PDF Invoice Data Extraction: Automate Scan & Data Capture

By |2021-04-07T10:51:53+00:00April 7th, 2021|

Most businesses today send and receive invoices and payment receipts in digital formats including scanned PDF images, text documents, or Excel-based invoice templates. Although these digital formats have allowed workplaces to transition to a paperless environment, they have introduced a new challenge for business analysts i.e. extracting the data hidden in these PDF invoices and using it to produce and draw relevant insights.

In this article, we will discuss how invoice capture software can easily automate invoice scanning and reduce the time, effort, and cost spent in manual data entry. For instance, the process of PDF data scrapping helps to extract meaningful data from PDF reports and files. 

We will also take you through a complete use case in which an organization upgrades its manual accounting processes with end-to-end PDF data extraction tools that automate the entire invoicing cycle. 

But before we get to that part, let’s learn about the whole invoice scanning process from start to end.

Why is PDF Invoice Data Extraction so Challenging?

Vendors use multiple invoice generation solutions including Point of Sale (POS) terminals, Electronic Cash Registers (ECR), and other template based invoicing software to create invoice statements for their customers. Each of these solutions has a distinct output format and it is not always digital.

Compiling all this data in a single destination is a challenge. Often, it takes multiple days just to extract data from scanned PDF images, text-based invoices, and Excel templates. On top of that, it requires manual labor to cleanse and transform the data. 

A data entry specialist can cost somewhere around $30,000 per year. Now, consider what happens if an organization relies solely on specialists to extract, transform, and load invoice data from multiple formats to their destination systems. As the business grows, the company will have to hire multiple data entry specialists – each costing $30,000 per year. For three data entry specialists, the cost of document data management can easily exceed $100,000 per year. That kind of  total cost is simply unsustainable for most businesses. 

But is there a better option available?

How to Extract Invoice PDF Data Efficiently?

Here are the most common methods for extracting and recording invoice data

  • Manually add data from PDF documents

This is the most used technique. Organizations hire data entry specialists to manually add data from PDF invoice documents to an Excel sheet or a database table. It takes around 5 minutes on average to add data from a PDF document to respective columns.

  • Outsource manual data entry work

Some organizations hire virtual assistants or outsource the manual PDF invoice data entry work to third-party agencies. These companies have data entry operators who manually record data from invoices available in PDFs, images, text files, and excel templates. These companies usually charge the organization per sheet or per hour.

  • Automate Invoice OCR & PDF Data Capture

Last but not least, many data extraction software can extract invoice data from PDFs, text files, and excel sheets. The process is pretty simple. You will have to create a report model for each invoice format. This report model can then be mapped in the same software to your desired destination where you want to record the data.

Finally, you can automate the whole ‘invoice data capturing to recording’ process to run in a sequence by using a workflow.

Astera ReportMiner data extraction software can extract data from PDF invoices on event-based triggers such as file drop, email receipt attachment, and more. It also allows data extraction in bulk. Let’s say multiple PDF invoice sheets are available in a folder. You can schedule all of the files to process one after the other automatically. If there are any errors, let’s say a file has missing invoiced values, they can be detected and recorded during the process using data validation rules.

Is Invoice Capture Software Accurate?

Invoice data capturing software work on user-defined use cases. If you create a wrong report model, the invoice capture software will extract incorrect data. Does it make that software inaccurate? No. It is a human error. 

Therefore, when using report models in invoice capture software you will need to make sure that the models are accurately set up and that they are extracting the right type of data. Do a few test runs and you will know how the invoice capture software is performing before adding in automation.

Automated Invoice Capture Software can easily extract key data from invoices which is crucial for accounting, resource planning, and business intelligence applications.

When to Choose PDF Invoice Data Extraction Solution?

Whether an organization should opt for an invoice scanning and data extraction solution should depend on the following factors:

  1. Invoice data is available in multiple formats
  2. Invoice data is in bulk quantity
  3. Invoice task is recurring and repetitive
  4. Invoice data requires excessive man-hours

If your data extraction job checks all the above factors, then you should probably opt for an invoice scanning solution to get your job done faster, cheaper, and much more effectively.

Let’s learn how Astera ReportMiner is helping companies extract invoice PDF data.

Use Case: Automating PDF Invoice Data Extraction with Astera ReportMiner

Alpha Constructors company has numerous contractors working on its projects. Each of these contractors have their own employees, moreover, they have contract workers, and even freelancers working in different subunits. Alpha Constructors gets activity reports and invoices from each contractor firm at the end of the month to compensate them for the work done. 

PDF Invoice Data Extraction with Astera ReportMiner

Sample invoice file used for testing of the use case.

Each firm sends invoices in a different format including scanned PDF images, printed PDF invoices, text files, and even Excel templates. On average, Alpha Constructors receives around 1,000 invoices in a given month.

Once received, these invoices need to be sorted, structured, and recorded in the Alpha Constructors’s internal database as this allows them to keep a track of the daily activities, tasks performed, employee count and the budget spent.

However, sorting and recording this data is a challenge of its own. It takes one data entry specialist at Alpha Constructors five minutes to extract data from a single invoice. The specialist can extract data from 50 to 80 invoices in a single working day. 

Alpha Constructors has two data entry specialists on the payroll and it pays them $30,000 each, at a cost of $60,000 annually. Considering that the number of invoices that Alpha Constructors gets is going to increase in the coming years, it will have to employ even more data entry specialists. The total expected cost of more entry specialists can be north of $100K annually. Paying such an exorbitant amount for data extraction is just too much for Alpha Constructors and it wants to reduce its expenses.

While searching online for automated invoice data extraction solutions, Alpha Constructors came across Astera ReportMiner data extraction software.

ReportMiner Makes PDF Invoice Data Extraction Easier

Alpha Constructors signed up for the ReportMiner demo to learn how they can solve their problem. After an initial discussion with the ReportMiner team, they decided to try the product. 

PDF Invoice Data Extraction with Astera ReportMiner

Extracting data from PDF-based invoice with ReportMiner. Source: Astera ReportMiner

ReportMiner is an on-premise software and can be installed on the organization’s server. It can scan and extract data from PDF files, Excel documents, QuickBooks tables, emails, RTF, and text files. 

PDF Invoice Data Extraction with Astera ReportMiner

Complete workflow of Astera ReportMiner

After installing the software, Alpha Constructors was able to create report models for each invoice format. They connected them to dataflows so that the whole process of extracting data from invoice to adding that data to database tables could be easily automated. 

Adding a data field to ReportMiner model. Source: ReportMiner Screengrab

ReportMiner can automatically model data from invoice PDF files. If the data is disorganized, you can manually create a report model by highlighting the relevant data fields.

Since Alpha Constructors wanted to record all the data from invoices to their database tables, they needed to add  multiple fields such as the address and description fields to the same data region. For this specific purpose, ReportMiner offers a simple solution to append multiple fields to the same data region.

The extracted data from invoices is then moved to the database tables. ReportMiner also displays output tables in the Data Preview section.

PDF Invoice Data Extraction with Astera ReportMiner

Astera ReportMiner offers in-software structured data viewer of excel and database tables. Source: ReportMiner Screengrab

There were four different dataflows set up, each specific to the format in which invoice data is received at Alpha Constructors. These dataflows were then automated to work on event-based triggers so that as soon as an invoice was received it could be recorded in the database table, removing manual work completely.

Invoice OCR Image detection and data mapping with Astera Centerprise

ReportMiner allows point-and-click data modeling in a dataflow. Source: ReportMiner Screengrab

Alpha Constructors receives data as email attachments, direct download from the FTP server, and from third-party cloud drives. ReportMiner offers data extraction automation for all these channels. 

PDF Invoice Data Extraction with Astera ReportMiner

How a prepared data model from scanned invoice PDFs look like in ReportMiner. Source: ReportMiner Screengrab

Users can set up workflows for scheduling jobs. Each job can run on an event trigger. For example, if an invoice is received as an email attachment the event gets triggered. ReportMiner will then pass it through a report model that will create a structure for the data to be extracted. 

ReportMiner allows an unlimited number of report models to be created, each catering to a different format of invoicing data. Users can also apply data validation rules for each field to ensure that the data being extracted is in a specific format. Let’s say if the user wants that the invoice number or the invoiced amount field is not empty, they can apply a rule for that. Or, if they want that incomplete invoices are sent to one folder and invoices with complete data sent to another, then that is also possible in ReportMiner by selecting the email source object and then applying data quality rules transformation on it.

Data model of Invoice data with ReportMiner Data Extractor software

Once the data model is ready, ReportMiner moves to the next phase i.e. extracting data and copying it to a database table or Excel sheet. Users can also add checks where they are sent a notification if the data extraction job is a success or a failure.

PDF Invoice Data Extraction with Astera ReportMiner

Alpha Constructors wanted all the data to be moved to a database table and a local copy of the same to be made available in Excel format. Since Astera allows multiple database connectors such as Oracle, MySQL, MS SQL Server, and various others, Alpha Constructors can load the data to any database of its choice. This way the company would have a record of all the invoices that the business analysts could use for further analysis. ReportMiner performed both the tasks using a single dataflow.

Finally, Alpha Constructors required that all the invoices that had errors were logged to a separate file. ReportMiner offers an error log file option by default. It documents all the errors found during the extraction process to this error log file that you can save on your server. Since each error is easily traceable to its source, it made it easier for the IT department of Alpha Constructors to sort out any issues with the invoices.

Saving Time, Cost, and Resources with ReportMiner Data Extractor

Astera ReportMiner data extractor reduced the time spent extracting PDF invoice data from 5 minutes to 10 seconds. Also, since Alpha Constructors doesn’t need any more manual resources for data extraction, the number of human errors in the data has decreased to 0 percent. Alpha Constructors can now train its current data entry specialists for other more challenging roles in the organization. 

Thus, ReportMiner saved Alpha Constructors 10 days of effort every month, $60,000 in cost and resources, and increased its efficiency by 500 percent.

Ready to Extract Invoice Data from PDF?

Many organizations have needs like Alpha Constructors and they all can benefit from automated data extraction software like ReportMiner. For example, insurance firms receive thousands of claim forms in scanned PDF documents, the faster they process claims, the better their businesses will get. Similarly, law firms deal with regular incoming court orders and most of these are in the form of scanned PDF and text-based documents. Sometimes, they also receive court orders via emails. Extracting all this information and formatting it to various digital formats can take weeks at an end. On the other hand, PDF data extraction software can do the same job of invoice data capturing/scanning and loading to the database within minutes.

It is time to get out of this rut.

Just download your free trial, get started creating your own invoice report models, and say goodbye to manual data entry for good.

Start Your Free Trial with Astera ReportMiner.