For many SMEs, cash-flow issues are simply a fact of life. Back in January, for example, insurer Zurich found that more than half (53%) of Britain’s smaller firms are owed money by late-paying customers. The size of this collective IOU? A staggering £225 billion.
And late payment is far from the only source of cash-flow uncertainty for small and medium-sized companies in the UK. Another, which applies to the engineering services sector and others, is service-to-invoice time – the amount of time that passes between doing a job and billing the customer for it.
In the fast-moving, project-based, geographically distributed world of engineering services, there’s a lot that can stand in the way of getting an invoice sent out once the work is done. And, if cash-flow is tight to begin with, the repercussions for the firm can be far-reaching.
With the right technology, however, engineering services companies have it in their power to do away with many of these obstacles and therefore reduce service-to-invoice time from weeks to minutes. Here’s how an integrated ERP and job costing solution can help.
Removing paperwork from the equation
In a 2015 study by the Service Council, almost half (46%) of field service technicians described admin and paperwork as the part of the job they disliked the most. This made it their least-liked activity overall, followed by spending time looking for information (cited by 31% of respondents).
With this in mind, it’s not difficult to imagine technicians putting off paperwork to focus on delivering the services that customers really value – and therefore unintentionally increasing service-to-invoice time.
ERP software offers a number of benefits here. A solution like SAP Business One makes it possible for companies to capture digital data on the go – via mobile apps and web timesheets, for example – and integrate various business systems to avoid the manual rekeying of data. As such, the right technology can remove paperwork from the equation almost entirely.
Kardex Remstar, a user of SAP Business One add-on Coresystems Field Service Software, explains: “We have already successfully reduced the time between servicing and invoicing from several weeks to an average of six days on more than 50% of our customer service calls.”
Improving job costing accuracy and efficiency
A failure to cost work accurately and efficiently can also significantly increase service-to-invoice time for engineering services companies. Many find it a constant struggle to gather, verify and sign-off on timesheets and other costs in a timely and consistent manner.
When ERP software with an integrated job costing solution is used, it’s a whole different story. A best-in-class implementation will provide the user with a single view of all job costing information, enable real-time data-sharing with technicians in the field and even set up recurring invoices – so customers can be billed fixed amounts for routine services – that are sent out at the push of a button.
Boosting service-to-invoice time with automation
More broadly, ERP software can streamline and automate a wide array of key business processes. It should be easy to see why integrating sales, accounting, purchasing and CRM data can reduce service-to-invoice time – it means less time spent looking for information, less manual data entry and a lower likelihood of human error leading to mistakes that need to be fixed.
Some solutions also come with sophisticated business intelligence features, meaning their reports can be used by decision-makers to identify common sources of lost time and opportunities to boost efficiency with better processes.
Additional ERP benefits in engineering services
As a final aside, it’s worth noting that reducing service-to-invoice time is just one way ERP is revolutionising the world of engineering services. To find out more about the software trends turning service into a profit centre, read our ebook: .