Atherton started their AP Automation project with Pagero in the spring of 2020, and have since realised significant time and cost savings for their finance staff and business as a whole. With e-invoicing being made mandatory by the AU government from 2022, Atherton are now well positioned in servicing their customers’ and suppliers’ digital needs, as well as ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations going forward.
Staying competitive means going digital
As a leading and well-renowned supplier to the healthcare industry, being founded back in 1889, Atherton has always maintained a focus on continuous improvements and innovation. The heart of the business focuses on supplying Australian manufactured sterilisation equipment and related services to healthcare providers and labs nationwide. It comes as no surprise that a company, being a frontrunner in innovation for over 130 years, chose to adopt e-invoicing as the first step in digitalising their purchase-to-pay and order-to-cash processes.
Not only does the connection to Pagero ensure current and future compliance with federal and state regulations and mandates, but it also helps ensure a competitive edge. Cost savings and further strengthening supplier and customer relations are achieved by allowing trade to take place seamlessly over an open business network. Removing mundane, time-consuming tasks, reducing human error, and strengthening their cost efficiency are some of the benefits that Atherton realises with Pagero and e-invoicing.
In Australia, the main regulations and mandates that were considered were the introduction of Peppol and the mandate that comes into effect in 2022. As Pagero is a global SaaS platform, all of these regulations and compliance requirements are taken care of without intervention required from Atherton to stay updated and compliant.
“With the news that the Australian Government will make e-invoicing mandatory from 2022 it made sense to make that transition towards Pagero”
There has to be a better way!
Before Atherton ventured into their partnership with Pagero, the majority of their AP process was processing and managing PDF invoices. The AP department was faced with the mundane task of handling all of their supplier invoices manually.
“Our AP system was manual and really outdated,” says Hacia Atherton, chief commercial officer and company secretary at Atherton. The old process involved printing PDFs only to then convert them back into PDFs after three or four people had handled them:
“We received a PDF, then one person would print it, make adjustments and put it into a pile. That pile would get moved to someone else who would manually enter everything into the ERP system, get a reference number off the documents, and create a new pile of documents. That pile went to yet another person to be put in alphabetical order, and at the end of the month that person would scan it all back into PDFs.”
“I thought, there has to be a better way!” Atherton says. “We have an average of around 800 supplier invoices per month, so it was all time-consuming and inefficient. That’s how we first came across Pagero and decided that it was time to get rid of PDFs altogether,” Atherton says.
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Atherton uses Pagero Online for automated invoice processing directly from their IFS system.
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E-invoicing made mandatory by AU Government
“With the news that the Australian Government will make e-invoicing mandatory from 2022, as well as seeing the e-invoicing developments in Europe, it made sense to make that transition towards Pagero,” explains Atherton.
“Being an early adopter of e-invoicing, we have plenty of time to finish our internal process projects and optimise everything for sending and receiving only e-invoices by the time the rest of the market catches up,” says Atherton.
“It is really fantastic that we have already gotten as far as we have. Around 40% of our supplier invoices are now true e-invoices”
No more mundane tasks
Atherton explains that business is growing, as is the finance department. By digitalising their manual processes, there is now more time for business partnering and adding value to previously untouched areas of the business.
“I think many people have the misconception that allowing technology to do the manual tasks will take away their jobs and make people redundant. But that is not the case,” says Atherton.
“You still need to deal with invoices that don’t match, which is where you want to focus your time and resources. If an invoice doesn’t match for some reason, then you want to have time to look up why that is,” Atherton explains.
Other benefits of AP automation achieved by Atherton
No wasted time and capital on unnecessary tasks
“Now, people don’t have to put their time into processing a perfect invoice; we were putting ten to fifteen minutes into something that a computer could have spent a split second processing.”
“Investing in Pagero ultimately saves us money. Not just in terms of human capital, but also improving our business relations, increasing cost efficiency and turning us into frontrunners in this digital space.”
“Pagero solutions offer traceability, which makes for better reports and accurate data to base decisions on. We get the data straight away, instead of it sitting at someone’s desk, and better clarity on our liabilities.”
“Pagero’s services are great from a sustainability perspective; we can stop killing rainforests and chopping down trees in order to print off meaningless PDFs. The sustainability factor was a major issue for me and part of the reason we wanted to digitalise.”
100% automated and Peppol-compliant
Atherton’s suppliers are able to send e-invoices through Pagero, which is also a certified Peppol Service Provider in all markets where Peppol is active. This means that regardless of what method is chosen to connect to Pagero, the supplier can trade with all of their suppliers and buyers through the same platform. It is highly cost-effective to get started, making it easy to realise a return on investment, even when the number of transactions is low.
The obvious advantage is that there is no need for multiple connections or portals, making it possible to connect to any ERP system and business process. Atherton also added Pagero Data Capture (PDC) in order to fully automate their AP processes.
“Even if some of our suppliers aren’t yet able to send true e-invoices, we don’t have to manually enter any data. The PDC option is fantastic because we can reach our goal of only e-invoicing but also support our suppliers if they are a few steps behind us in this process,” Atherton says.
“I am really happy with the results we have seen so far,” says Atherton. “Many companies are still struggling from the COVID-19 pandemic and having to delay their digitalisation projects and look over their priorities, so it is really fantastic that we have already gotten as far as we have. Around 40% of our supplier invoices are now true e-invoices,” explains Atherton.
“That is just looking at the number of invoices we receive electronically. For us, it is even more interesting to look at the amount of data this amounts to, that we are now receiving digitally. Right now, we are working with Pagero on getting one of our largest suppliers onboard, which will push the amount of data we receive to 55%,” adds Atherton.
Next steps in the e-business journey
“Our next goal is to get to 85% e-invoices, which will amount to roughly 90-95% of our data. We expect to achieve that goal in the next two to three years. I definitely see this as a realistic goal, especially now that the government has stepped in to make it mandatory. With the PDC option, we have already achieved a 100% automated AP process, and that is fantastic.”
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Atherton’s advice to other businesses:
Implementing Pagero’s solutions is a long-term investment. “Even though Pagero is easy to use, you still need to look over your own internal routines to find room for improvement. And that is a good thing, so you improve on things that might have led to costly errors or poor routines in the past.”
Look over your company’s needs for improvement and do the maths. “Once you do, you will get a clear view of just how much savings and benefits you get in return for your investment, both short and long-term.”
Making the switch to digital is a triangle between your company, your ERP system and Pagero. “Make sure to include all three around the table. Get a clear view of which internal processes need tweaking, and what your own liabilities are. We use IFS, which functions brilliantly with Pagero, but there were details to figure out together for everything to run smoothly.”
Keep a close eye on market developments in your area to make sure that you can fulfil all legal e-invoicing requirements within the set time frame. “Get started as early as you can so you will have time to perfect any internal issues before you start receiving large amounts of data into your system.”
Find a good service provider. “Pagero is fantastic and has catered to all of our needs. They keep us up to date on market developments and are always responsive and service-minded. They include us in discussions and decision making, and their personal approach involves much more than just providing the right technology. I can really recommend working with Pagero.”