How document automation helps achieve optimised paperless purchasing processes

For years, business professionals have dreamt of a paperless office. Paperless offices in purchasing are synonyms for efficiency, transparency, and eco-friendliness. Although the advantages of paperless business processes are indisputable, many companies are still reluctant to put the vision into practice. While PDFs and online cloud storage solutions are slowly replacing paper records, the laborious task of processing these documents remains. The benefits of paperless purchasing processes include, among others, cost and time savings, increased productivity and transparency. Purchasing can optimise their processes through the automation of documents along the Procure-to-Pay process. International producer of wood-based materials, Pfleiderer, has made the first step towards a paperless office by implementing the Netfira Platform as a document automation solution.  

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Why purchasing needs paperless processes

Traditionally, the procurement process is paper-based, manual and time-intensive. Buyers need to manually compare, validate, and enter data into downstream systems. Managing large volumes of paperwork, however, can become a challenge for procurement teams. 

“We have known about the concept of the paperless office for years. Most companies just don’t live it. We must accept that a lot of information is stored digitally and no longer needs to be printed out.” Josef Pack, Head of Procurement, Pfleiderer Deutschland GmbH 

The manual processing and exchange of documents and data as well as paper-based record-keeping are no longer sufficient for companies that want an optimal return on their purchasing investment or a resilient strategic supply chain. Document automation along the P2P process is important to the financial health and overall competitive strength of a business—especially if businesses are seeking to build value while reducing costs.  

The benefits of paperless purchasing processes

Cost savings

One of the biggest issues with paper-based systems is costs. Companies’ filing systems require investments in equipment and materials like file folders, cabinets, and shelves. Printers need ink, maintenance, and paper. With automated document processing, printing out paper is not necessary anymore. This reduces costs significantly.  

Time savings and increased productivity

Manually organising, processing, updating, and recovering paper documents is dull and resource-intensive work. Buyers often lack time to focus on value creation because of repetitive manual tasks.  

“We cannot ignore the issue of digitisation. Digitisation means a significant work simplification for our employees as we can operate processes much quicker without using analogue media.” Josef Pack, Head of Procurement, Pfleiderer Deutschland GmbH  

Increased sustainability

Paper production negatively impacts our environment. The process consumes a large quantity of fossil fuels and water and is a key contributor to deforestation as well as air and water pollution. Companies that heavily rely on paper-based processes and activities also need to take the effects of inks and toners into account, as most contain environmentally unfriendly chemicals. Document automation makes paper obsolete and therefore saves resources. 

Optimised paperless purchasing processes – more than just working digitally

Few will argue against the notion that all companies should move towards paperless processes. The benefits are undeniable and many purchasing departments have now refrained from printing out incoming and outgoing documents. However, processing documents as PDFs on a computer is a time-consuming and often frustrating exercise. This process may in fact be paperless but it is far from optimised. Optimised paperless processes, which make work noticeably easier for buyers, only exist when manual work is reduced to a minimum through digitisation and automation. 

Optimised paperless processes rely on automated processes

To become paperless, digitisation is the first step. Often, OCR technology is used to convert documents into a digital format by scanning and digitising information from printed documents, images or handwritten text. In purchasing, buyers mainly use OCR to scan and digitise information, for example from printed invoices. Besides the insufficient reading accuracy of OCR, another disadvantage is that even if PDFs are digitised, they must still be compared and validated manually by the buyers. Only with digital automation tools like the Netfira Platform can document flows be seamlessly digitised and automatically processed. 

Document automation with the Netfira Platform leads to optimised paperless processes

The Netfira Platform is a secure cloud-based SaaS solution for automating the bidirectional exchange of B2B documents and data. It increases operational efficiency along the P2P process and leads to optimised paperless processes by automating all documents, including purchase order confirmations, invoices, shipping notices, purchase orders, quotes and more. 

The platform’s data extraction operates with a data accuracy of nearly 100%, eliminating time-consuming and error-prone manual activities. Manual data entry is not necessary anymore. The software solution automatically extracts relevant data, processes it intelligently and exports it into any ERP system. Buyers do not have to compare and validate every single document anymore.  

The Netfira Platform allows purchasing to achieve nearly 100% automatic processing of documents where there is no deviation. Deviations can be identified quickly and easily in the familiar ERP environment. The platform directs the buyers directly to parameters that need to be checked. The structured and standardised process for handling deviations saves the purchasing department time and reduces stress in the approval process. 

Benefits of automated paperless purchasing processes

1. Automated document processing strengthens procurement’s role

Automated document processing solutions save time and create opportunities for purchasing to play a more active role in helping the company achieve its business objectives. For example, automating the P2P workflow frees purchasing experts to focus on value-generating activities including 

  • Improving spend management 
  • Strengthening supplier relationships 
  • Creating technological innovation partnerships  

Moreover, document automation along the P2P process through software solutions shorten and speed up the procurement cycle. As a result, less capital is caught up in lengthy reviews and evaluations.  

2. Improved transparency and shorter reaction times

Manual purchasing processes prevent transparency and short reaction times. However, for a P2P process to be smooth and efficient, buyers need to have reliable information and need to be able to react to discrepancies or unforeseen changes promptly. This kind of transparency and flexibility can only be achieved through document automation. Through automated workflows, buyers receive information and notifications at the push of a button. Real-time information accelerates purchasing processes and improves the digital connection along the supply chain. 

Optimised paperless purchasing processes through document automation with the Netfira Platform

Through the automated processing of B2B documents and data, the Netfira Platform can not only help enterprises to become paperless but also to reduce manual operational activities to a minimum and to automate their workflows. With the document automation solution from Netfira, procurement benefits from more efficiency, transparent and reliable processes, time and cost savings and shorter reaction times.

Pfleiderer Case Study

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