With an established SSC, Adient wanted to pool decentralised finance activities into a standardised process, providing greater transparency over all incoming invoices. Automation was the answer.
Photo of Pete Luttmann, Serrala and Peter Kováč, Adient Slovakia s.r.o.
With a current consolidated revenue of US$17bn, 230+ locations worldwide, sales of 25m+ seat systems per year and 75,000 employees, Adient is the largest global automotive seating supplier.
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Succeeding with global process ownership in AP
Adient understood early on that managing finance transactions in its local business units was unsustainable. It had set up a global shared service centre (SSC) in Bratislava (Slovakia) 11 years ago, before launching an ambitious AP project.
It was already planned that the SSC should grow and serve the firm’s internal customers worldwide. But to do so in the most effective manner, it knew it had to explore process automation. The challenge therefore was to pool the decentralised finance activities into a standardised process that would provide central transparency of all incoming invoices.
Adient’s aim was to streamline AP processes in one system, achieving a high percentage of paperless processing and archiving of invoices. It needed to replace the different web tools it was previously using for the capture of the paper invoices, for storing the images, routing the invoices and processing them finally within SAP.
To centralise finance transactions in its global SSC, Adient turned to Dolphin, (now part of Serrala), for its specialist knowledge in AP and data and document management within SAP.
A SAP-integrated AP solution was developed (now available generally as FS² AccountsPayable). This has enabled Adient to fulfil its AP automation plans, eliminating manual tasks and significantly accelerating the entire AP process.
Key outcomes for Adient include accuracy, timeliness, simplification, document alignment, and approvals, no paper requests, compliance, electronic storage of documents and visibility of statuses for AP sub-departments.
“The Adam Smith Award is a great honour for myself and the company, showing that all the effort on automating AP was meaningful. These successes make us work even harder and move faster.”
Peter Kováč, Director Bratislava Business Centre, Adient Slovakia s.r.o.
Best practice and innovation
The solution enables the auto-approval of invoices, based on criteria that Adient can configure. It can set thresholds that determine whether an invoice can be automatically approved and posted or whether manual handling is still necessary. Auto-approval and auto-posting rules can be set for different invoice types.
Adient is now able to receive PDF/TIF invoice receipts and automatically scan from email into the system’s validation tool. With 77% of the firm’s incoming invoices received via email, this feature is indispensable. The solution also detects duplicates automatically; if an invoice is already posted in SAP it is rejected, in most circumstances informing the supplier of the rejection.
For manual payment requests, it was necessary to find efficient ways to process vendor immediate payments, employee prepayments and special payment requests. Adient has improved processing time for these by up to two days. Further, it has enabled electronic storage of relevant documents, notes and transaction details, providing greater visibility into manual payments.
The solution enables capture of all supporting documentation, improving visibility of notes, and offering individuals a way to submit online payments requests. Once submitted, it automatically triggers an approval workflow that routes requests to the AP and payment team, facilitating automatic posting and clearing. Where previously invoices without a PO had to be manually coded by entering all the accounting details, this is now automated.
Adient shortened the processing time of documents such as interest notes, purchasing agreements and internal corrections. These can now be quickly digitised and stored in a compliant repository, so they are easy to view for involved parties.
The company further enhanced the automation of the AP process, inviting suppliers to use a self-service portal to maintain their master data, upload or flip POs into invoices, and check the payment status of invoices.
Cost-reduction opportunities: paper storage, personnel, processing efficiencies.
Cash flow optimisation: improved visibility and cash allocation.
Reduced risk to organisation: improved transparency of transactions, enhanced controls with structured approval workflows.
Increased service levels: response time for vendor queries, employee prepayments, and special payment requests improved.
Key learning point
The key learning point for any AP automation is, that the processes have to be standardised in the best possible way in order to have smooth and effective automation.
Director Bratislava Business Centre
Peter Kováč manages the entire Bratislava Business Centre of the automotive company Adient. Peter is experienced in the field of financial services, management and leadership, covering Adient’s global automotive regions. Before Adient’s spin-off from Johnson Controls in October 2016, he was Director Finance Order to Cash and Director Finance Accounts Payable at Johnson Controls. Peter joined the company in 2007 as Accounts Payable Processing and Scanning Supervisor and held several managerial positions in finance.