Magazine Article | January 1, 2006


Source: Field Technologies Magazine

This real estate firm improved efficiency in its accounts payable processes by implementing an imaging and workflow management solution.

Integrated Solutions, January 2006
The Durst Organization, in existence since 1915, is a family-owned real estate company that owns, builds, and manages commercial buildings in Manhattan. Durst, which processes about 600 accounts payable invoices per week, wanted to reduce the disorder in its invoice processing system. Durst relied on courier services to distribute paper invoices to its 10 branch buildings for approval and back to headquarters for check generation. Invoices were sometimes missing or lost. Executives felt hampered awaiting invoices to cross their desks. Because the accounts payable process was lengthy and some vendors submit invoices every 10 days if payment is not received, at times there were duplicate invoices in the process simultaneously.

In 1998, Durst began archiving its business documents via bar coding and imaging using OCR for AnyDoc. Integrator Seery Systems Group, Inc. (SSG) installed and maintained the system, which reduced the disorganization surrounding the storage of paper documents. According to Paul Piccininni, controller at The Durst Organization, “The original imaging solution reduced our error rate significantly. The accounts payable errors encountered since implementation can be counted on both hands. As a result, I wanted to automate our business methods further using workflows, starting with the accounts payable process.”


SSG and Mackin Imaging Systems, SSG’s distributor, combined Durst’s existing imaging process with a workflow management solution. Initially, the challenge for Durst was the need to image invoices prior to processing within the organization, as opposed to afterward. With workflows, upon arrival, a secretary labels each invoice with a unique bar code, scans each via a centralized scanning process using OCR for AnyDoc and a Canon 3060 scanner, and presses a key sequence to automatically create an index linking the bar code to the image. An accounts payable clerk accesses the AS/400 system and codes each invoice by a relative record number, which links the AS/400 system to the image.

The workflow system routes each invoice electronically to the appropriate building secretary, replacing the courier deliveries. Supporting documents are added to the invoices, using a distributed scanning process at each branch building. Invoices are routed to the property managers for approval. The controller, chief operations officer, vice president, and president approve the invoice if deemed necessary by the built-in routing process. The next step is check generation, completed weekly by the accounts payable clerks. Prior to using workflow management, each clerk spent 6 to 8 hours per week on check generation; this was reduced to less than 5 minutes each per week. The time from arrival of the invoice at headquarters to check generation was cut by almost half. Late fees have been eliminated, as has the need to hire additional accounts payable clerks. Courier and printing costs have been cut. In addition, the solution enables Durst to screen for duplicate invoices, resulting in significant monetary and time savings. An audit trail of approvals is appended to each invoice after check generation.

Piccininni intends to expand the use of OCR for AnyDoc in 2006 by capturing information from the invoice upon scanning to prepopulate the relative record number, a step currently performed manually by the accounts payable clerk. This will provide an immediate link between the AS/400 system and the workflow management system at the point of scanning. Workflow management has been expanded to manage Durst’s tenant leasing process. Durst also accesses workflow management information with reporting software to display scanned images as hyperlinks in budget reports for easy accessibility. Later, Durst plans to add human resources processes to workflow management. Piccininni states, “This solution has empowered employees to search for invoice and leasing information themselves prior to asking the clerks. In addition, when employees need flexibility, they can access the workflow system remotely to remain productive.”