How ICA manages their
massive invoice flow

Automating tedious processes is an essential part of digitization.
In April 2018, the food retailer giant ICA launched a project with the objective to get more control and a more efficient handling of their invoices. The job went to the software company Neovici, whose platform Cosmoz has made a big difference to how Ica's invoicing processes are handled.

Challenging the status quo of legacy systems

- When you look at bringing in a new system for handling invoices, you traditionally look at special systems for invoice management, but we chose to look more broadly, at the whole process to see it more as an automation process, says Simon Harmark, Head of Automation at ICA, on how it all started.

And it's no small operation. An approximate calculation, for the around 1,300 stores and head-office included, ICA handles about 175,000 invoices a month. The Central ICA organization, as well as 800 stores, have now been rolled out, and work is in progress to include more stores and scaling the automation.

According to Simon Harmark, they have been running for just over a year. Since the production start in April 2018, the degree of automation has increased significantly. Some exact figures on how much money and time has been saved are difficult to obtain, but Harmark says that the degree of automation has increased from about 40 to 90 percent.

At Neovici, they are careful to point out that it is not just about ordinary software robots. Rather than the classic robotic process automation, RPA, Cosmoz prefers to talk about IPA, which is not a beer, but an abbreviation for Intelligent Process Automation.

- IPA is about enabling 100 percent automation throughout the process. In Cosmoz, we do this by applying the system's and the customer's business logic based on the largest problem areas, and then using mainly data analysis but also machine learning to identify new problems and symptoms. In this way, we can automate on an unlimited number of levels, says Patrik Kullman, CTO at Neovici, and emphasizes that it is essential to make sure the automation process is correct from the start.

- A risk with machine learning is that the machine learns incorrectly. In that, we have an important role in finding errors. Therefore, it is very important to set everything up correctly from the beginning. This means that with an automation tool such as Cosmoz, you can include elimination of errors throughout the automation process.

Another important part that has made automation easier is that more and more invoices today are digitized, according to the standard electronic data interchange, EDI. Patrik Kullman says that Cosmoz can handle paper invoices as well, but that digital invoices naturally are more desirable. And, Simon Harmark states that far from every supplier works digitally. Ica still handles paper invoices via local suppliers, who choose to send their invoices the old-fashioned way. The same applies to many foreign suppliers.

- Our starting point is that it should be as simple as possible for the store because they want to focus on customer and sales and not work with administration. So now the journey continues to simplify everyday life administratively in store, says Simon Harmark.