Walking into accounts offices, it is still common to see shelves full of files filled with invoices, both sales and purchase. There is a statutory obligation to keep records for at least six years, so this has a bearing on their retention.
These days, a great deal of invoices are received from suppliers in an electronic format. What happens to these? More often than not, they are printed out and passed to the accounts office for processing, before they end up in the aforementioned files on the shelves.
At some stage they will need to be moved off the shelves, to make room for the more current batches. So, they may end up in an attic, or perhaps a storeroom or a garage. In some circumstances, offsite storage may be rented. The next stage in the lifecycle is the removal of the papers, once they have passed their retention date. This is one of those jobs that probably gets put off time and again until space once again runs out.
There are all sorts of ways to deal with the invoices going forward, to either radically reduce or even eliminate the issues completely. However, what about the backlog – apart from waiting over six years for them to run their natural course?
It would be possible to simply scan all of the documents and store them electronically. However, this might be quite time consuming if they are scanned individually, and then renamed to something meaningful. If scanned in bulk, with lots of invoices making up one electronic file, but this could be a problem to search to locate a required item for retrieval.
Scanning them and applying “tags” to them to be able to find them again quickly could also be time consuming.
How about a system then to automate the filing based on text recognised on the documents? The data is extracted using optical character recognition and then populated into fields that can be used for fast searching. So, an invoice date may be a field, as would the invoice number, the supplier name, etc.
What are the benefits? All the existing paper files can be removed, freeing up space. Off-site storage can be relinquished saving costs, and, importantly saving time in having to handle the paperwork again in the future.
This is just one area where paperless technologies can be applied. There are many others… a subject for future blog posts!
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