Today, most businesses send and receive invoices and payment receipts in digital formats, such as scanned PDF images, text documents, or Excel-based invoice templates. While 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 invoices and using it to draw relevant insights.
This blog will discuss how invoice data extraction solutions can easily automate invoice scanning while reducing the time and effort spent on manual data entry. Additionally, it will explore how Astera ReportMiner can help you extract meaningful data from PDF reports and files.
We will also take you through a use case in which an organization upgrades its manual accounting processes with ReportMiner and automates the invoicing cycle.
But before we get to that part, here’s a quick recap of some challenges in manual data extraction.
Challenges of Invoice Data Extraction
Vendors use multiple invoice generation solutions, including Point of Sale (POS) terminals, Electronic Cash Registers (ECR), and other template-based invoicing software to create customer invoice statements. Each solution has a distinct output format, which is not always digital.
Compiling all this data in a single place is a challenge. Hence, it can take multiple days to extract data from scanned PDF images, text-based invoices, and Excel spreadsheets. 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. Consider what happens if an organization relies solely on specialists to extract invoice data from multiple formats, transform, and load it 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.
Common Methods for Extracting Invoice Data
Here are the most common methods for extracting and recording invoice data:
Manually add data from invoices
Many organizations still resort to manually invoice extraction. They usually hire data entry specialists who manually copy data from each invoice to an Excel sheet. While it takes around 5 minutes on average to add data from a PDF document to columns, imagine what happens when there is a large volume of invoices. It not only delays data analysis, it is also prone to errors.
Outsource manual data entry work
Some organizations hire virtual assistants or outsource the manual invoice data extraction work to third-party agencies. These third-party 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. So, it is not only time-intensive but cost intensive as well.
Automate invoice OCR & PDF data capture
The best possible solution is an invoice data extraction software that can easily extract invoice data from PDFs, text files, and excel sheets with minimum manual effort. The invoice data extraction process is quite simple with an automated, code-free solution. In fact, most extraction software are now equipped with AI technology that can extract data immediately regardless of the template. Once you specify the fields that you want to extract, the software automatically reads the data. You can then transform and map this data to your desired destination.
Finally, using a workflow, you can automate the whole invoice data capturing to recording process to run in a sequence.
Are Invoice Capture Software Accurate?
Automated invoice capture software can easily extract key data from invoices which is crucial for accounting, resource planning, and business intelligence applications.
Traditionally, invoice data capture software used to be template based, which meant that you had to define a template for each format. In case, you created a a wrong report model, the invoice capture software will extract incorrect data.
However, with the emergence of AI, invoice extraction software have become quite accurate. Since you only need to define a layout and fields you want to extract, the natural language processing models automatically detects the fields regardless of the format. In fact, even if the fields are mentioned different for example, number or No, the AI algorithms can extract data accurately.
When to Choose PDF Invoice Data Extraction Solution?
When deciding whether an organization should opt for an invoice scanning and data extraction solution depends on the following factors:
- Invoice data is available in multiple formats
- Invoice data is in bulk quantity
- Invoice task is recurring and repetitive
- Invoice data requires excessive man-hours
If your data extraction job checks all the above factors, you should probably opt for an PDF invoice scanning solution to get your job done faster, cheaper, and more effectively.
Astera Report Miner: An Automated Invoice Data Extraction Software
Astera ReportMiner is an AI-powered data extraction software that can extract data from PDF invoices in bulk using event-based triggers such as file drop, email receipt attachments, and more..
Let’s say multiple PDF invoice sheets are available in a folder. You can schedule all files to process one after the other automatically. If there are any errors, let’s say a file has missing values, the tool will automatically detect and record the errors during the process using data validation rules. Once you resolve these errors, you can load your data into a database or data warehouse, according to your organization’s requirements.
Use Case: Automating Invoice Data Extraction with Astera ReportMiner
Alpha Constructors company has numerous contractors working on its projects. Each of these contractors has 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.
Sample invoice file used for testing of the use case.
Each firm sends invoices in a different format, including scanned PDF images, printed PDFs, text files, and even Excel templates. On average, Alpha Constructors receives around 1,000 invoices in a given month.
Once received, these invoices must be sorted, structured, and recorded in the Alpha Constructors’ internal database. This allows them to keep track of the daily activities, tasks performed, employee count, and the budget spent.
However, sorting and recording this data is a challenge. One data entry specialist at Alpha Constructors takes five minutes to extract data from a single invoice. The specialist can extract data from 50 to 80 PDFs in a single working day.
Alpha Constructors has two data entry specialists on the payroll, and they are paying them $30,000 annually each. Considering that Alpha Constructors’ invoices will increase in the coming years, the company must employ even more data entry specialists. The expected cost of more entry specialists can be north of $100K annually. Paying such a high amount for data extraction is too much for Alpha Constructors, as the company is looking to cut down expenses.
While searching online for automated invoice data extraction solutions, Alpha Constructors came across Astera ReportMiner – the AI-powered data extraction software.
ReportMiner Simplifies Data Extraction from Invoices – Here’s How
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.
ReportMiner is an on-premise software that 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.
ReportMiner leverages artificial intelligence to suggest report model templates, enabling the automatic generation of models for multiple source files simultaneously. Once you specify the document type and layout, ReportMiner intelligently recommends the most appropriate model templates, saving you time and effort.
The complete workflow of Astera ReportMiner
The company kept all invoices in a folder. After installing the software, Alpha Constructors was able to create report models for all invoices format using the Auto Create Report Model feature.
Using AI to build Report Models in Astera
All the company had to do was just provide the tool with the layout of the data that it wanted to extract from these source files either importing a layout defined object from a dataflow or a layout from a JSON.
Specifying Invoice Layouts in Astera Report Miner
The automated report mining then generated report models for each file in the folder and save successfully generated files to the AI Generated Report Models folder that had all the invoices. In case the file does not contain the required fields, the tool keeps the generated templates in the Erroneous Reports Model folder, allowing the company to verify and/or edit them.
The extracted data from invoices is then moved to the database tables. ReportMiner also displays output tables through the Instant Data Preview feature.
Astera ReportMiner offers an in-software structured data viewer of Excel and database tables.
Four different dataflows were 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.
ReportMiner allows point-and-click data modeling in a data flow
Alpha Constructors receives data as email attachments, direct downloads from the FTP server, and from third-party cloud drives. ReportMiner offers data extraction automation for all these channels.
How a prepared data model from scanned invoice PDFs look like in ReportMiner
Users can set up workflows for scheduling jobs. Each job can run on an event trigger. For example, the event gets triggered if an invoice is received as an email attachment. ReportMiner will then pass it through a report model that will create a data extraction structure.
ReportMiner allows users to create an unlimited number of report models, each catering to a different format of invoicing data. Users can also apply data validation rules for each field to ensure the extracted data is in a specific form. If the user wants to ensure that the invoice number or the invoiced amount field is not empty, they can apply a rule for that. Or, if they want incomplete invoices 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.
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 to receive a notification if the data extraction job is a success or a failure.
Alpha Constructors wanted all the data to be moved to a database table and a local copy 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 tasks using a single data flow.
Finally, Alpha Constructors required all the invoices with errors to log into 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 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 invoice processing.
Saving Time, Cost, and Resources with ReportMiner
Astera ReportMiner reduced the time spent in 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 Data?
Many organizations have needs like Alpha Constructors, and they all can benefit from automated data extractor 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 court orders, most of which are scanned PDF and text-based documents. Sometimes, they also receive court orders via email. Extracting and formatting all this information to various digital formats can take weeks. On the other hand, PDF data extraction software can do the same job of invoice parser/scanner and load the extracted data to the database within minutes.
It is time to get out of this rut.
Just download your free trial, start creating your invoice report models, and say goodbye to manual data entry for good.