Headquartered in Germany, TEAG Thueringer Energie AG is Thuringia’s (a part of Germany) leading energy service company. TEAG provides energy solutions, supplying around 500,000 customers a day with electricity, gas, and district heating.
Local authorities reacquired a majority stake in the company, which employs 1,700 people, in 2013; prior to that, E.ON owned TEAG. When the energy company was embedded within E.ON’s corporate structure, certain processes, including aspects of the IT infrastructure, were not overseen by the team in Thuringia. To process incoming invoices, for example, employees used an electronic invoice workflow based on SAP Business Workflow technology.
A new solution for TEAG
After TEAG split from E.ON, it needed to find a new solution. The company opted for the WMD Group’s xSuite for SAP software.
“As far as the workflow goes, it’s basically the same procedure,” says Bernd Hanft, IT project manager at TEAG. However, the new software differs from the old system in one important respect. Hanf explains, “With the WMD solution, incoming invoices are saved in the SAP archive right after they’ve been scanned. The remaining processing takes place in the ERP environment.”
The old system, by contrast, performed document capture and processing as an initial single transaction; in other words, the system first verified the data before transferring it for archiving. Furthermore, the old system didn’t allow for automatic processing of invoices e-mailed to the company’s central mailbox.
The ERP system now processes around 60,000 invoices a year. Sixty percent of these invoices arrive in paper form, while the rest arrive as PDF files. The WMD solution can also process the growing number of PDF invoices arriving in ZUGFeRD format. The documents are digitized in the company’s central mailroom, are read using OCR technology, and then are transferred to the SAP-integrated WMD invoice workflow, which initiates the approval-and-release process.
Web-based invoice approval popular among employees
Employees who don’t have an SAP license can use the WMD web interface instead of the native SAP client. Around 100 people at locations throughout TEAG monitor the company’s invoices. If an approval is pending, they receive an e-mail containing a link to a web portal where they can view the document, add comments if necessary, and sign off on the invoice. As licensed SAP users, they don’t have to repeatedly log in, as a single sign-on takes them directly to the documents. Sixty percent of the company’s employees use this web-based approval-and-release option.
Adjustments to the TEAG workflow
The company has integrated one company code after another into the invoice verification process, bringing the total number of codes to eleven in the summer of 2018. Company acquisitions are likely to result in this number rising even further. With each new company code, users must be created in the workflow. The company has to define accountants in the scanning solution so that the system can automatically assign documents to them.
“With tests and training, these additions take between ten and fifteen days. We can manage most of it on our own, as customizing the WMD solution is fluid,” says Hanft. The IT project manager knows from experience how complicated it can be to make even small program changes to the customizing table in the z namespace of SAP Business Workflow. Training provided in advance by the WMD Academy has played a major role in ensuring that the IT division is able to manage such roll-outs on its own.
It’s not just the IT division that has noticed improved efficiency. This is the first time that the company’s employees have used a web-based approval-and-release system. According to Ina Ettel, Head of Invoice Verification at TEAG, “We now have the technology to process an invoice, from document capture to approval and release, within two days — provided that everyone quickly completes the task the system assigns to them. Since introducing the solution, the short cycle time alone has enabled us to secure almost all available discounts.”
A special function for security retention
WMD has also provided TEAG with some special functions, including “security retention” to facilitate an agreement the company has with certain vendors. In the case of partial deliveries, TEAG pays part of the invoice, paying off the invoice in full only after it has received the final delivery. It is crucial that the incoming invoice solution is able to manage situations such as these.
TEAG uses two separate SAP systems to process its invoices. This is because “unbundling” legislation requires energy providers to separate energy supply from network operation. In the network system, the ratio of invoices with PO reference to invoices without an account assignment is 60:40, whereas for energy supply, the ratio is the other way around. As regards PO reference, the energy company introduced an additional SAP-integrated ordering system in early 2017.
WMD procurement solution
The WMD procurement solution automates purchase-order approvals and gives users a central overview of their orders. When the invoice arrives later, the solution immediately links it with the purchase-order reference. This allows TEAG to merge ordering and payment procedures into a single, continuous procure-to-pay process. Hanft comments, “WMD offers us products from a single source, which is in line with our IT strategy. We don’t want to use products from different providers for what is in fact a single solution.”
An application always needs a purchase order. The process runs as follows: There is a certain requirement within a department and an employee initiates a purchase requisition. The disponent, the account assigner, and their superiors then check this requisition.
TEAG uses this traditional SAP purchase requisition process at present but won’t continue to do so for much longer. In future, Hanft intends to use a WMD module to manage the process preceding the purchase order itself. WMD also offers a solution for the other direction; in other words, for processing incoming sales orders. This solution is already on TEAG’s wish list.