OBI is an innovator that sets standards. Wherever OBI is present, it determines the market and fights for the leading position. OBI sets trends – in selection, market format and shopping experience. OBI is the number one in the German DIY and home improvement industry and is one of Europe's top companies. The company currently has more than 330 OBI stores in Germany. There are also more than 180 OBI stores in 12 countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The OBI stores achieved total sales of € 5.8 billion in the 2007/2008 financial year. The OBI company employs more than 38,000 people. The OBI markets are operated as OBI AG-owned locations or as franchises or joint ventures.
Due to the continuous increase in its market shares and business volume over the years, OBI had an increasing need for a future-proof accounting system. Christian Lindner, the Senior Project Manager at OBI, carried out a detailed examination of the possibilities that a new electronic invoice processing solution would provide the company for processing the mountains of paper invoices and documents digitally and quickly. The desired solution would have to map the business-specific processes at OBI and integrate existing databases. The flexible Business Process Management suite from Inspire Technologies was therefore chosen. The MR.KNOW – BPM (formerly BPM inspire) software allows OBI to have a paperless invoice workflow that is adapted to the company processes and provides comprehensive transparency.
Increasing efficiency and gaining control
The OBI system headquarters in Wermelskirchen alone receives around 100 cost invoices from a wide range of suppliers every day. Paper invoices are recorded by the accounting department and entered into the electronic invoicing system. Only then does the responsible cost centre manager carry out the factual check and approve the payment. Manual approval of the paper invoice no longer takes place. In this way, all procedures are archived in the system in a uniform way, and traceability is guaranteed at all times.
By defining individual escalation mechanisms, OBI was able to reduce the waiting times of invoices in the individual departments and relieve the strain on the in-house mail. The notification system of MR.KNOW – BPM informs the responsible employees about upcoming new tasks twice a day by e-mail. Employees are also automatically notified when there are questions about the invoicing procedure, when they receive a response to one of their own inquiries, or when a task which has not been processed is forwarded to their supervisor. "The exactly defined approval process with its defined escalation intervals has speeded up invoice processing tremendously," explains Lindner. "It usually only takes us 2-3 days for an invoice to be approved, instead of the previous 6-8 days. Also, no more invoices are being overlooked or simply left lying around. An unprocessed transaction is automatically reported to the next level up after no more than 2 working days."
Simple integration and database connection
MR.KNOW – BPM also impresses because of the simple and flexible capability of adapting to the specific requirements of OBI. The standard version of the solution already covers the majority of processes – including functions for reading and recognizing documents, individual reports and the connection to the ERP system. OBI also had to ensure compliance with the four-eyes principle within the scope of invoice approval. The release is only issued by an employee after a factual check has been carried out by another employee. Thanks to the flexibly adaptable interface, an assistant function could also be integrated without any problems. In order to determine which approval hierarchy has to be adhered to, MR.KNOW – BPM has integrated access to OBI's self-developed signature database, in which the approval limits and representatives of the cost centre managers are stored. The determination of the supervisor and the assistant that is required for the escalation process is carried out by making a comparison with the Lotus Notes database. Both the plausibility checks and the defined escalation scenarios have been modelled and implemented step by step by MR.KNOW – BPM in accordance with OBI's specific requirements: "If processes turned out differently in practice than originally envisaged, MR.KNOW – BPM could be subsequently adapted to the actual procedures at any time by means of an appropriate re-design," says Lindner. Other advantages: Extended access options, e.g. via VPN access, and flexible invoice processing, which can also be carried out from home or during a business trip. MR.KNOW – BPM has been fully integrated into the OBI Intranet, from where it can be easily used by all employees. The application currently supports English and Czech as well as German, and can be extended to other languages with relatively little effort. OBI is therefore equipped to use the system in any country without language barriers.
"MR.KNOW – BPM has fulfilled all of our automated invoice processing expectations," says Lindner. "We succeeded in accelerating and qualitatively optimising invoice processing thanks to the cost accounting workflow – missed deadlines and cash discount losses are a thing of the past. As well as the time and cost savings, we particularly benefit from the newly gained transparency of all invoicing and planning processes. Thanks to MR.KNOW – BPM, we can always examine the current status of each individual process, and easily track completed processes." Thanks to the open interface architecture of MR.KNOW – BPM, OBI now has a future-proof BPM solution with many different options (e.g. HR processes, automated incoming mail processing, complaints management and much more) that can cope with further expansion of the leading DIY and home improvement chain in Europe.