Irwell Valley Housing Association has successfully digitised its invoicing and purchase-to-pay (P2P) process using a Kofax-based OCR scanning system from Soprano Solutions and Data Capture Solutions. This follows Soprano’s original contract to supply Irwell Valley’s P2P service.
The OCR system is being used first by the housing provider’s finance department to process 30,000 invoices each year through its P2P system. After this first stage, the lettings team will use the same tools to process new application forms, amounting to around 18,000 pages per year, followed by the income management team scanning a further 1,000 pages each year, comprising housing benefit letters and legal documents.
To meet Irwell Valley’s finance department’s initial requirements, the OCR system links to its Soprano e-procurement and P2P system in order to read supplier details generated by Soprano in a CSV format which are then used to validate the OCR-scanned data. The scanned invoices are also seamlessly processed and imported into the Soprano environment. In later phases of the project, the majority of scanned documents will be forwarded to defined storage locations in SharePoint, with an associated audit trail. The solution also sorts invoices into batches, with rules defined by Irwell Valley, based on data fields such as purchase order number, supplier name, invoice date, VAT number and invoice value.
For the initial finance stage of the system’s implementation, IVHA assigned a Fujitsu scanner for the task, with Soprano’s partner, Data Capture Solutions, then deploying Kofax’s Capture, ReScan (VRS) and Transformation modules. The Fujitsu scanner is connected to two Kofax-enabled workstations and assigned to individuals who are responsible for operating the daily scanning workload.
In preparation for the implementation of the OCR system, Irwell Valley’s original Soprano system was enhanced with a new invoice import feature to provide Kofax with supplier data and outstanding orders data in CSV format twice a day, and receive CSV files from Kofax on successful validation and completion of the OCR scanning process.
Using shared CSV data, Kofax and Soprano now work together to automatically process invoices that match with Soprano order numbers and immediately send them to the appropriate reviewer or budget holder. Finance staff can now concentrate on only validating exceptions instead of manually processing every match, with the time saved now spent on tasks that require human attention.
Furthermore, the system’s Knowledge Approval Database continues to learn how the transactions and associated information are processed and therefore continues to improve the accuracy of automated transaction processing.
The daily arrival of invoices to the finance department now takes about one hour for a member of staff to validate, compared with around 3-4 hours prior to the deployment of the Kofax-Soprano system. 30 per cent of invoices go straight through without requiring validation from staff, with the remainder taking about a minute each to tap through and validate. In addition, Irwell Valley’s backlog in paperwork has been eliminated and the risk of in-house processing errors has been considerably reduced.