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Paying bills: everything running digitally

Normally you don’t see behind the scenes of the Rhaetian Railway, and certainly not into the accounts department. But for once we’ll show you how RhB is on the fast track here too.

Fabienne Puksic, Team lead financial accounting, 06. November 2019

Checking invoices from suppliers online, assigning them to accounts and clearing them simply and fast. That has been part of our everyday administration since April of this year. How does that work?

Simple and everywhere 

Whether at their desks in the office or using a notebook, tablet or smartphone on the train – it is easy and uncomplicated for our employees to process invoices from suppliers at any time, wherever they are. The “VISUM” project phase took two years. The invoice processing process has now been standardised and takes place completely online. That not only saves time but also reduces the volume of paper. We are on track faster and, with this process, also provide a better service for our suppliers. Everybody is talking about digitalisation, but only a few are actually implementing it. Rhaetian Railway is also doing pioneering work in the backoffice area and that even makes paying bills fun.

The basis

Precise ordering is essential for the smooth processing of a vendor invoice. Orders can be made using the system, as well as verbally, on the phone or by e-mail.  

A further prerequisite for automated processing is the RhB signature and responsibility regulations, the full version of which is stored in the system. Furthermore, two-person integrity is important: the person who checks the bill cannot also be the one to approve it. Our internal control system is based on this principle. 

Just two steps for approval

Every invoice is tested materially and then approved. In a first step, the digitalised invoices are sent to the contact person mentioned on the bill. The checker is prompted to verify the invoice received and can access the system directly with just one click. This is where he/she can check the document and make sure that the allocation for the subsequent posting is entered correctly. If the invoice has no order reference, the allocation has to be entered manually. 

Once the invoice is approved by the checker, it is automatically forwarded to the person responsible for the costs in this case. This person then confirms that these costs can be deducted from his/her cost centre, project, order etc.

What happens if costs are exceeded?

If the approval responsibility is exceeded, the invoice is automatically forwarded for further approval to the superordinate line manager. This procedure is repeated until the invoice is approved. Then the invoice is forwarded to the financial accounts department so it can be paid in due time. On average the processing takes around seven days per invoice from it being received until it is paid. Important: the invoice including enclosures and the approval protocol is then stored in an electronic archive where it can be consulted at any time.

The problems of digitalization – 3 tips

What are the problems about introducing an electronic invoice processing process? There are three important points to remember:

  1. You need standards. Invoice processing has to take place in compliance with a standard process. 
  2. The person who checks the bill cannot also be the one to approve it. When working out an optimal approval matrix, you have to create a healthy balance between regulations, operational processes as well as efficiency, effectiveness and common sense.
  3. Internal communication is important. A large number of the challenges are “home made”. If, for example, no contact person or the wrong one is specified or if the supplier is given rough estimates for prices and quantities, this naturally leads to time-consuming clarification work. 

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