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Case Study

Small Business Sees Yearly Sales Increases Since Creating Their Punchout Site

Midwest Technology Products

There are not many businesses today that can claim to have employed five generations of people from the same family but, after being in business for over 113 years, Midwest Technology Products can say just that. Located in Sioux City, Iowa, Midwest Technology Products is a small (just under 20 employees), woman and minority-owned business that offers 11,000 products from 700 vendors. They work exclusively with educators worldwide to provide them with quality products, furniture and supplies for makerspaces and fab labs, as well as Career & Tech Ed and STEM instructional spaces. Through their unmatched customer service, they have built relationships with a broad network of school purchasers including teachers, administrators, purchasing agents, and curriculum directors.

Unlike a lot of their competitors, Midwest goes the extra step of providing consulting for the layout and equipment requirements of their clients’ projects. They have designed and installed hundreds of specialty workspaces filled with durable, trade quality tools and equipment and their project management team can see a project through from specifications to coordinated delivery. They also offer kits so customers have everything they need to make labs or makerspaces on their own. In addition, their products are unique; many of the items in their catalog cannot be found anywhere else online.

Midwest Partners With EqualLevel to Create eCommerce Site

In 2013, in an effort to take their business to the next level, Midwest Technology Products partnered with EqualLevel to create a punchout system for their 500-page catalog. EqualLevel’s catalog management software, EqualLevel GO, offers small OEMs or distributors who may have limited IT capabilities the opportunity to establish a punchout catalog store, or punchout store, that integrates with ERPs. This allows the products from small companies to appear alongside those of their bigger competitors in the eProcurement marketplaces of large-scale buying organizations such as purchasing cooperatives and school districts. 

To transfer their catalog, Robin Peterson, former President, was tasked with creating the line item data for Midwest’s 11,000 products including creating key words, sourcing images, and writing short- and long-form descriptions. The information was then sent to EqualLevel and through EqualLevel GO, they were able to create Midwest’s punchout system.

The punchout store has opened doors for Midwest that were previously closed to them due to their lack of eCommerce capabilities. They have been able to get in front of public sector organizations as well as other markets previously inaccessible to them. It has also improved their bottom line in other ways. Just through having all the specifications of their 11,000 products online, they have been able to reach more customers and make more sales. “Even when people don’t order through the website, and call in an order instead, our eProcurement marketplace has still served a purpose as a marketing tool. Most of the time the client will have used the site to learn and discover first, before picking up the phone to order.” 

Since engaging with EqualLevel to make the move to eCommerce, Midwest has not looked back. “Every year since creating our punchout system we have seen sales increase,” said Peterson. By utilizing EqualLevel GO to facilitate the creation of their eCommerce site, they now reach more customers in their target market than ever before.

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Benefits of Digitizing the Invoice to Payment Process

In far too many organizations, the invoice reconciliation and approval process within the Accounts Payable department is the most laborious, time-consuming, and error-prone step of the procurement cycle.

Many organizations still rely heavily on paper and manual processes for their accounts payable, including managing invoices that are often received via email, regular mail, or fax. In some cases, personnel are required to be on-site, which can prove difficult during times of remote work. Even when invoices can be provided via email or fax, they may be sent to the wrong person, adding even more time and confusion to the process. Once in the right hands, to log the invoice into the organization’s financial system, the data is manually entered and the documents are scanned and uploaded. It is a tedious and cumbersome operation.

The sheer volume of invoices and the variety of sources that they come from make the accounts payable process a daunting task for organizations that are still utilizing paper documentation. It’s often required that one or more full-time employees remain dedicated to entering and reconciling hundreds or thousands of invoices on a weekly basis. Fortunately, advancements in technology, namely the widespread use of cloud computing and increased accessibility to e-procurement solutions, are changing the dynamics for invoicing.

EqualLevel’s e-invoicing solution provides a means to seamlessly and electronically exchange invoices between software systems and automate key portions of the invoice reconciliation process. With e-invoicing, suppliers may generate an electronic invoice from their own system, or from a system made available by the e-procurement provider who services the buying organization. All invoices can then be sent electronically, directly to the buying organization’s e-procurement application, regardless of the supplier’s technical sophistication, greatly simplifying the process.

The e-invoicing solution may be integrated with an organization’s existing accounting or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to replace an inefficient, paper-based invoice approval process with a convenient online system. The invoice reconciliation and approval process may take place in the e-procurement system, the organization’s ERP system, or in both through a two-step hybrid approach. In the hybrid approach, the e-procurement system will match the invoices and automatically reject those that violate predetermined exception rules, including but not limited to invalid invoice items, incorrect tax or shipping additions, and substantial price increases. Invoices that pass these initial rules are then transmitted to the ERP system for final reconciliation, where less critical exceptions can be routed for manual review before payment approval..

Options for transmitting invoices to the ERP system will depend on the flexibility and robustness of the solution from the e-procurement provider, but some possible options include sending the invoices via cXML, pulling the invoice data via an API integration, or an automated export/import of an invoice data file.

Automating this process helps organizations more easily manage the entire invoicing lifecycle. Some of the key benefits of e-invoicing include:

  • Automating the invoice entry and reconciliation.
  • Receiving structured and uniform invoices.
  • Reducing data entry and document handling costs.
  • Reducing errors caused by manual data entry.
  • Monitoring transactions in real-time.
  • Slashing the invoice processing time.
  • Eliminating late payment charges.
  • Taking advantage of early payment discounts.

Digitizing the invoicing process streamlines the entire workflow and frees up valuable time for financial professionals to spend on more strategic tasks.

Are you ready to get started? For more information, visit https://equallevel.com/invoice-reconciliation/.

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Time is Money: Learn How to Save Both with an eProcurement Marketplace

If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us in the business world, it’s that so much of what was traditionally done manually can more quickly and easily be accomplished online. This includes the manual, paper-based procurement process which has been plagued with inefficiencies in requisitioning, ordering, invoice reconciliation, and payment processing. Outdated, inflexible, and costly purchasing systems also restrict the ability to conduct broad-based procurement with the supply community.

What if there was an “easy” button for the procurement process? Over the last two decades, eCommerce has exploded in the consumer world with companies like Amazon making buying almost anything as easy as 1-2-3. By digitizing the procurement process, the shopping experience for businesses can be just as simple and can lead to increased savings and operational efficiency.

EqualLevel’s eProcurement marketplace allows organizations to quickly implement a cloud-based, multi-vendor, procure-to-pay marketplace that ensures compliance and can be accessed anywhere, at any time. Increasing transparency, efficiency, and compliance, the marketplace enables organizations to conduct business in the office or remotely, and it provides greater access into an approved, fully digital supply network.

The marketplace seamlessly integrates with existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems so that all approved suppliers/vendors and all goods and services managed by procurement are located in one easy-to-use, easy-to-administer system. It spans the entire procurement lifecycle, from punch-out commerce solutions to shopping for goods or services, approval workflow, catalog and contract pricing, purchase order automation,and receipt-invoice matching.

Organizations that have implemented an eProcurement marketplace have quickly recognized the many benefits of digitizing the procurement process. To list a few:

Efficiency: By automating a significant portion of the procurement process, an eProcurement marketplace leads to faster cycle times and improved productivity. The elimination of paper and manual steps also frees up time for employees to focus on more value-added activities.

Cost Saving: Cost-saving with an eProcurement system comes not only from ordering through preferred vendors but also from increased spend visibility. The EqualLevel Savings Advisor (ELSA) analyzes quotes to ensure the best value and uses machine learning to become smarter with every purchase. Utilizing a real-time, federated search across punchout sites, similar to Travelocity or Orbitz, data is collected from distributed sources and artificial intelligence (AI) technology uses this data to identify savings opportunities.

Compliance: Implementing a one-stop, multi-vendor punchout marketplace of all approved suppliers and contracts ensures compliance with state and federal regulations. The system automatically creates a three-bid process to determine product price, select the supplier (among approved vendors), and create the requisition or shopping cart for approval.

Transparency: eProcurement also makes it easier to conduct and analyze reports on procurement systems in order to ensure that the procedures conform to established policies. Real-time visibility into what supplies employees are purchasing and from which vendors provides valuable business insight and eliminates maverick spending.

Innovating an outdated procurement process with an online eProcurement marketplace provides a single, seamless platform to facilitate the shop-order-pay transaction. It provides employees with a more streamlined and efficient experience so they can optimize every dollar spent and every moment doing so.

When it comes to procurement, time is money. Neither time nor money should be wasted. Isn’t it time for your organization to hit the easy button and jump in?

Learn more about the EqualLevel eProcurement marketplace at https://equallevel.com/marketplace.