Friday, May 13, 2011

Best operations-improving strategies

By Mark Brousseau

During a pre-conference networking lunch at Fusion 2011 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Florida, attendees were asked to share the best operations-improving strategy that their accounts payable (AP) department has implemented in the past 12 months. Here are the operations strategies that the luncheon attendees said were the most effective during the past year:

... Provided AP processors with two computer monitors, reducing errors and increasing efficiency
... Took the time to better understand AP processes (became "black belts" in evaluating processes) to weed out the processes that don't add value
... Migrated more payments from paper check and wire transfer to automated clearing house (ACH) transactions
... Separated straight-through and exceptions processors
... Deployed a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution
... Deployed a purchasing card program
... Became more open-minded to new ideas
... Started reimbursing via a debit card since some people won't take direct deposit and paper checks are too costly and inefficient
... Began measuring and improving input quality, in turn, increasing AP productivity without changing any processes
... Began e-mailing and faxing remittances to save time and postage associated with paper remittances
... Developed a proprietary travel and expense (T&E) reporting system
... Brought AP functions previously done in India back in-house, resulting in savings of $26,000 a month, largely from fewer mistakes
... Implemented an imaging and workflow solution, reducing processing time and enabling all staff to know where an invoice stands in the approval process
... Standardized on one system and one process whenever possible
... Implemented virtual card payments
... Automated accounts receivable (AR) refunds
... Consolidated various overnight shipping and cellular phone accounts into "master" accounts, allowing the company to negotiate discounts of 18 to 50 percent off list prices
... Automated payroll processing with ACH
... Eliminated duplicate vendors, in turn, eliminating many duplicate payments

What is the best operations-improving strategy your AP department has implemented in the past 12 months? Post it below.

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