Sometimes the very act of automating the exchange of a certain document has led to unforeseen consequences that necessitated a tweak in the company's processes. One example, in Hawkins' own words: "The supplier now receives a purchase order, they fill the order and ship the goods, and, if they're a smart supplier, they immediately send us an invoice. That invoice, because it's electronic, is immediately at our door and goes into our [enterprise resource planning system], which is SAP. SAP immediately looks to see if there is a goods receipt, and because there's not a goods receipt [since the goods have just been shipped], it kicks the invoice out and creates workflow for people to go fix that problem. So our 'kick-outs,' as we call them, rose dramatically on the EDI side because the invoices were just getting here too fast. We had to create a process whereby the invoice goes into SAP and then goes into a holding area, where SAP can continually check for the goods receipt. Once the goods receipt is entered, SAP will process the invoice rather than kicking it out."
With a target to automate 80 percent of its invoices this year, Owens Corning will still be left with some 10,000 paper invoices to process manually. Many of those will come from government agencies or telecom companies — "tough nuts to crack," in Hawkins words — while others will come from smaller suppliers for which the business case doesn't support automated document exchange. Nevertheless, Owens Corning figures it has achieved substantial cost reductions through the project with ADX, not only in terms of the savings from automating invoice-related processes but also from eliminating manual processes for handling purchase order acknowledgements and ASNs. But Hawkins emphasizes that a primary benefit of the project has been in improving the company's processes. "It's a good way to pull out the flashlight, find out what the processes are, clean them up and automate them," he concludes.