Case study: Brinks streamlines accounts payable workflow

Established in New Zealand in 1954, the Van Den Brink Group has grown to become one of the country’s largest food producers. The group’s interests are primarily in poultry meat production, dairy farming and property investment.

The group is best known for its Brink’s Chicken brand, which delivers a range of fresh and frozen products to retailers throughout New Zealand.

The challenge

To support its diverse range of operations, the Van Den Brink Group has a central finance team responsible for processing transactions across all companies. The team is supported by a Sage 300 ERP platform that has been in place since April 2010.

In early 2016, the accounts payable team within the finance department had reached the stage where it was manually handling more than 20,000 invoices each year for the group’s companies.

“We have a very lean finance team and so we realised we needed to find a way to make our operations much more efficient,” says Julie Allan, Finance Manager. “It was getting to the stage where the team was beginning to struggle with the volume of invoices that needed to be processed.”

Allan says “the workflow associated with the accounts payable process involved sending physical copies of each invoice from the group’s head office in Manukau to department or cost centre managers in various locations for them to authorise.”

“It was this manual process of pushing paper around that was very inefficient and time consuming for us,” says Allan. “Being paper based meant we were also more open to errors and problems would arise if paperwork went missing.”

“It was also very difficult for the finance department and management team to obtain a clear overview of exactly where we stood when it came to invoice processing and payments.”

The solution

In late 2016, a decision was made to find a new way of processing invoices. A number of alternatives were considered before a trial was undertaken of Pacific Technology’s Payables Workflow for Sage 300.

“Working with our Sage 300 Business Partner, Business Enabling Systems, we rolled out the Payables Workflow to cover accounts payable activity within our property companies,” says Allan. “This gave us the opportunity to understand exactly how it worked and to be sure it would be a good fit for our operations.”

After a five-month trial, the packaged was deemed a success and extended to cover all companies in the group.

“As Payables Workflow is inside Sage 300, it was very easy to learn and test.  This enabled us to remove paperwork from our workflows and handle the entire approvals process electronically.”

The rollout was completed in early 2017 and the new system officially went live in May 2017.

The benefits

Once the Payables Workflow package was in place, significant benefits quickly become apparent.  The processing and approvals process for invoices has been significantly streamlined, freeing staff to focus their attention in other areas. Key benefits include:

  • Improved approval process: Often multiple approvers are required to authorise an invoice for payment. Rather than needing to send paperwork, the invoice can be sent electronically from one to the next, significantly streamlining the process and reducing time to payment.
  • Time savings: The accounts payable team now spends less time compiling each payment batch as there is no need to attach hard copies of invoices. Each is captured electronically and sent through the approvals process without any need to be printed.
  • Increased accountability and control: Each authoriser can put a digital stamp on the invoice as it moves through the workflow to indicate they have reviewed the invoice. There is also the option to add comments or notes if required.
  • Adding supplementary information: Additional documents, such as purchase orders, quotes or reports, can be electronically attached to an invoice during the approval process. This makes it easy for the accounts team to see exactly what has happened to each invoice and its status at all times.
  • Cost reduction: Because there is no longer any need to print physical copies of invoices, the finance team has significantly lowered its printing costs. There have also been cost savings around storage of paper files and retrieval of old invoices.

“The group’s senior management is very happy with the new system as it allows them to gain much better insight into the status of the accounts payable process  at any stage during the month,” says Allan. “The month-end process has also been significantly streamlined which takes pressure off the finance team.

“Overall, the Payables Workflow has greatly improved our invoice approval process and provided us with more control at a reasonable price. This has allowed us to focus on adding value to other parts of the business.”

Allan says Sage 300 continues to be a robust and cost-effective ERP, and they are looking at other projects to improve the groups’ finance function.  Future plans include the rollout of the web/smartphone approvals, web procurement and the third generation data extraction (OCR) service.