Monthly Archives: February 2012

What’s the Story Behind Leap Year Proposal Tradition?

According to Wikipedia leap year is a year containing one additional day in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, a calendar that had the same number of days in each year would, over time, drift with respect to the event it was supposed to track. By occasionally inserting an additional day into the year, the drift can be corrected. A year that is not a leap year is called a common year.

Happy Leap Day, February 29thFor example, in the Gregorian calendar , February in a leap year has 29 days instead of the usual 28, so the year lasts 366 days instead of the usual 365.

The calendar we use is now 2000 years old and with it have emerged customs and traditions associated with key events, and Leap Years and Leap Days are no different.

In Ireland legend has it that St Patrick agreed to a demand from St Brigid that women be allowed to propose to men on February 29th. St. Bridget had complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. A tale that can trace its roots back to the 5th century still carries relevance in Ireland in the 21st century as we sill reference the 29th February as the only day when a woman can select the man of her choosing and propose to him.

In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. The fact remains that during the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.

This ‘nonsense’ is part of the tradition that is the Leap Year tradition and only comes round once every four years. Having said that, there is evidence of a number of eligible bachelors that are working from ‘home’ today.

Supply Chain Management: Preparing for Material Shortages?

Supply Chain Management: Preparing for Material Shortages?Much is made of the impact that natural disaster can have on the supply chain, but businesses in the manufacturing sector are also having to think more strategically about sourcing materials which are becoming ever more rare as we consume more. The British Geological Society has gone on record to state that 52 commonly used minerals are now classified as rare. More troubling still is that 27 of these can only be obtained from China.

Alarm bells ring for supply chain managers whenever their business is forced into a single channel as the margin for knock-on effects on production and stock level is nullified. Where China is the only supplier of elements critical to high tech product development, the best that a business can do is source a number of suppliers to provide fail-over in the event of a disaster. That or stockpile materials, driving up prices in the market and increasing costs through warehousing and the like.

Sourcing additional suppliers can be costly and inefficient, particularly where a high degree of integrated supply chain management between buyer and seller is required. Each new supplier requires significant investment for full onboarding, in both time and money. The provision of a hosted supply chain portal or method by which systems can communicate automatically with minimum onsite intervention can reduce many of these costs whilst delivering the benefits expected of an integrated system.

And although these mineral shortages are currently restricted to high tech electronics manufacturers, other materials are certain to become scarce, affecting the wider manufacturing sector as a whole, regardless of output. The conscientious supply chain manager will be not only scouting for alternate materials and providers, but planning for the capacity required to support and maintain the business relationship.

Does your current supply chain management system provide the flexibility required to add additional capacity as and when required? Can it communicate cross-border without major intervention? If not, perhaps you’d best give Celtrino a call to discuss their Smart Admin platform which can do all this and more.

e-Invoicing Up 20% Globally According to New Report

A new study commissioned by e-Invoicing provider Basware in conjunction with consultancy Billentis has found that the use of electronic invoices for B2B transactions rose by 20% during 2011. The report found that although many businesses elected to implement e-Invoicing for their own benefit, legislative changes in several countries also had a large part to play in the increased rates of adoption.

e-Invoicing Up 20% Globally

Mexico led the way with legislative changes, mandating that any business trading over a certain threshold must exchange electronic invoices – an approach set to be adopted by Greece, Spain, Norway and Kazakhstan during 2012. The Scandinavian countries, the Benelux union and German also introduced legislation designed to encourage the uptake of e-Invoicing, although most adoption throughout these states was as a result of businesses identifying their own economic benefits for doing so. Finland went one step further by insisting businesses submit invoices to state bodies electronically.

The study also found that the legal status of electronic invoices still varies between countries. In Japan and China, although electronic invoices can be exchanged, they are regarded legally as a copy requiring a paper invoice to be raised for regulatory purposes. Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia however grant electronic invoices the same legal status as a paper version.

Commenting on the results of the report, Karri Lehtonen, Vice President of Basware said, ‘Legislation regarding financial records varies between regions. Paper based invoicing requires a business to understand these legal variants to trade globally. e-Invoicing technology removes this headache as it automates compliance with countries’ different legal requirements.’

Further to Lehtonen’s observations, the use of an outsourced global platform for electronic invoicing has the potential to transcend diverse national legislation allowing businesses to focus on their customer’s requirements, without constructing complex EDI systems to cross borders. As more countries make e-Invoicing mandatory, the process will become more complex for businesses operating in multiple markets; a cloud-based platform such as Celtrino’s Smart Admin reduces the technical and regulatory burden on a business whilst allowing them to trade anywhere and everywhere.

5 Ways to Reduce Administration Costs

Despite the turn of the year, 2012 looks set to be another year of austerity and cost reductions. Several well known names from the UK high street have set the tone by reporting less than impressive Q4 results and some are even entering administration.

Here are five suggested ways to reduce operational costs through increased backroom efficiencies.

Administration costs, Smart Admin, e-Invoicing

  1. Adopt e-Invoicing
    By converting to digital invoicing, a business can make immediate savings on staffing, stationary, postage. Factor in slightly less tangible factors such as time and the argument for e-Invoicing is hard to ignore when investing to make greater savings.
  2. Create dynamic pricing and discounting structures
    Offering customers discounts for settling payments early may reduce profits, but a healthy cash flow and balance book is preferable to a sheaf of outstanding invoices. A scale of sliding charges and fees can require intensive intervention to oversee however, so companies introducing such a system should look at implementing our third recommendation simultaneously.
  3. Automate your workflow
    To combat costly human error, introducing automation can speed each step of the payment process by removing the need for manual intervention. The less manual processing that is required, the smaller the margin for error and the less workforce required for accounts payable.
  4. Centralise
    Bring your financial operations into one department. Managing finances across different departments is time consuming, and if time is money, delays in financial processing cost your business. Cut the delays by bringing financial control into a single centralised location and you will recognise associated cost savings.
  5. Digitise your paper
    Your clients may not have an electronic invoicing and payments systems and so they will continue to return physical paperwork. As a result you will need to find a way of capturing this information and getting it into your own accounts system.

Using an electronic invoicing platform like Celtrino’s Smart Admin can help achieve each of these goals and thereby slash costs as a result. Interested? Get in touch to find out more!

Masters of Supply Chain Management – Peter Durand

Like all of the best inventions, Peter Durand managed to create a device which not only helped to assist with shipment, but which was also of benefit to humanity as a whole. Durand’s creation? The humble tin can.

Masters of Supply Chain Management - Peter Durand and his invention tin can
Source: Wikipedia

Little is known of Durand’s early life, but by 1810 he had become a successful merchant, working from Hoxton Square near London. As a food trader, Durand knew only too well that his goods had a limited life span and would perish quickly. Using a technique he learned from the French inventor Phillipe de Girard, Peter Durand approached the then king, George III and was granted a patent for preserving food using sealable containers. Most importantly the patent covered the use of tin cans for preserving food.

Durand successfully tested his new method of preservation using tin cans by deploying a number of items for use by the Royal Navy. Six months after the food was shipped, scientists from the Royal Society opened the tins and found that the food was perfectly safe to eat.

The Royal Navy found that preserved food was only one of the benefits of the new tin cans. Firstly, tin cans were robust and easy to store; previously food had had to be stored in large wooden barrels which were bulky and space inefficient. Secondly, food which could be stored for at least six months meant that voyages could be extended, reducing the need to make landfall to secure supplies.

Despite the success of the tin can, Peter Durand chose not to take the invention any further himself and sold the patent just two years after it was granted. The new owners of the patent turned the idea into a commercial success and the storage of food was changed for ever.

Durand’s story did not end there though. In 1818 Peter Durand managed to secure the US patent for his tinned food invention and so began the globalisation of the humble tin can.


Two Supply Chain Management Predictions for 2012

As seems to have been the case every year for the past half decade, 2012 is predicted to be the year that cloud computing finally takes off.  Analysts believe that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has finally reached the requisite level of maturity to ensure that manufacturers will finally be able to outsource many of their ERP functions.

Supply Chain Management Predictions for 2012

SaaS providers have managed to extend the functionality of their systems to mimic and replace those available in onsite equivalent ERP platforms immediately negating many of the concerns of business decision makers. Attention to improving platform and data security has also led to increased customer confidence further helping to boost uptake.

Ray Wang, principal analyst for the Constellation Research Group reckons SaaS for manufacturers will also need to demonstrate a high degree of interoperability to facilitate integration with existing on-premise systems. By hooking directly into the existing computer systems, manufacturers can extend and expand their systems without the usual costs associated with an in-house deployment or upgrade. As a result Wang believes that SaaS will reach a natural tipping point this year leading to an explosion in uptake.

James Leibel of technical consultants Cap Gemini is also expecting to see an explosion in embedded wireless tracking throughout the supply chain. These tracking devices, such as RFID and Near Field Communications (NFC) smart tags will help manufacturers keep an accurate inventory at every point of contact with minimal manual intervention, thereby reducing the potential for human error creating stock level issues. NFC and RFID tracking does however require additional investment in hardware for tracking the tags but Ray Wang reckons “Manufacturers will be applying sensor data to anything from predictive maintenance to improved demand forecasting.”

Finally all of the analysts appear to agree that manufacturers will make “healthy” investments in technology to underpin their operations and provide future-proof capacity. Analysts have been wrong in the past, but this year their claims seem highly credible.

Electronic Invoicing – You Have to Go the Whole Hog

Electronic Invoicing – You Have to Go the Whole Hog he flexible nature of electronic invoicing allows for a phased approach, moving a tranche of accounts at a time and creating a hybrid system of physical and electronic accounts paperwork. For the small to medium business, such a system is workable but for the larger enterprise completely impossible.

For any business running physical and electronic invoicing systems in tandem, the overhead of managing such a workflow places a huge additional burden on accounts staff and thereby reduces many of the cost benefits associated with e-Invoicing. The greatest single motivator for migration to electronic invoicing tends to be the promised financial savings of the medium; if these savings are being reduced because of inefficiencies, your business loses out.

Electronic invoicing also provides a way to centralise accounts records, drawing information which would normally be held on a departmental basis into a single repository. Cash flow information can finally be retrieved immediately easing business decisions and allowing for a more agile trading model.

So although the hybrid system may work for a while, the overall goal must be a total switch to electronic invoicing. This goal may be easier to achieve in some industries than others, but with careful planning and by securing the agreement of suppliers and customers, any business can eventually manage total migration.

Unfortunately there will always be a level of resistance to change from certain key suppliers, much of which is caused by ignorance of e-Invoicing and the fact that suppliers also stand to reap benefits from electronic invoicing. Successful supplier on-boarding should therefore be a consideration when choosing a platform for electronic invoicing; if the supplier of your invoicing system can assist, so much the better.

Fortunately Celtrino are masters of outsourcing electronic invoicing services and uniting supply chains for the mutual benefit of all involved. If you need help going the whole hog with your e-Invoicing roll-out, please get in touch – we’re happy to help!

What is PEPPOL?

Since the announcement of the e-Invoicing & PEPPOL project last week by Minister Brian Hayes, the Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works there has been much online and offline discussion about the nature and origin of the project itself. In my last post on the subject I stated that e-Invoicing isn’t new to Ireland. Indeed, Celtrino has been helping Irish companies do it for more than 20 years. But PEPPOL is new to Ireland and the purpose of this post is to provide a brief overview of PEPPOL.

So, what is PEPPOL?

PEPPOL stands for the Pan-European Public Procurement Online project.

At a high level, PEPPOL is an EU initiated and funded e-Procurement project to enable seamless cross-border e-Procurement, connecting communities through standards-based solutions.

In particular, PEPPOL will enable any company in any EU member state to respond to any tender across the EU. Therefore, any Irish or EU company will be able to tender for government projects in any EU member state.


Government inefficiency, particularly government procurement inefficiency is the focus of PEPPOL. Less than 5% of total procurement budgets are awarded electronically and only 1.6% of contracts are supplied by an entity in another Member State. It is estimated that if e-Procurement is adopted by all European contracting authorities, annual savings could exceed €50B.

How will PEPPOL work?

PEPPOL will remove the technical and procedural barriers to public procurement by enabling European businesses to deal electronically with any public buyers in their procurement processes.
PEPPOL is a document exchange service enabling e-Delivery of business documents between government agencies and private companies.


The PEPPOL project was set-up in 1998 and  is currently in test phase in 12 EU member states.
Ireland is an active participant along with Austria,  Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Greece, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Celtrino is a key member of the Irish PEPPOL project and our public sector project partner is the Health Service Executive (HSE).


Seasonal Supply Chain Disruptions

The traditional Christmas wind-down often allows time and opportunity to observe businesses which have prepared their supply chain properly to deal with the demands of their customers. One of the easiest places to see successes and failures is at your nearest restaurant.

Seasonal Supply Chain Disruptions

A recent family trip to an Italian restaurant, one of a major UK-chain, quickly became a catalogue of embarrassing failures. Our party of nine had booked a table in advance and informed the manager that we would be ordering from their highly publicised festive menu on the day.

Upon our arrival however the waiting staff informed us that the Festive Menu had been cancelled. Permanently. Worse still the ingredients required for the advertised dishes were unavailable and we would therefore have to order from the a la carte menu instead. The issue was really brought to a head when the waitress admitted that the dessert chosen by half our group was also out of stock.

Apart from immediately creating nine dissatisfied customers, the restaurant demonstrated a definite supply chain management failure by not having the ingredients required for their most popular recipes as advertised. Although Christmas closures at suppliers can cause severe knock-on effects, careful supply chain management and stock level forecasting can easily prevent such problems, particularly when customer orders are placed in advance. The restaurant had 9 orders on their books before the Christmas shutdown, making an ingredient shortage inexcusable. The fact that Christmas comes around on the 25th of December every year should also make long term planning all the easier.

Whether the issues at this particular restaurant were caused by human error or a computer system failure is unclear but the underlying supply chain failures are totally transparent. We would hope that the restaurant described learns their lesson in time for this coming December. This tale of woe should also serve as a cautionary tale for other businesses, in all sectors, next Christmas.

Irish Government Announces e-Invoicing Project via PEPPOL and Celtrino

Today was a landmark day for Celtrino and for Ireland. I had the privilege of meeting Minister Brian Hayes and other interested parties to formally launch the first Government and public sector e-Invoicing project. The objective of the pilot is to establish a proven interoperable network of trusted service providers capable to accepting, routing and delivering e-Invoices on behalf of selected current suppliers.

e-Invoicing Launch for Irish Government. Brian Hayes TD, Minister of State and Ken Halpin, MD Celtrino

Ken Halpin, MD Celtrino presents ‘Ireland is About to Become a Whole Lot Smarter’ white paper to Brian Hayes TD, Minister of State at e-Invoicing Launch

e-Invoicing isn’t new to Ireland. Celtrino has been helping Irish companies do it for more than 20 years. Last year alone, we routed more than 7.5 million e-Invoices worth more than €4 billion.  What is relatively new is that the entire Irish public sector, being the largest buyer in Ireland, is now ready to revolutionise how Irish companies do business with the State. This initiative will impact on every Irish company selling goods and services to the State.

Irish companies are about to become more competitive and Irish tax payers are going to see more done with less tax. Celtrino estimates that e-Invoicing alone can reduce the costs of doing business in Ireland by €250 million annually.

Besides reducing the transactional cost of doing business for Irish companies (it’s a well-established fact that an e-Invoice is cheaper than its paper equivalent – and greener as well), the process that Irish industry is about to engage with goes far beyond the Accounts Receivable Department and fall beyond our shores.

To substantiate these assertions, I need to share some separate but related information and join up the dots.

Accounts Receivable is a critical function within any company but it’s not an isolated activity. As every business person knows, billing is part of an integrated process that starts with procurement and ends with getting paid promptly for the combination of raw material inputs and unique added value that every successful company brings to the table. So before signing-up with the first service provider that knocks on your door, have a think about the long–term value that it can bring to you across your entire supply chain.

eInvoicing Launch, Irish Governement

eInvoicing Launch 09 Feb 2012

What makes this particularly relevant is that the Minister and his team in the OPW appreciate this. The public sector has been taking costs out of public procurement for several years by using successful sites such as e-tenders as a vehicle for identifying and selecting suppliers. Having agreed the supply contracts (big and small), the next push is to take the paper and manual effort out of the supporting transactions from ordering to delivery and on to invoicing and payment. The good news is that today is e-day!

There’s even better news coming down the track for Irish suppliers as the standards on which these initiatives are based are pan European. All the Governments within the EU have agreed to ensure commonality across the entire EU. They’ve done this under the umbrella of a project called PEPPOL. If you haven’t heard of it yet, don’t worry, it’s been a well-kept secret.  PEPPOL stands for Pan European Public Procurement Online. Celtrino got involved back in October 2009 when 3 of us visited a chilly Copenhagen to hear first-hand what was happening internationally. We’ve been preaching the gospel ever since to every public body we could get an audience with.

Irish suppliers that engage with PEPPOL will have a huge export growth opportunity opening up to them – the biggest in the World. The Irish PEPPOL infrastructure will help them leverage their ability to win export business. The engine of growth in Ireland is export led. It is estimated that e-procurement can save the EU €50 billion per year. This translates into fewer taxes for everyone across Europe.

It might take a while but in this case, you can believe the hype! Get e-ready.