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Led by concerted efforts on the accounts payable side, projects to convert check payments to ACH are starting to produce real benefits. When $12 billion Dean Foods decided to streamline vendor payments in late 2009, the Dallas, Texas-based company had the foundation for an impressive turnaround—a bloated vendor base of nearly 200,000, roughly 100 employees tied up handling invoices and check payments, only 7% of 52,000 monthly invoices arriving electronically, and 80% of supplier payments going out as checks, requiring a daily check run of up to 5,000. Days payable outstanding (DPO) stood at 19 days.

Now the vendor base is a svelte 60,000. There is only a limited check run because 86% of supplier invoices are now paid by ACH. Settling an invoice with a check is the rare exception, reports Julie Mingus, director of corporate treasury operations and disbursements. About 50 employees now handle invoices and payments, and all but 24% of invoices arrive electronically after a three-stage campaign to get suppliers to e-mail their invoices in TIFF format. 

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