At $800 million Great Lakes Synergy Corp., assistant treasurer Mary Bravo oversees a homegrown invoice system that matches thousands of invoices a month to purchase orders, within a preset tolerance for deviation. It then accepts the ones that comply and approves them for payment. The company's largest affiliate, Composite One LLC, was the first to start working with major suppliers to get them to transmit electronic invoice files that can now be run against purchase orders using the tool.

This accounts payable (A/P) system is the byproduct of a cooperative effort between treasury and IT, which set out to automate A/P with a solution that mimics lockbox on the A/R side. According to Bravo, the new tool already reached a 70% hit rate.

Now, Bravo and her team at Great Lakes Synergy are working to raise that rate by making the exception reporting more visible. "If an invoice is more or less than a purchase order, we report that across the field, which brings true accountability for buyers and regions," Bravo reports. "When senior executives see the results, people become more careful to dot the I's and cross the T's. It gets us to the root of the problem, which is probably a mistake on our side 80% of the time and on the suppliers' side 20% of the time. The better our hit rate, the less time we spend chasing down discrepancies. We're cleaning up the process on the front end."

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