Metafile’s MetaViewer document-capture and Web-based workflow application reduced the overall invoice-processing timeline at Perishable Distributors of Iowa Ltd (PDI) from one week to one day and bolstered accountability among PDI staff. MetaViewer reduced PDI’s costs by more than 40% by generating an immediate $60,000 return on investment (ROI) after its implementation and generating nearly $80,000 per year just one year later, thanks to increased purchase orders processed without the need for additional staff.
PDI, a wholly owned subsidiary of HyVee Inc, is one of the nation’s largest food distribution companies. It supplies more than 4,500 perishable food products—including fresh chicken, beef, and pork; seafood; boxed frozen foods; and bakery, dairy, and deli products—to grocery customers in eight Midwest states. The firm has approximately 500 employees, including office staff and transportation and warehouse personnel.
Each of its suppliers created an array of paper documents and invoices that PDI would have to approve, pay, ship, and process several times a day. Combined with grocery customers that each had their own supporting documentation, the firm was challenged in its ability to manage the volume of paper required to conduct business. PDI processes more than 3,500 invoices per month and experiences an appreciable increase during the holidays.
Moreover, the sheer volume of paper that changed hands also created workflow challenges. As paper was filed, refiled, faxed, e-mailed, transcribed, or otherwise acted upon, PDI had difficulty in not only tracking the progression of any particular invoice as it was processed, but also establishing accountability for that invoice among staff involved in the invoice-processing chain. An analysis revealed each document was “touched” between 34 and 42 times as it was processed.
The large quantity and flow of invoices to, from, and through PDI presented not only logistical and organizational challenges, but also financial challenges. Invoices that were not paid, processed, or otherwise acted upon in a timely manner sometimes caused the firm to miss out on early-payment incentives. This sometimes resulted in costly late-payment charges that further frustrated PDI staff and created the potential for soured vendor relationships.
”I was apprehensive at the beginning of this project,” said Linda Sharp, PDI’s executive vice-president and secretary. “I had heard stories of companies whose staff spent more time scanning documents than they had planned, and did not see the anticipated return on investment. Metafile’s programming and implementation staff provided a workflow solution that exceeded my expectations.”
Recognizing the need for an end-to-end invoice-processing and workflow system to streamline inflow and outflow of invoices and realize operational and cost savings, PDI researched nearly a dozen accounts payable (A/P) document management system providers. It used a cross-functional team that included treasury, purchasing, inventory control, transportation, and accounts-payable professionals.
Top priorities among the decisionmakers were electronic capture of information and integration with PDI’s homegrown enterprise resource planning (ERP) system running on IBM’s iSeries/AS400 server platform. At the end of a search among system-provider candidates, the firm selected Metafile’s MetaViewer system for its experience in addressing these needs and more.
Gary Churchill, PDI’s assistant vice-president of information technology, indicated Metafile offered in-depth knowledge of the end-to-end accounts payable process and an innovative approach to “e-payables” technology—using technology to capture, extract, and route digital invoices electronically.
“Among the solution providers we evaluated, Metafile truly understood our desire to electronically exchange and manipulate all data—from the invoices themselves to the documents supporting them—at each phase of PDI’s invoice-processing chain,” said Churchill. “While other providers were talking about scanning paper documents, Metafile was talking about eliminating the need for paper altogether, and adapting our workflow to establish staff accountability and extract maximum savings and ROI from our automation investment. That’s something other providers were unable to do.”
MetaViewer offers automated indexing and text extraction from any invoice, links to or attachments of supporting documents, workflow steps, customized action-oriented e-mails, and customer notification tools. This all streamlined the A/P process and created opportunities for efficiency and enhanced ROI.
PDI’s accounts-payable manager uses MetaViewer’s Document and Workflow Monitor to create a real-time dashboard view of the flow of each invoice within the A/P department that includes customized alerts and gauges to identify and rectify missed deadlines, stalled invoices, and other process breakdowns.
“The visibility and accountability that the MetaViewer solution affords is invaluable,” said Donna Stoelk, PDI’s accounting supervisor. “Not only does each member of my team understand his or her role in the accounts payable process, but I’m also afforded the opportunity to understand and quickly address breakdowns in the process with a single click, boosting my team’s productivity and adding tangible value to PDI’s bottom line.”
MetaViewer embodied the firm’s main motivation for streamlining its A/P function: to optimize A/P workflow to ensure tasks and responsibilities were clearly defined and evenly distributed among the team. The result: employees spend less time on process and more time adding value to business and performing revenue-boosting activities such as negotiating purchases, verifying actual inventory, and validating invoices in more detail.
In addition, PDI realized ROI less than one year after its implementation of MetaViewer. The company estimates its annual processing costs decreased by more than 40% per year following MetaViewer’s implementation, and that the time required to process the average invoice has dropped from one week to one day.
Churchill also attributes early achievement of ROI to Metafile’s commitment to doing whatever it takes to ensure the company’s continued satisfaction.“Metafile affords PDI a direct connection to its technical teams, who routinely go out of their way to make sure our solutions are running optimally—and continually scale as our business grows,” he said. “It’s that constant attention to our satisfaction that’s cleared the path to accelerated ROI, helping us control costs and create conditions that are favorable to revenue growth.”