Processing invoices is a fundamental aspect of business transactions dating back hundreds of years. Until recently, most businesses followed a manually-driven process for this highly-repetitive task. This is rather slow with limitations due to the speed of manual effort and also highly error prone. However a digital transformation is underway as intelligent automation is providing businesses with tremendous abilities to automate data-intensive, highly repetitive processes. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has Computer Vision and the ability to process unstructured content enables the automation of invoice and receipt processing. This AI functionality can be harnessed as part of an Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) solution that opens the door to end-to-end workflow hyperautomation possibilities. The RPA component of IPA serves to help automate entire workflows, feeding the output of AI-automated invoice processing to downstream processes.
Research shows that the average cost of manually processing an invoice can be as high as $20. With close to a million invoices processed by businesses annually, the implementation of AI and IPA solutions can provide significant savings. Aside from processing invoices, such solutions can also help streamline and automate an organization’s Accounts Payable (AP) processes.
Stages of Invoice and Receipt Processing
Firstly, the physical document is converted into a digitized format. This is achieved either by scanning and invoice or capturing an image with a camera.
The second step is extracting information. This was previously done manually by reviewers who skim through the invoice combing for errors, read the text and enter into a system for future retrieval. The advent of AI allows automation of this step, processing unstructured content into structured data using OCR to identify relevant sections to extract such as total, subtotal, date of invoice, etc.
The third step is the storage of data. Once the information has been extracted it is transferred to a storage format such as a database, Excel sheet or ERP system. The RPA component of an IPA solution can perform this step.
Multiple Invoice Formats? AI Can Handle Them
The initial hurdle with automating invoices and receipts arises with their glaring lack of adhering to any standard format or structure. They do have a uniform template and RPA is unable to process such unstructured content in myriad heterogeneous formats. RPA is restricted to rule-based processing of structure data. Each invoice could have critical information such as dollar rates and invoice numbers in different locations. The advent of AI has been a game-changer as it can automate processing of various formats of invoices thanks to its unstructured content processing abilities.
AI and IPA solutions can be quickly trained to understand documents and also cope with ‘noise’ in the documents and still find relevant information and extract it.
Benefits of Intelligent Automation
- Faster Turnaround Time
AI powered invoice processing and extraction can be completed under 30 seconds as opposed to the three and a half minutes it would take a person to do it manually. Future invoices from repetitive vendors can be processed in even less time since the AI is continuously learning and improving.
- No Manual Intervention
AI automation saves a lot of time eliminating manual effort for data entry and correction. It also surmounts the challenges of template and rule creation for invoice formats as it can process this unstructured content. This in turn allows your employees and teams to spend more time on higher value tasks.
- Greater Accuracy
Thanks to its Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning capabilities, AI solutions can learn and improve over time, getting better and better. Moreover, such solutions do not suffer human fatigue and can accurately extract data without the risk of manual errors. This leads to much higher rates of accuracy.
AI and IPA solutions can scale on-demand to cope with a higher volume of invoice processing. There’s no need to worry about manpower and capacity. Scale up or down with ease as required.
- Align with Financial Objectives
Timely invoice approval and payment can lead to early payment discounts from suppliers which is likely to increase your profit margin. By further increasing invoice processing efficiency your organization can streamline other functions closely related to AP such as procurement, purchasing, production and distribution. By completing invoice data capture faster and more accurately you can better monitor and optimize organization capital.
There is tremendous scope for harnessing AI and IPA solutions to streamline and automate a plethora data-intensive business use cases ranging from customer care, document understanding, IT functions and entire workflows . Take a look at how to Make Hospitality AP Processing Less of a Headache with IPA.
If you’d like to explore opportunities where your business can benefit from commercial RPA and IPA implementations for hyperautomation, the Rapid Acceleration Partners team would be glad to help. Our next-gen, AI-powered content intelligence platform RAPFlow enables full lifecycle AI orchestration on a single platform. When used in tandem with our RPA solution RAPBot, it provides end-to-end workflow automation capabilities that can be deployed in just weeks. You can even build your own use case and the platform can easily integrate with your existing systems. Book a demo to get a more detailed understanding of how our products can transform your business.