Are You Losing the Potential Energy From Your Customer Orders?

A strategy of continuous improvement in the supply chain is necessary in order to maintain competitiveness in the world of med-device and hi-tech manufacturing. These specialized industries have highly experienced and educated customer service and inside sales staff that, often times, spend too much time trying to manage customer orders. What if, instead of expending energy on managing these orders, you could collect the order data and let that energy work for your organization?

Most of the organizations I work with are receiving some combination of orders via EDI, fax, central orders email box and phone. And then there are the orders coming from e-commerce sites, customer portals, and EDI transactions that are rejected by their ERPs. Sales guy Bob struggles with control issues, so his customers send their orders directly to his email box, not the general order box. All of a sudden, the omni-channel customer ordering experience becomes less of a way to help your customers and more of a risk for orders to be misplaced, accidentally deleted, and slow to enter the supply chain.

Med-device and high-tech manufacturers have the added complexity of an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions. Say a site in Pennsylvania is running SAP, that one in Washington is running Oracle, and the site in Houston is running AS400. Not only are orders coming in through multiple channels, they are routed to different ERPs. With order information spread out across an organization, it is extremely difficult for operations, treasury, supply chain, and executive leadership to have access to accurate organizational reporting. Manual reporting is rarely accurate reporting, and the results of demand planning based on it can be disastrous.

Forward-thinking organizations are investing in a singular platform for all orders, regardless of the way their customers find it easiest to send orders and to which ERP those orders are heading. With advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computing power, Esker is helping those organizations mine data from orders and provide visibility into orders as soon as they arrive. No more mishandled orders, inaccurate reporting, or surprise trends. Bonus kicker? The reporting power is in the hands of the users. No more submitting an IT ticket requesting someone else to magically dig information out of your ERP on their timeline.

With the omni-channel growing in complexity, it is important to have control and visibility into all customer orders to balance and accelerate the customer-centric supply chain cycle. Automating processes is the goal for many med-device and hi-tech manufacturers, but to what end? You can build a business case based on efficiency gains, but a complete order management platform touches so many other aspects of the supply chain. The ability to handle demand spikes and sudden rises in order volume, increased employee morale (leading to a better customer experience), a reduction in order-entry errors entering the supply chain, and a significant improvement in the cost to serve are just a handful of the realizations organizations experience when truly harnessing the power of their inbound orders.

HEINEKEN Spain Delivering Improved Customer Service Using Esker’s Order Processing Solution

Orders are now being processed five times faster thanks to automation

Sydney, Australia — February 13, 2018Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with HEINEKEN Spain, the leading developer and marketer of premium beer and cider brands including Heineken®, Cruzcampo, Amstel and Buckler, to automate its order management process. HEINEKEN was looking to improve customer response times, reduce manual handling of errors and increase visibility over orders received via all channels. 

Within a few months of implementing Esker’s Order Processing automation solution, HEINEKEN was able to significantly accelerate its order management process by reducing the average time to process an order from 170 to 30 seconds (five times faster).

HEINEKEN receives an annual volume of more than 40,000 orders via fax and email. Thanks to Esker’s machine-learning capabilities and intelligent image-recognition technology, HEINEKEN’s Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are able to process orders without any human intervention. After just three months of solution implementation, over 50 percent of orders were fully automated without needing user validation. Today, 74 percent of orders are validated with no changes required.

Intelligent automation

Esker’s solution extracts all order data (e.g., customer numbers, product codes, quantities, ship to addresses, etc.) and automatically matches it with HEINEKEN’s master data. Once read, interpreted and validated, the order is sent to HEINEKEN’s SAP® system. Orders are automatically split by product type and multiple orders are created in SAP for one order document. Order data metrics are visible on the dashboard homepage, resulting in greater visibility to the work carried out by the customer service team.

“Thanks to Esker, our customer service team is more efficient and has been able to spend more time on higher-value tasks which have increased customer satisfaction,” said Luis Fernández-Palacios, order management manager at HEINEKEN’s Department of Logistics and Customer Service. “Our team is thrilled with the functionality and flexibility Esker has brought to their daily work, and with how quickly and easily the solution was implemented.”

Next steps

Esker is already working on several enhancements to enable HEINEKEN to deliver increased value to its customers, including dispatch advice, invoicing and managed returns. HEINEKEN is also interested in automating its Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) orders with Esker to achieve 100 percent visibility over all order reception channels.


HEINEKEN Spain is a subsidiary of HEINEKEN, the world’s most international brewer and leading developer and marketer of premium beer and cider brands. Led by the Heineken® brand, the Group has a portfolio of more than 250 international, regional, local and specialty beers and ciders. The company is committed to innovation, long-term brand investment, disciplined sales execution and focused cost management. HEINEKEN Spain has more than 110 years of history in Spain and four factories located in Madrid, Valencia, Seville and Jaen where more than 10 million hectoliters of beer were produced in 2016.

Through “Brewing a Better World,” sustainability is embedded in the business and delivers value for all stakeholders. HEINEKEN has a well-balanced geographic footprint with leadership positions in both developed and developing markets. It employs over 80,000 employees and operates breweries, malteries, cider plants and other production facilities in more than 70 countries. Heineken N.V. and Heineken Holding N.V. shares trade on the Euronext in Amsterdam.


ADEO Services Automates Its Supplier Invoice Process with Esker’s Accounts Payable Solution

Sydney, Australia — February 6, 2018Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with ADEO Services, a holding company for ADEO, a leader in the do-it-yourself (DIY) market, to automate an annual volume of 25,000 supplier invoices in France. Seamlessly integrated with the company’s Oracle® ERP system, Esker’s cloud-based Accounts Payable solution has enabled ADEO Services to streamline its non-purchase order (non-PO) invoicing process. 

As the company grew, it became increasingly complex for ADEO to continue to manually process its non-PO invoices. ADEO Services, responsible for internal services at the company, decided an automation solution was necessary to facilitate the company’s accounts payable (AP) process.

“Over the years our AP process had become increasingly chaotic,” said Hervé Bigot, head of financial projects at ADEO Services. “We had no visibility into our invoices once they arrived and payment deadlines were rarely upheld. Esker has allowed us to structure our service by putting in place good accounting practices that can be shared with the other entities within the network.”

Prior to Esker, it often took several weeks and many different employees to manage the non-PO invoice process; this included, data entry, verification, booking and payment authorisation. The process resulted in lost invoices and late payments.

Benefits of AP Automation

Esker’s solution was selected for its ease of use, quick implementation and ability to integrate new stores with ADEO’s network. Implemented in just a few months, Esker quickly offered ADEO Services and its 2,000 suppliers numerous benefits, including:

  • Faster invoice processing by eliminating manual handing
  • Increased traceability throughout the entire AP process
  • Enhanced visibility thanks to customisable dashboards and real-time metrics (e.g., number of invoices processed, invoices awaiting validation, average processing time per supplier, etc.)
  • Improved cash flow forecasting as invoices are posted and tracked as soon as they are received
  • Improved supplier relationships thanks to timely payment of invoices and rapid dispute resolution

“Thanks to Esker, paper has been largely eliminated,” added Bigot. “Additionally, invoices are now tracked and accounted for as soon as they are received, as opposed to several weeks, or even months later, as was the case before Esker.”

By the end of the year, ADEO Services is hoping to permanently eliminate paper from its process and eventually integrate invoices from other companies within its group, bringing the total number of yearly invoices automated to 40,000.

About ADEO

ADEO is the leading French player in the international DIY market and the third largest worldwide. ADEO’s network of stores and franchisees in the DIY, home improvement, decoration, tools and appliances sectors include: Leroy Merlin, Bricoman, Weldom, decoclico, delaMaison, Alice Délice, etc. Present in 12 countries, ADEO employs 100,000 people across its network of 14 chains, 34 autonomous companies, 485 franchise stores and 707 integrated stores. The company achieved 19.1 billion euros in sales revenue in 2016 and a growth rate of 8.5 percent.

8 Accounts Receivable Management Strategies That Might Just Get You Promoted

Despite what a lot of accounts receivable (AR) leaders may still believe, “We have an ERP/accounting system” is not a viable credit and collections management strategy. Not in 2018, anyway.

Other departments (sales, marketing and accounts payable to name a few) have been more open to adopting complementary digitized solutions that provide added value beyond the traditional systems. It’s no great wonder why: They’ve proven to be effective tools for maximizing time, money and resources while creating a more transparent and collaborative work environment.

Nevertheless, AR appears content to settle for the status quo. Manual invoice delivery. Using sticky notes and spreadsheets for post-sale collections. No real analytical analysis. To put it in style terms, AR is out here in 2018 still rocking a mullet and mustache — and not in some hip ironic way, either.

Want to be the savior your behind-the-times AR department so rightly deserves? Here are 8 simple and sensible strategies that will get your team on the path to improved AR performance and maybe, just maybe, lead to a well-deserved promotion in the process.

Strategy #1: Greet technology as a friend.

Contrary to what’s commonly believed, automation is not some technological wrecking ball designed to wipe out and replace all of your existing people, processes and technology. AR can’t and shouldn’t be fully automated. The idea is to automate what should be automated.

Think of today’s best-in-class AR solutions more like a highly specialized team member. Except, this employee not only helps you get paid faster, keep costs down and improve customer relationships, it doesn’t take any time off. If that’s not an idea to get behind, I don’t know what is.

Strategy #2: Think beyond DSO.

Using metrics to improve performance is not a new or radical concept. But in AR, besides “DSO” and “Amount written off” the data analysis pool is laughably shallow. AR departments that find ways to go beyond DSO are able to effectively track performance, hold their teams accountable, and ultimately get the results they desire.

Want specific examples of these key metrics? Download the eBook found at the end of this blog post.

Strategy #3: Make e-invoicing a priority.

Switching to e-invoicing is in everyone’s best interests — both company and customers alike. It’s just a matter of creating a specific plan to facilitate the transition to e-invoicing. This can include strategies as simple as:

  • Setting defined goals (e.g., increasing e-invoice delivery via email by 20% over four months)
  • Collecting accounts payable (AP) email addresses from all new customers
  • Reaching out to existing customers in order to convert them from paper to email

Strategy #4: Confirm invoice receipts.

“I never received the invoice.” How many times have you heard this from a late-paying customer? With the right AR automation solution in place, this problem disappears. Users can track invoices from beginning to end and know exactly when the document was received.

Taking it a step further, the solution gathers data that your team can also use to set up workflow rules. For example, your team could be altered to any unopened invoice (based on when it was sent, dollar amount, customer group, etc.) and reach out to the customer. Simple, easy and effective.

Strategy #5: Get a clear follow-up plan.

Most companies would love to contact their customers before 15-20 days past the due date. In reality, that’s a tough ask … especially in a manual environment that’s strewn with bottlenecks. Automated AR solutions have a better way of doing it. Their slick payment reminder capabilities ensure that friendly emails are sent out automatically to notify slow-paying customers. No human intervention necessary. No manual headaches or hassles.

Strategy #6: Focus on team efficiency.

It’s not uncommon for as much as one-third of an AR rep’s time to be spent on prioritizing contacts and searching for contact-related information. That’s a lot of time/money/production lost, my friends. Automated AR management solutions have an elegant solution to this problem — giving staff members a clear snapshot of their day via customized to-do lists. Not only will they know what to do and when to do it, managers are also aware, and can make decisions accordingly.

Strategy #7: Evolve with your customers.

You may have noticed that people nowadays seem to prefer interacting with small, glowing rectangles than actual human beings. Your customers are no different. Instead of speaking to a rep or getting put on hold, they would rather make an invoice payment or get a question answered online, often from their mobile device, and on their own time.

Self-service tools offered through automated AR solutions help customers do things like:

  • View invoice information online
  • Make payments electronically
  • Apply credits to open invoices
  • Sign up for auto-pay functionality
  • Get questions answered rapidly

Strategy #8: Use root-cause analysis.

How do problems like late payments, customer disputes and deductions happen in the first place? Good question. With an automated AR solution, you can finally get the answer. Users can identify, track and categorize the root causes of some of the most common payment-related issues, and over time, even help them pinpoint customer patterns as to help avoid them in the future.

Care to learn more about these 8 AR management strategies? Download the eBook, 8 Accounts Receivable Management Strategies to Make Your Process Best-in-Class. It goes over the same strategies covered here … just in a bit more detail. If you liked this blog post, you’ll love the eBook. Enjoy!

Novatech Group Selects Esker to Automate Its Order Management and Accounts Payable Process

Sydney, Australia — January 31, 2018Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it has signed an agreement with Novatech Group, a leading Quebec manufacturer of doorglass, patio doors, steel doors, retractable screens and insulated glass, to automate its order management and accounts payable (AP) processes.


Esker’s Order Processing and Accounts Payable automation solutions will integrate with Novatech’s Oracle® E-Business Suite ERP system. Once implementation is complete, Novatech estimates it will be automating 11,500 total documents (sales orders and supplier invoices) each month through Esker.

Order management project

Novatech receives approximately 7,000 sales orders each month from customers, mostly via fax and email. Previously, the company’s process for managing these orders was heavily reliant on its team of Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) performing manual tasks. Received orders would have to be printed or collected (depending on arrival method), then hand-entered into Oracle and scanned for archiving purposes. This led to a lot of wasted time and energy, along with an increase in order backlogs and entry errors — issues that were only amplified during seasonal peaks.

According to Hélène Marcoux, customer service manager at Novatech Group, the old process was getting in the way of the department’s primary objectives. “Our goal has always been to be proactive and productive in customer interactions and keying in orders wasn’t helping,” she said. “With Esker, we’ll be able to improve the overall service we’re providing our customers. From a cost-saving standpoint, it will also help us reduce overtime hours and our reliance on temporary seasonal hires to manage spikes in order volume.”

Another benefit of order processing automation is the added visibility the solution brings. Esker’s solution is equipped with intelligent dashboards displaying live metrics and KPIs customisable by user. Eric Castonguay, operations manager at Novatech Group, considers this feature to be highly advantageous, saying: “As a manager, I need to have KPIs to see what orders are coming and going and, ultimately, prevent any issues from slowing down the operation. I’m so glad we found Esker!”

Accounts payable project

On the AP side of its business, Novatech had been experiencing similar inefficiencies as a result of manual processing. Each month, the company’s team of AP specialists are tasked with managing about 4,500 supplier invoices. The amount of paper invoices being passed around, combined with the overall lack of visibility, made for a chaotic, decentralised environment.

“Automating invoices in Esker is going to make a significant impact on our success as an AP department,” said Sonia Dumont, corporate controller at Novatech Group. “Before, there was really no way to tell where an invoice was, how long it had been there or what specialists were busier than others. Esker gives us that visibility. What’s more, we’ll no longer be missing out on early payment discounts. That’s a huge value.”

About Novatech Group

Novatech Group is a Québec company with 35 years of experience that manufactures entrance doors, doorglass, patio doors, retractable screens and custom sealed glass. Offering high quality products designed to improve the customer’s residential experience, with a range of architectural products for the residential market, Novatech Group’s development encompasses the pursuit of excellence, automation and innovation at all levels of the company. Novatech operates 13 ultra-modern plants across Canada, the United States and Europe, and its products are distributed internationally.

How Listening to Bob Dylan Might Just Make Your Business More Agile

As you may have heard, Bob Dylan recently received a Nobel Prize in Literature for, as the Nobel Committee put it, “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

He is the first musician to ever receive the prestigious honor.

Predictably, the news ignited a firestorm of response. Dylan enthusiasts, who have long maintained that his lyrics have transcendent artistic value, were tickled by the recognition. Many literary purists, on the other hand, were borderline outraged that a songwriter had infringed on the hallowed territory of poets and novelists.

As a diehard Dylan-ite since my early 20s, I have my own thoughts on the matter … but that’s a discussion for another time.

What the announcement of the Nobel Prize really got me thinking about was the enduring nature of Dylan the artist; specifically, something he once said about being successful, and how, in my opinion, a lot of today’s businesses would be better off if they took the old troubadour’s advice.

Embracing a “State of Becoming”

Those who get Dylan never really give him up. I can personally attest to this. And one of the biggest reasons he has such a devoted fan base is his seemingly endless capacity to recreate himself. From protest singer and electric bard to Nashville crooner and ethereal love lyricist — every version of Dylan is the same yet, somehow, entirely original.

And so it goes with Bob … always one step ahead, demanding that his audiences catch up with him and not the other way around. It’s no wonder he’s still going strong — gravelly voice and all — after all these years.

This brings me back to the quote I mentioned previously. In the 2005 Martin Scorsese-directed documentary No Direction Home, Dylan laid out the philosophy behind his elusive nature (emphasis mine):

“An artist has to be careful never to really arrive at a place where he thinks he’s at somewhere. You always have to realize that you’re constantly in a state of becoming, and as long as you’re in that realm, you’ll sort of be alright.”

It could be argued he said essentially the same thing 40 years earlier, albeit more succinctly and inauspiciously, in his song “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” when he sang, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Ok, so maybe success in the business world isn’t quite equitable to success as an artist. Still, it raises an important question: How many of today’s businesses, because of their past or present successes, feel as though they arrived somewhere — to a kind of real or imagined destination that they merely work to sustain rather push beyond?

It’s the Way We’ve Always Done Things

In Esker’s realm of document process automation, over and over again we encounter businesses that are reluctant to adopt new technology because they see their current processes — despite their obvious flaws — as being somehow tied to their identity. It’s the way we’ve always done things.

That’s not to say resistance to change is necessarily a bad thing. Changing solely for the sake of change is not in anyone’s best interest, and there are certainly legitimate variables that prevent change from occurring (e.g., bad timing, limited budget, etc.).

But where Dylan’s advice can really work its magic is within components of document processes that normally are considered inconsequential or too essential to a company’s identity to change in any way.

For example, a lot of companies take great pride in the personal touch of their customer service. A recent TermSync study found that over 80 percent of distributors believed their quality of customer service differentiated them from the competition; yet, only 30% of them offer their customers a self-service online portal (something 3 in 4 customers actually prefer).

Just think of all the value and opportunities within customer service that companies have lost due to not embracing a “state of becoming.”

Another example of this is in order processing, where many companies have EDI systems as part of their infrastructure. The problem is, exceptions — which can affect up to 35% of incoming EDI orders — can cause a lot of serious workflow issues. Still, a lot of business professionals feel as though EDI is the end-all-be-all and wind up missing out on the benefits that automation can bring, such as reducing EDI processing time by an average of four days versus when manual intervention exists in an EDI environment.

Fostering an efficient, agile business has never been more important than it is today. Yes, change can be a scary thing, but it’s always better to be proactive than reactive. As Dylan once sang, “May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift.” Indeed, Bob.

Document process automation has been that foundation for thousands of companies — not only as a solution to address short-term problems, but as a driving force behind long-term business improvement strategies.

5 Mind-Numbing Tasks Your Accounts Receivable Team Never Has To Do Again

Money moves fast, from you to your vendors and from your customers to you. So why are Accounts Receivable (AR) departments so often stuck in outdated, time sucking practices that create unnecessary errors, waste time and prevent your valuable talent from focusing on their essential work? Why not automate those practices and make it easy for your staff to do what they do best–help your customers pay you!  You can revolutionize your AR operation by automating these 5 tasks:

1) Sending Snail-Mail Invoices. This is the 21st century. Last year 60% of companies preferred electronic invoicing, and for obvious reasons…it’s easy to track, lightning-fast to process and very more likely to be paid than a paper invoice that can be misplaced or simply thrown away. If you are reading this, your organization almost certainly already has the digital tools to distribute invoices by e-mail, including clickable links to allow for instant payment.

2) Sending One-Off Payment Reminder Emails. Customers sometimes need to be reminded to make their payments, but it can be confusing to figure out who gets the reminders and how to prioritize them.  Should you be reminding people with the highest balances or the ones that have been outstanding the longest? How can you tell if someone is overlooked? Automating your reminder list with customized messaging makes sure everyone gets an appropriate reminder at the appropriate time, and no one gets accidentally added or left out.

3) Prioritizing Collection Calls Manually. Collection calls are as tricky to prioritize as payment reminders, and your customers like them even less.  If you can generate collection call lists automatically, along with personalized call scripts, your AR team will be more successful and your revenue stream will flow more abundantly. Automated AR systems also allow you to track balances from purchase through the late payment and collection process with a minimum of manual intervention, which reduces the risks of billing errors and payment disputes.

4) Fielding Every Single Customer Inquiry In Person. While your organization is right to pride itself on its personal touch, your customers don’t have time to wait on hold while your staff rushes to answer phones. Automating your AR service options so that customers can use an online portal to resolve simple problems shows that you value your customers’ time and that you have highly-trained people on the phones when they’re needed. Tasks that your customers may be able to complete using an automated portal include:

  • Update contact and account information
  • Review account and order history
  • Simple troubleshooting, guided by online manuals
  • Register non-urgent questions and concerns via email

5) Compiling Data to Generate And Send Reports. AR isn’t just about collecting money, it’s about reporting how you get it and where it came from. Compiling reports manually not only takes an enormous amount of time, it’s very easy to make a mistake.  Converting your AR reporting from manual compilation to an automated reporting tool will give you more control over the accuracy and timeliness of your reporting, as well as the option of creating and revising reports far more quickly.

You hired your Accounts Receivable team to manage your company’s central revenue stream.  When you automate their purely administrative tasks so that they can focus on building customer relationships, you invest in their success and yours.  When your customers encounter problems with their invoicing or their payments, it reflects badly on your organization.

How the Life Science Industry is Changing


I was recently reading up on President Trumps proposed taxpayer budget, wondering “What will it mean for patients, hospitals and numerous other life science customers that Esker serves?” Regardless of one’s political leaning, most supply chain leaders tend to agree that healthcare costs continue to rise.

After a recent conversation with analyst firm Gartner, I took away that hospitals are facing increased demand, higher costs and there is a definite expectation that Medicare funding will be reduced. There is a new culture where hospitals must consistently improve patient outcomes, their education of doctors, and lower overall hospital costs.

Life science providers can anticipate more demand for their products as medical professionals become more comfortable with medical devices and joint replacements. A good friend of mine who is a retired airline captain, tennis player and ski instructor jokes about a hip replacement procedure being required at one point in the future as it means he will be able to maintain a lifestyle close to what he has enjoyed so far. Who doesn’t want to play tennis or coach their grandkids to play ball? I recall an HBR publication that highlighted many babies born today have an excellent chance of becoming centenarians assuming a healthy lifestyle and access to best in class care and life science applications later on.

The life science providers are combining processes and technology that allow them to lower production costs, improve overall quality and get products to the hospital faster. These manufacturers are likely to be doing more business with the hospitals via direct channels in the future. To meet the increased demand and price pressures they will have to be able to handle a significantly greater scale of customers placing orders directly.

Supply chain leaders are aware that customer experience will dominate purchase decisions within the next three years. For that reason, we find ourselves talking with supply chain leaders as they look to embrace machine learning that will help cut out errors, boost staff productivity and enhance the overall supply chain experience as the supply chain tends to have more touchpoints with customers than the sales team.

There is an incorrect perception that these efficiency goals can only be achieved if every order flows through without any touches. Life science leaders including Alere and Biomerieux focused on reducing the number of touches needed by combining people, process and technology to great effect. Bayer lowered order management time from 7 mins to 58 seconds. Alere cut nearly four minutes and lowered the number of touches from 17 to 2.4.

Regardless of who is in charge in Washington D.C,  the population will rely more on life science. Those providers are going to be busier and, for most, technology is going to allow them to keep up.