In 2005, Composites One processed 145,000 invoices. Most went through without a hitch, but 5,800, or 4%, were held up because of unacceptable variances between the invoice and purchase order amounts. "Each time that happens, someone has to look into the discrepancy to determine if the invoice amount is correct," says Mary Bravo, assistant treasurer. The extra 20 minutes it takes to further research each reject, or purchase pricing variance (PPVs), adds up to higher costs and lower productivity.

That was not acceptable. So the distributor of fiberglass and composite materials launched a mission to improve accounts payable efficiency through automation. From the outset, the goal was to eliminate unnecessary additional key strokes or further communications with suppliers, while also reducing opportunities for inaccurate cost reporting

The plan worked. By the end of 2007, PPVs represented only 1.27% of invoices, and that figure should fall to 0.50% by year's end. That translates into a savings of 40 man-hours per month this year alone, says Bravo. "Not only are the numbers down, but, in each of these cases, the correct cost is associated with that item from an accounting and sales reporting (margin) perspective," Bravo says.

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