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Created on 22.05.2023

E-bill: partners in a digital future

B. Braun Medical AG is a subsidiary of the German company B. Braun, a leading manufacturer and supplier of medical technology products. The company, which is headquartered in Sempach, issues its supplier invoices as e-bills. Adrian Michel, Business Analyst & Project Manager at B. Braun Medical AG, tells us in an interview about the potential he sees in this and what he values when integrating customers.

More than 1,000 people at B. Braun Medical AG work at various locations throughout Switzerland, supplying the healthcare market with high-quality products. Parent company B. Braun operates in 64 countries and has a product range of around 5,000 products. These include medical materials, surgical instruments and services for hospitals, medical practices or assistance and care at home. In line with its “Sharing Expertise” guiding principle, B. Braun creates effective solutions to protect health and sustainably improve people's lives – by constructively engaging with customers and partners.

Working together for the best e-billing solution

B. Braun Medical AG is also sharing its experience and expertise on sending invoices. Not only does it offer its customers the option to receive e-supplier invoices, it also supports them in connecting to the e-billing system, Adrian Michel from B. Braun explains. As a business analyst and project manager, he is committed to automating processes – with a constant focus on the end-to-end process. “Solutions are only good if they are also right for the customers”, he emphasizes. That’s why he carefully identifies the needs of customers who want to be connected to the e-bill system and supports them in the transition.

Adrian Michel is a business analyst & project manager at B. Braun Medical AG.

Mr Michel, what are the main reasons for B. Braun Medical AG’s decision to use e-bill for supplier invoices?

The e-bill is the perfect basis for automating and improving the quality of customers’ accounts payable workflow. Both we and the customer save time as manual invoice processing is eliminated. Last but not least, all parties involved contribute to protecting the environment, as digital e-billing is a paperless process.

How long has B. Braun Medical AG been using the e-billing solution for its supplier invoices?

We starting looking into e-billing back in 2004. An initial project was started in cooperation with a hospital. The aim was to manage the entire logistics chain digitally, from the order to order confirmation, delivery of goods, invoicing and payment. And we were successful. As part of the digitized overall process, we’ve been able to offer our customers e-billing for our supplier invoices since August 2005. Since then, we’ve integrated many more customers, especially hospitals.

In addition to the e-bill solution, you also offer your customers eBill. For which customer groups?

The option of paying B. Braun Medical AG invoices via eBill directly in the e-banking portal is used by pharmacies and dental practices in particular. eBill gives them the option to automate approval of their invoices. This is because with eBill, the relevant data such as amount, payment date, IBAN and BIC are recorded and stored electronically.

What percentage of your supplier invoices do you issue as e-bills?

Currently, B. Braun Medical AG issues around 40 percent of all supplier invoices as e-bills.

What are the key aspects when digitizing the invoicing process with a focus on your customers?

To ensure that even our customers who do not order using EDI , can still receive an electronic supplier invoice. For some customers, automated order transmission via EDI has not yet been implemented for all business cases. We send these customers a standardized XML and PDF file with QR code so that they can use their configured interface for all business cases. They can use the transmitted XML file to further develop their own digitization within the framework of their invoice processing procedures.

In concrete terms, how do you involve your customers to ensure that the e-billing process runs smoothly?

Every single customer represents an individual challenge, especially because customers use different ERP and financial software. In a personal interview, I address their needs and work out a suitable custom solution. In a follow-up meeting, we discuss the scope of testing for the connection and initiate the first measures together. After a successful test phase, a joint go-live is implemented.

Which customers are eligible for e-bill?

Basically, it is important that customers can see the great advantages of e-billing, and are willing to invest in the automation of the billing process and take the appropriate steps in their companies. Connecting to e-bill requires a certain initial effort and a willingness to establish the details and scope of the test with us as the supplier. The better the cooperation and mutual understanding, the smoother the process runs.

What tips do you have for other companies about e-bill?

As a starting point for digitizing processes, every company should first analyse all the relevant data and processes, and develop a good foundation with high data quality and quantity. This is the only way to ensure that all invoicing processes can be handled without interruptions and on a “touchless” basis. The next step is to identify all processes that are affected by e-billing. For the invoice issuer, this means the processes of order processing including invoicing, generation of standardized invoice data and electronic invoice transmission to the e-bill portal of PostFinance. For the invoice recipient, these are the workflow processes for automated approval of accounts payable invoices as well as for the processes for automated cost account assignment and payment approval. A sustained end-to-end approach is a key requirement for successful implementation.

In what way?

Think of your processes like a gearbox that you decide to improve by replacing one of the gears with a less expensive variant with slightly different dimensions. While all the gears previously meshed together perfectly, they will start to grind and become damaged when the new gear is inserted. You need an end-to-end process approach to prevent that from happening. A complete system can only be optimized by designing well-coordinated process chains. Breaking down data silos is vitally important.

You switched from Paynet to PostFinance. What was your experience of the transition?

In the initial phase of the transition, there were uncertainties about the implementation plan which we were soon able to resolve together. The implementation phase was very well organized. As an invoice issuer, B. Braun Medical was involved in the tests at an early stage and was also able to provide valuable feedback, which was implemented immediately. This made it possible to continuously improve quality. Since our customers work with different IT and billing systems a lot of testing was needed, so the transition took more than six months until the successful go-live in December 2022. This was possible thanks to cooperation with PostFinance and all the participating customers.

Issuing and receiving e-bills

With electronic invoices, you digitize your invoicing process and save yourself time, money and paper. Send your supplier invoices directly to the system of your business customers with e-bill – or receive your incoming invoices directly in your accounting system as a customer. PostFinance will be happy to support you with the implementation.

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