Monthly Archives: November 2011

Global Financial Crisis – The Basis for e-Invoicing Success?

Success, Profit, BusinessAs any business owner knows, particularly those in the SME market, securing credit from a bank is nigh on impossible at the moment. Concerns about capitalisation and liquidity are causing banks to keep hold of cash, making loans to businesses extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. As a result wider economic growth is stalled as businesses cannot afford to invest in order to expand. Consequently, companies are being forced to identify efficiencies and costs savings which can potentially free up cash for re-investment, undertaking detailed analysis of financial routines in way that during the “good times” may have been neglected.

These internal reviews are forcing businesses to look ever harder at their own cash flow and the way it is managed. Many have already discovered that the process streamlining available through e-Invoicing has significant benefits, particularly when extended to the wider financial supply chain. The automation of various accounting functions reduces workload whilst maintaining the controls required for low-level financial analysis.

The European Union’s continued promotion of e-Invoicing coupled with similar requirements of many national governments are steadily moving businesses towards electronic invoice presentation and payment anyway, but the global financial instability could be accelerating uptake too. The political drive to increase e-Invoicing should see the concept reach critical mass with SMEs in the next few years and as uptake climbs, so too should use of these platforms in the B2B markets as well as the B2G.

So at a time where literally every penny counts, business decision makers should be following the lead set by the European Union and investigating the potential benefits and savings available through business process automation and outsourcing. e-Invoicing could be one of the ways to ensure business survival and growth despite the apparent obstructions put up banks.

Masters of Supply Chain Management – Norman Joseph Woodland

Woodland’s journey to Master of Supply Chain Management status initially started as something of an accident. Thanks to a conversation overheard by his friend Bernard Silver, Woodland began a personal quest to create a system which automatically read product information at the checkout in a store. The overall goal was to reduce processing time, reduce operator error and thereby reduce processing costs. The solution developed by Woodland? The barcode.

Norman Joseph WoodlandUsing Morse code as his inspiration, Woodland recognised that using simple dots and dashes information could be encoded simply and sent electronically. Legend has it that during a visit to the beach, Woodland drew a series of dots and dashes in the sand, which he then dragged to form lines; dots produced thin vertical lines whilst dashes were much thicker. The two-dimensional barcode was created as a direct variant of Morse code.

Woodland and his business partner Bernard Silver adapted an existing system used for optical soundtracks in movies to provide the automated aspect of the new coding system. An ultra bright light bulb was shone through the printed barcode onto a movie projectors photomultiplier (a clever piece of technology which accurately detects light levels and variants therein). After proving the concept worked, Woodland and Silver were granted a patent for their “Classifying Apparatus and Method” in 1952. Unlike modern barcodes, the patent used “bulls eye” circular codes which were easier to scan and decode from any angle.

The barcode concept developed by Woodland was pushed around by various technology companies for the next twenty years with in-store tests only beginning in earnest in 1972. Almost immediately a problem with Woodland and Silver’s original concept was discovered, because the codes produced were frequently corrupted whilst being printed, rendering them unreadable. Fortunately Woodland had secured a position at IBM and had developed an alternative system which was less prone to the printing problem, based on the straight line systems we know today. The new system was released in 1973.

BarcodeJust one year later, in a supermarket in Ohio, USA, the first ever commercial transaction using Woodland’s new barcoding system took place. So momentous was the occasion that the receipt generated by the transaction is still on display today at the Smithsonian Institute.

As more stores across the US began to implement barcode scanners at the checkout, researchers noted several findings. Firstly within 5 weeks of the scanners being installed, sales permanently increased by 10-12%. It was also found that operation costs were reduced by between 1% and 2% thanks to new efficiencies at the till. The finding which sealed the place of the barcode in history however was the discovery that the system generated a 41.5% return on investment. And in addition to the financial savings, businesses were also able to use the scan data for improved customer relationship management.

Barcodes are now present on virtually every item in every store in every country. Woodland’s conversion of Morse code into a machine readable format changed supply chain management and the wider world forever.



Cloud computing, e-commerce and how automating your documents can save you big

“Supply chains that rely on paper-based purchasing, order and inventory reconciliation, and all-important billing and payments, are prone to error, are going to be subject to delay and query, and require a lot of labour to control (…)” Read on our ‘Battle of supply chains’ post.


Key People in the Supply Chain

The strength of any supply chain is the people involved. There are people on the assembly making goods, other people deliver those goods to customers, and yet more people complete the required administration at each part of the process. By their very presence it is obvious that everyone in the supply chain is vital. However as with any chain, the supply chain is only as strong as weakest link. In the supply chain the weakest link is almost invariably the people.

Often, breaks in the supply chain are accidental or caused by a lack of personal ownership, as with the ‘Dockets in Pockets’ syndrome. Employees regard their responsibilities in isolation, failing to recognise that their casual negligence can have much wider implications for the business as a whole.Chain

Other times supply chains grind to a halt because a key staff member is away on annual leave and the employees operating in their absence lack the required skills or training to complete the job accurately. Tasks are then either left undone or done incorrectly, increasing the time and effort required to rectify the situation. Delays in the supply chain cause delays in payment, reducing cash flow and negatively affecting future transactions.

Occasionally issues can be caused by a disgruntled employee using their knowledge to maliciously damage the chain and their employer’s business. Feeding deliberate misinformation, or obstructing certain key transactions and interactions can have a major impact on a company and the other businesses in their supply chain.

So although everyone is key to the supply chain, they also have the potential to introduce significant problems into the process too. The solution is to automate as many of these links as possible, reducing the chances of introducing operator error into the chain and keeping each transaction moving as smoothly as possible. Using the principles of Business Process Outsourcing and Supply Chain Management, many of these potential people-related problems can be avoided, increasing efficiencies, reducing costs and allowing employees to focus on doing their jobs, rather than on administration.

And although costs savings can be made within a single business, the benefits can be shared up and down the supply chain by implementing a suitable hosted system which can be accessed by them all. Celtrino’s Smart Admin platform provides an interface for businesses at every point in the supply chain through which they can automate many of their transactions.

People will always be key to the supply chain, but there is no harm in investing to reduce manual administration and human error.


Celtrino investing $1million in its next generation of e-Invoicing services on Microsoft Azure

Celtrino investing $1million in its next generation Smart Admin supply chain management services on Microsoft Azure.


EDI – Did You Know?

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)DI, or Electronic Data Interchange to give it its full title, has been around as a “standard” since the 1970s, facilitating data transfer between businesses ever since. The idea of providing a strict data structure which would facilitate data transfer between computer systems without involving human intervention, thus reducing the space for human error, was immediately attractive.

Skip forward 30 years and the attraction of automation and reduced intervention remains very attractive. In fact, so attractive that there are currently more than 50 different EDI standards in active use across the European Union.


The advent of the flexible data interchange markup language XML in the 1990s, immediately allowed business sectors who believed that their market vertical was significantly different to others to create their own EDI standards. The ease of use meant that just about anyone could define and implement their own standard to meet their needs, whether or not something suitable already existed.

Even the European Union got in on the act, creating an EDI standard specifically for short distance sea trips, such as ferry crossings between England and France, as a distinctly separate standard to that in place for long haul shipping.


This proliferation of standards is not such a problem for businesses operating solely within a particular sector, but any who supply to multiple industries or sectors will need to implement several different systems to cope with the EDI demands of each customer. Not only is such a system hugely complex to implement and manage, it is seldom cost effective either.

Clearly, pulling out of the market altogether is not an option, but a system which interacts transparently with all required formats without intervention is preferable. A system which requires no on-going maintenance and is hosted externally is even more desirable because of the potential cost savings available.

The future?

The UN and EU have both tasked committees with finding a way to condense their own plethora of competing standards; despite their best efforts they were only able to rationalise 12 different e-invoicing standards into two. Neither committee was able to find a way of bending the standards to meet every need.

The solution clearly lies in finding a system which allows industries, sectors and sub-sectors to continue with their current EDI formats, but which translates electronic invoicing and payment data automatically and transparently into the correct format for both supplier and purchaser. Such a system immediately reduces the burden on businesses looking to trade across industries, reducing their own EDI implementations to just one, externally hosted solution.


To find out how Celtrino’s Smart Admin platform could help reduce your EDI implementation complexities, please contact us at +353 1 873 99 02.


Document Tourism


Document Tourism is a phrase we use to describe the process whereby a particularly important piece of paperwork “goes round the houses” upon receipt because it lacks certain critical information. The best way to explain the concept is with an example:

A Purchase Order arrives by post at the Supplier’s office. The document is directed to the Accounts Payable department via internal mail ready for processing. However as the clerk begins to enter the Purchase Order onto the in-house accounts system, he notes that the requisite purchase order is missing. Document Tourism

At this point the clerk must contact the account manager for the client and pass the incomplete purchase order back to them for follow-up. The account manager will almost certainly have to send a copy of the faulty document back to their contact at the purchasing company (physically or electronically) so that an amended version can be sent back. Depending on the complexity of the purchasing and payment procedures in place at the buying or selling company, there may well be several more steps involved.


Just like a tourist on a hop-on hop-off bus service, the document travels around several locations, spending varying amounts of time in each location as it makes its way back up the supply chain. Just like a traveller, every stop takes time and therefore costs money (although purchase orders don’t have to buy a coffee at every stop).

Each step in obtaining the missing data results in a delay, and if time is money (which it is), every stop on the trip costs the Supplier.

Touchless to the rescue

The way to resolve similar problems is to implement a data verification gateway, preventing incomplete forms and documents from entering the supplier’s system. Known as “Touchless Systems”, presentation of purchase orders are presented electronically, sent directly from the buyer’s accounts system to the supplier’s electronically.

Taking the example of the missing purchase order number, the document leaves the buyer’s accounts department and is checked for data integrity as it reaches the supplier. If anything is found to be incomplete, the purchase order is immediately rejected and the buyer is notified. Both buyer and supplier benefit from automated processing in this way because less time is wasted by physically passing documents for manual correction.

Touchless processing immediately cuts out the problem of document tourism as there is only ever one stage in passing information back to a buyer in the event of an incomplete request. The savings of time, effort and money will grow exponentially as fewer and fewer documents require manual correction.

For more about touchless systems and how Smart Admin could help prevent document tourism within your organisation, please get in contact.

UniPhar Group nominated for “Best Use of Technology in Procurement” at The 2011 National Procurement Awards!

The National Procurement Awards 2011There is always a strong sense of pride when one of your customers is nominated by their peers for a best-in-class award at an annual gathering of industry experts. The sense of pride is in part a vindication that your customer chose well in selecting you to deliver such a strategically important solution, also as we delivered what the customer wanted on time and budget and finally, a well-deserved feeling of confidence in a job well done.

Tonight, at the National Procurement Awards, Uniphar is nominated in the category for ‘Best Use of Technology in Procurement.’ Uniphar has been nominated for its Link service and it is testament to its success as it has been live just over one year. The web-based customer portal enables Uniphar Group to manage all interactions with member pharmacies from a single central point. The pharmacies can place orders online at any time, view up-to-date orders, process invoices and other key information.

Uniphar LinkTom McKenna who is the Commercial Director at Uniphar Wholesale puts everything in context when he says, “Identifying that a large group of independent pharmacies buying together could get the same type of purchasing discounts as a chain – that is not innovation, it is just plain economics. Where the innovation lies is in creating a procurement system that will save pharmacy managers time and effort, as well as money.”

As the clock ticks down to the ceremony tonight, we wish Tom and his team every success and do hope that they pick up the top award. It would be the icing on the cake to a job well done!

Dockets in Pockets

What is ‘Dockets in Pockets Syndrome’?  Here at Celtrino we use the phrase to describe a situation which any warehouse manager or other staff member working in goods receipt will recognise only too well. Dockets in Pockets Syndrome boils down to an incomplete paper trail which is a cause of major headaches and financial problems for buyers, suppliers and any other parties involved in the supply chain.Missing delivery notes - Dockets in Pockets

Essentially the whole situation tends to boil down to a couple of well-worm excuses to explain away missing paperwork:

  • “I forgot”
  • “I thought someone else had done it”
  • “It’s not my fault”

Fundamentally the whole “Dockets in Pockets Syndrome” can be distilled into two words; “human” and “error”.

What causes the Syndrome?

We call the problem “Dockets in Pockets” because one of the major causes of supply chain woes is an important piece of paperwork, such as a delivery note, being thrust into a pocket and promptly forgotten about. Several days or weeks later, as the hunt for the paperwork heats up, the offender realises their mistake and wheels out one of the excuses above.

For the worker caught in possession of the missing paperwork, denial becomes the default position in an attempt to ensure self-preservation. As realisation dawns on the errant worker they begin to consider the long term implications of their oversight and ask themselves “what will happen to me if I admit my fault?”

The fact that a major problem can arise from a minor transgression immediately makes them fearful and means they never get around to asking themselves “what will happen to my business if I don’t own up?”

When can diagnosis begin?

In a business reliant on paper-based purchasing, it may take several weeks for identification of a missing document, and even more to trace where it went and why. Factor in the time it takes to resolve such a problem and there could be a significant impact on the purchaser in terms of penalties incurred for failing to meet payment terms.

The problem will go unnoticed however until the Accounts Payable department realises that an invoice cannot be reconciled against a matching delivery receipt. If the receipt is missing, so too is the required paper trail to prove delivery required for payment.

The prognosis

If paperwork goes missing, even infrequently, severe financial consequences can follow. Resolving a gap in the paper trail can be time consuming and extremely expensive. Someone at both supplier and purchaser must investigate the issue to identify where the problem arose and to whom responsibility must be assigned.

Unfortunately a few high profile outbreaks of “Dockets in Pockets” syndrome could be enough to permanently damage a company. The only solution is to implement some form of procedure which removes the chances for human error to impact.

The Future

To combat Dockets in Pockets, processes need to be put in place to ensure:

  1. Was this delivery received?
  2. Was it fully accepted, or partially accepted?
  3. Is the invoice an accurate reflection of what was accepted at the back door?
  4. Whose job was it to receipt it?
  5. Why wasn’t it receipted?

The majority of issues that disrupt the supply chain occur outside the accounts payable department, but it is usually left to accounts payable to resolve them.  Effective supply chain management will ensure that these issues are identified and resolved long before the invoice hits the purchaser’s accounts payable department. In this example the non-return of an electronic goods receipt confirmation would have triggered a process within the supply chain notifying the various stakeholders that the failure has occurred and requires intervention.

The implementation of an electronic system to handle dockets will dramatically reduce the potential for human error. In fact a system like Celtrino’s Smart Admin is probably the only way to permanently prevent future outbreaks of Dockets in Pocket Syndrome.



e-Invoicing – Environmentally Friendly Invoicing

More than ever before, businesses are being asked to prove their environmentally friendly credentials by both customers and suppliers in an effort to help prove the business’ green credentials. Local government and international carbon reduction targets are beginning to bite, and the threat of increased green taxes are forcing businesses to reconsider their business processes to make them as eco-friendly as possible.Eco-friendly Invoicing

Paperwork has long been recognised as a cause of inefficiency, but less well known is the environmental impact bureaucracy can have. It therefore follows that a reduction in paperwork will also result in a reduction in the environmental impact a business may have.


Paperwork, particularly that which requires transportation between each member of a supply chain, is a significant contributor to the carbon footprint of a business. The production of paper in itself uses energy, a by-product of which is carbon dioxide. Factor in processing of the paper, transportation to supplier and then onto the end user and the carbon footprint is again increased. And all this before the paper is even printed and used by a business.

Sending paper invoices and remittance advice further exacerbates the problem, with each postal transaction involving mechanical or automotive transportation – another significant producer of carbon dioxide, and thereby a contributor global warming. Reducing the toing and froing of paper between each link in the supply chain helps reduce environmental impact along the way.

By replacing traditional paper invoicing systems with an electronic equivalent, the carbon costs associated with the production and transport of paper can be immediately negated.


The move to e-Invoicing is only the start of the potential environmental benefits. By outsourcing invoicing and other supply chain management systems, additional savings can be made through a reduction of the need for in-house IT systems. A reduction in physical computers and servers results in reduced electrical consumption. Less energy used equates to less carbon produced, which in turn means a more eco-friendly business.

To find out more about how e-Invoicing and outsourced business process management could help reduce your business’ carbon footprint, please contact Celtrino and ask about our Smart Admin platform.