided. It can also flag individual invoices where your price exceeds the market rate.

Knowledge is power, and this information helps your business negotiate more effectively with existing suppliers or look to new ones if there’s an opportunity for cost savings without sacrificing quality.

7. Unsatisfactory work activity: When it comes to hiring contractors, there are situations when it’s particularly difficult to understand and assess whether they’re fulfilling their agreed-upon duties, like professional and IT services. AI-based tools can ingest nearly unlimited data to build a profile of what comprises satisfactory work activity — e.g., regular activity in Slack or over email — and highlight changes in the typical patterns. This helps you verify that you’re paying contractors fairly for the work product they’re providing.

8. Overpaying for software: Are you licensed for seven software seats, but only using three? It’s not uncommon for organizations to overpay for software licenses without even realizing it. AI-based software keeps tabs on your organization’s software usage and compares it to the charges on your monthly invoices to help alert you to savings opportunities.

How AI can help

Implementing a best-in-class AI solution can support a consistent process and add an additional layer of scrutiny. These solutions make it possible to audit 100% of invoice spend prior to payment, automatically and near-instantaneously checking every invoice in your system for risk factors before they’re paid, and flagging the highest risk items for your team to review. This will help your team get ahead of problems and potential leakage, rather than try to recover it afterwards.

Below are the critical requirements for considering an AI solution for AP spend management:

Audit 100%, prepayment. Automatically audit 100% of invoices before reimbursement with AI.

Understand documents. Instantly scan every line of every invoice to understand charges and track the correct spend category.

Enrich with intelligence. Check online sources to identify better prices for similar goods and services.

Assess and refine risk. Flag suspicious addresses or billing changes to avoid fraud. Spot duplicate charges from other invoices, other invoice systems, or expenses.

Streamline process. Integrate into your existing AP automation system to audit every invoice in real-time to spot errors, waste, and fraud.

Conclusion

The best AI software can help your team regain control over your spending by checking every single transaction to identify high-risk invoices in your pipeline — saving time, streamlining processes, and ultimately reducing spend leakage.

If your AP team’s efforts to find problematic spend feels neverending, you’re not alone — but it doesn’t have to be that way. AI has changed the paradigm for modern finance teams, giving them greater visibility into their AP process and the time they need to address the highest risk issues. Not only can AI transform the way finance teams operate, but it also saves the business money by spotting problems consistently and before invoices are paid. By implementing a leading AI solution, your team can audit 100% of spend, make sure that every invoice complies with its contract terms, and ensure you’re receiving every savings opportunity you’re entitled to — all while paying your bills on time.

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Anant Kale founded AppZen in 2012 to bring AI into back offices around the world. As CEO he is responsible for the product vision and execution of the company’s broad mission. Previously he was the VP of Applications at Fujitsu America from 2009-2012, responsible for product management, and delivery of Fujitsu’s applications and infrastructure for enterprise. He has 15+ years of experience in software development. He has an MBA and a BS in Finance and Engineering from Mumbai University.

freight invoicing

How to Tackle the Freight Invoice Management Obstacles

A freight invoice is a detailed bill which includes information regarding the transportation of a company’s goods from one place to the other, along with the inclusion of the amount of charges, its weight, due dates, complete goods’ description, contact information, and names of both the receiver and the shipper, etc.

On the other hand, logistics is defined as the process of planning, implementing, and controlling the storage and movement of services and goods from the point of origin to the point of consumption within a supply chain, explains a top provider of Invoice Processing Services. The companies which deal with these processes become a part of the logistics industry and handle a few or all of the functions of supply chains as per the logistic requirements of the client.

Past Examples of Invoice Issues

-In recent times, an IT company was overbilled throughout 14 days by an amount of $935,578 owing to the incorrect weight applied by a parcel carrier.

-Auditing helped a national level entertainment retailer in saving around $35,000 from a wrong monthly invoice charge

-A worldwide renowned LED manufacturer had to pay $93,147 more due to incorrect billing currency, but the amount was recovered after the fault was discovered during the auditing process.

Top Freight Invoice Management Obstacles

Multiple Challenges

Managing invoices is extremely hard as a lot of challenges like reconciling contract terms with Bill Of Lading (BOL), invoices’ rating for correct rate selection, decisions about the acceptance of differences in charges, getting invoices resubmitted after making the carriers do corrections, etc. have to be dealt with extreme care. When these challenges are not addressed properly, they lead to errors, which further lead to overcharging, eventually adding to the overall Invoice Processing complexity.

Tedious Information Processing

The processing of information for the invoices is really tiring and tedious in nature. This is the reason employees who process the information for billing, weight, ledgers, data entry, and more commit multiple mistakes and make the final outcome inaccurate and hard to understand.

Bill Entry Issues

The very first concern which the logistics industry has to deal with during invoice management is the efficient functionality of the billing entry process which is defined below:

-Shortage of non-standardized processes and control due to operations which are not centralized for billing entry

-Multiple systems integration

-Due to missing BOL information, incomplete billable items are captured

-Multiple formats for BOL 

-Lost information regarding a customer or local-specific procedures for billing

Refund Management Issues

There are a lot of instances where the goods and services do not land safely at the doorstep of the receivers. In such cases, goods and services are returned back to the suppliers, which involves going through all the invoice processing steps again, which is extremely time-consuming for the owners of the logistics company.

Best Practices to Tackle Invoice Management Obstacles

Must-Include Invoice Listings

-Consignee and consignor names

-Shipment date

-Packages number

-Freight description

-Volume, weight, and measurement of freight

-Total outstanding charges

-Each carrier name engaging in transportation and movement route

-Shipment’s transfer point

-Issuer’s business address and remittance address

Freight Management Controls

It is important to incorporate internal controls which are powerful into the management structure of the freight. An authorization system, duty separations, and internal audits on a periodical basis are one of the most important tasks for managing risks like favoritism and fraud, which have the potential to bring down the overall profitability. 

The main objective is to make sure none of the employees have any chance for concealing and committing any illegal or unethical activity. For example, an employee who has been given the responsibility of getting the estimates should never be made the in charge of making the final freight invoice payment or selection.

Proficient Auditing System

According to a report by ReconLOgistics.com, wrong freight bills appear in about 5-6% of the entire invoices, which can raise the expenses of transportation to a great extent. With a proficient auditing system in place, along with a thorough recalculation and review can save you from overpaying due to inaccuracies in the freight bills. 

Apart from this, normal dealing procedures for lost shipment or damaged dealing, and timely claims reconciliation are an imperative part of a cost-saving management program for the freight.

Outsourcing Payment and Freight Audit

When it comes to finding the best solutions for streamlining the freight invoice management process, Outsource Invoice Processing remains a top favorite amongst the businesses due to its cost-cutting feature, along with the following benefits provided by it:

-Paper routing, filing, and handling elimination

-Centralized system for entire processing functions of the freight invoice

-Eliminating multiple systems and non-uniform processes

-Real-time insights into the invoices

-Latest technology use like artificial intelligence and automation

-Invoices’ long-term archival in the electronic form

-Carrier queries

-Increase cash flow to the maximum levels with timely invoice payments

-Receive correct and detailed accrual files and cost allocation straight into your system

-Gain visibility into operational metrics, invoice status, and payment information

Invoice Automation

Most of the industries have already incorporated the use of automation in a majority of their work processes, and have reaped great benefits in the following forms:

-Faster processing of invoices

-Elimination of costly human errors

-Invoice costs reduction by 80%

-Preventing payments duplicity and maximizing initial incentives for payments

-Enabling enhanced cash flow control and visibility

-Achieving 100% accuracy for invoice entry

Freight Software

Businesses who are trying to manage their freight invoices by themselves can ease their management workload with some of the top freight software mentioned below:

The Magaya Cargo System

This user-friendly software helps in eliminating duplicity of data entry, streamlining shipment workflows, generating Bill Of Lading, etc., along with a fully-integrated system for Invoice Accounting.

A1 Tracker

This software meets the unique business demands of the present scenario, make the working of the logistics systems smooth, and bring the required value to your business.

Freightos

The online platform for global trade management and freight booking, along with providing logistics owners with digital sales tools.

Excalibur WMS

This is a software which is fully integrated for warehouse management, accounting system, and third-party logistics (3PL) service billing.

CargoWise One

A central software system platform for worldwide providers giving logistics services.

Managing the freight invoices is definitely challenging owing to the various complexities in the form of inaccuracies and irregularities in the data and work processes, respectively. These complexities can be brought down greatly with the use of automation, outsourcing, audit systems, etc., eventually streamlining the process of freight invoice management at large, along with saving time and money at the same time.

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Gia Glad holds the position of Business Content Writer at Cogneesol – an outsourcing firm offering finance and accounting services along with other value-added services to the small and mid-sized businesses globally.