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Proofs of Delivery and Logistics: Speeding Throughput and Avoiding Pitfalls

It should be a straightforward business scenario: making sure that the delivery documentation from the supplier or haulier matches up with the documentation at the target destination.

However life is rarely straightforward, and if problems do arise, order completion times and cash flow will inevitably suffer as a result.

Making the paperwork match

Documents involved typically include delivery notes generated by the product supplier or logistics provider. The Customer takes delivery and confirms the goods are received by signing the delivery note, which becomes a proof of delivery (PoD). When the goods being delivered are accepted customers can also use their own delivery documentation, referred to as Goods Received Notes (GRN).

The key issue is to match the customers' GRNs and the suppliers' delivery notes. This ensures that suppliers can raise an accurate and timely invoice for the goods delivered and accepted.

This is vital to the completion of the whole process. Raising an incorrect invoice for goods shipped that may differ from the description of the goods accepted by the customer, will result in payment delay ? extended debtor days ? and adversely affected cash flow.

Take a typical example. A customer takes an order from his supplier that is then dispatched with the supplier's delivery note. The customer takes delivery and confirms that the goods have been received by signing the delivery note. This note then becomes a PoD. In this case, the transaction has been straightforward.

However problems arise if the following complications are added to the equation:

? The goods being delivered are discovered to be damaged. The customer will only take delivery of goods in a satisfactory condition, and this is annotated in the PoD.

? The goods being delivered are accepted by the customer, but he uses his own internal delivery documentation or GRN. This needs to be matched against the supplier's delivery note. The situation is complicated further when the customer uses his own internal product codes, and/or the goods are dispatched in multiple deliveries.

In both these cases the actual delivery needs to be matched up with the outgoing sales invoice. Where there is a disparity, a normal 30-day credit period can drag out into a lengthy debtor cycle in which customers will not pay for goods delivered until the correct invoice has been raised. This can turn the normal 30-day period into 90 days or more.

How a computerised system can make the process trouble free

TokOpen is a program used by a major UK supplier of dairy products. Reduced reliance on physical pieces of paper allows more flexibility and a reduction in delivery problems.

When sales orders are received from customers, despatch notes are printed and automatically captured and uploaded to the company's TokOpen data centre. Here they are printed from the AS400 Warehouse Management System. A unique folder is automatically created in TokOpen, where the document is stored and indexed by its delivery details.

The ordered goods are delivered either on one vehicle or in multiple deliveries, as applicable. Delivery notes are signed, with handwritten comments inserted if a discrepancy has arisen.

These signed documents are then returned to any one of the company's 20 depots across the country, where they are scanned by depot staff. At this point the documents are automatically indexed and uploaded to a TokOpen data centre where they are stored alongside the corresponding original despatch note in the appropriate folder. If a discrepancy is indicated on the scanned delivery note, this automatically triggers a warning for a customer service agent distribution to investigate.

If necessary the invoice can be amended before the sales invoice is issued. This has to take place within 72 hours of delivery. All document access, workflow and investigations are performed using a standard Web browser, which ensures that the system can be quickly deployed with minimal administrative overheads.

Where customers' own GRNs are received, these are scanned and read automatically, matching the delivery line items with corresponding items from the despatch notes. The system is flexible and allows a 'many to many' relationship ? more than one delivery note relating to more than one GRN for a single customer order.

The process is further complicated because customers use different product codes for goods delivered, and documents are returned at different times. The system automatically consolidates this process and matches the different documents and line items to the original order. All documents relating to an order are stored alongside one another within a single delivery folder at the data centre.

Where a discrepancy arises, a customer service agent is automatically alerted and instructed to investigate the situation and amend the invoice. Other documents, including claims from customers for damaged goods, are also scanned into the relevant delivery folder.

Converting the paper chase into an online document flow

TokOpen's Workflow is used to manage the transaction and make adjustments on the company's system. This cuts out the need for printed documents, and converts the traditional paper chase into a controlled online document flow.

TokOpen highlights relevant deliveries to the appropriate customer service staff managing that customer account. This ensures that when the invoice is issued it is correct, and will not be contested by the customer, resulting in late or non-payment.

TokOpen also ensures that all delivery documents are available online across the whole enterprise. If an invoice is contested, authorised members of staff anywhere across the country can retrieve all information about the transaction using a standard Web browser.

Additional benefits delivered by the TokOpen system include:

? Improved management and monitoring of hauliers' performance

? Faster response times for customer service enquiries

? More time for customer service staff to be deployed on other duties

Tokairo is an international provider of Document Management (TokOpen) and Education systems solutions (TokAM). Tokairo has its headquarters in the UK, with a sister company in the USA responsible for the Americas. http://www.tokairo.com REF=TO1EZ

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