A Change In Payment Plans

Finding affordable e-invoicing solutions for small and midsize manufacturers takes some doing.

In an increasingly paperless world, offices lined with file cabinets full of old receipts, invoices and purchase orders are quickly becoming a thing of the past. With new technologies, manufacturers have the opportunity to transform some of the most tedious, time-consuming tasks into the easiest and most efficient parts of their business.

For years those capabilities have been offered through variations of electronic data interchange (EDI), a tool that helps companies significantly reduce the amount of paper and (more importantly) the amount of paperwork that streams through their billing department on a daily basis. But according to Shan Haq, vice president of product managing for electronic bill payment firm Transcepta LLC, many EDI solutions are still out of the price range for small and midsize companies.

Often requiring substantial capital investment and IT resources to get them up and running, and subsequent maintenance costs, many companies have been reluctant or unable to cough up the cash to make the switch.

"Companies are realizing the cost benefits and how they can improve their operational efficiency, but EDI systems can also be cumbersome, expensive solutions to install and maintain," Haq says. "So while larger companies might not have a problem with that, we have seen that the smaller ones tend to feel differently."

As a result, small and midsize companies have been searching for an economical alternative that would offer some of the same benefits as EDI, but also make financial sense for them in the long run. According to Haq, that's where Transcepta's "virtual printer" might provide an answer.

As a Web-based service, Transcepta functions as its own data center so major integration projects are avoided. A virtual printer is installed on the customer's computer system (similar to a standard driver for a physical printer) with which the company receives invoices from the vendor. Invoices are "printed" out of the customer's existing billing system, then converted to whatever format the buyer needs imported into their own system.

"This simply enables vendors to send electronic invoices to their buyers in whatever format their buyer needs for their own AP [accounts payable] system," says Haq. "It eliminates the time and money spent processing paper invoices, not to mention the errors and incomplete information that often have buyers and vendors chasing each other for follow-ups. The entire process smooths itself out."

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