UK Council saves space, cost and time with EzeScan. Scanning of invoices enables Council to reduce its paper mountain

The Council Plan

This London Borough encompasses a large part of inner London. With a population of approximately 200,000, the council is home to sprawling street markets, major tourist attractions, shopping malls & transport hubs.

In common with all local government organisations, the Council faces many financial pressures. It therefore outlined ‘The Council Plan’, a three-year programme to cut costs of around £80-90 million, which includes moving most of its staff to a single building complex over the next few years.

The paper problem

In preparation for the move, the Council faced one big problem – paper. The Corporate Records Manager takes up the story: “We currently store miles and miles of paper across various sites, and we plan to have virtually no paper stored in the new building.”

A large proportion of that paper is invoices so, in addition to arranging offsite storage of outdated invoices, the Council needed to find a way of processing recent and new invoices electronically, integrating with its Oracle Financial system and HP TRIM Electronic Document and Records Management (EDRM) system.

EzeScan selected

In Early 2011, the corporate records team looked at front-end scanning software solutions for capturing invoices electronically. “We selected EzeScan because it offers the features we need for easy and rapid scanning of invoices, as well as easy integration with our Oracle and EDRM systems.”

The Council purchased five high-volume scanners and, utilising EzeScan’s software solution, went into fully-fledged scanning in May 2011. The intention was to scan and process all new invoices electronically, averaging around 8,000 per month. There was, however, the slight problem of a two-month backlog to be cleared.  “Our AP staff people were highly sceptical about how long would it take to clear the backlog,” the Manager explained, “but they soon found out that it doesn’t take any more time than filing in storage boxes. We also realised that all the scanning could be done very quickly without any additional resources.”

Multiple formats

Invoices, of course, do not come in a ‘one size fits all’, and vary between single-sided, double-sided and multiple pages. “The advantage with EzeScan is it makes it very simple to sort invoices, regardless of format, We can configure EzeScan for eight different trays, rather than feed invoices through one at a time and put in separator pages. As each invoice is scanned we can check the quality of images, the amounts paid and separate out any queries which the AP team can check for payments or refunds.”

AP staff soon realised they were able to work much more efficiently because previously, if they received invoice queries from internal staff, they had to find and retrieve the relevant invoice from the box filing system. “Now they don’t even have to leave their desks to deal with queries,” added the Department Manager. “Once invoices are scanned via EzeScan into our EDRM system, we can find them immediately through a search using parameters such as invoice number, date, amount, etc. We can also check instantly into any payments processed over a certain amount, say £5,000, which is essential when it comes to auditing.”

Ease of use

One of EzeScan’s biggest advantages is the simplicity of the software. “Technically, there is no need to have software programmers to script anything, scanning works pretty much ‘out of the box, our systems admin people did some integration work with our payments system, other than that nothing was required. It is also very easy to use – most of the team were up and running with the software within half an hour.”

To date, this Council has processed around 100,000 invoices, including the backlog and all of its invoices for the 2011/12 financial year, with an on-going scanning process of around 8,000 invoices per month. EzeScan is affordable, efficient and expandable, with a licence costing under £10,000. “Because EzeScan charges a fixed fee for the software, rather than a ‘per page’ fee, it means we can predict and control our costs, even if we have an uplift in our scanning requirements,” added the Corporate Records Manager.

Increased efficiency

Efficiency is enhanced by the fact that users in finance and other departments can have immediate access to invoices, and resolve queries much faster. “Some staff are working from home one or two days a week, so with online access to our invoices we can ensure ‘business as usual, This instant access is the real cost saving advantage – we no longer have to go down to the basement to find and retrieve bits of paper, we can avoid duplicate invoices and reduce errors because we can check on the system and compare what we have on one system with another.”

He added: “There’s no doubt that EzeScan has saved us a significant amount of time and money. It works in with all of line-of-business systems, including both Oracle and TRIM. It has enabled us to save a massive amount of storage space and related costs, as well as the time and effort involved in searching manually for information.”

The Corporate Records Manager concluded: “EzeScan not only works well in an AP situation, but can also be used in other departments as well. It’s very easy to set up and manage in-house, and the EzeScan team has been second to none with its support and advice.”