2016 Control State Best Practices Winner: Best Technology Innovation (TIE)
Brooklyn Center Municipal Liquor
A new system has streamlined invoice tracking and improved payment speed at Brooklyn Center Municipal Liquor. Tom Agnes, its operations manager since 2004, says processing 300 invoices a month—shuffling physical papers all along the way—meant his team spent one or two full days each month correcting invoicing errors.
But in June of this year, Brooklyn Center—which operates two full-time stores and one part-time during a beer festival called Darkness Days—added a central buyer who has a scanner at his desk using Tungsten Network’s Workflow, provided by LOGIS financial system.
“After buying and receiving, he scans all invoices right from the store, codes them for payment categories and hits send,” Agnes says. “It immediately arrives in my inbox for approval, and then goes directly to accounts payable for payment.” Since invoices are digital, record retention is much more efficient, he adds. The changeover didn’t involve changes in staff, but did streamline staff duties.
“We had had three separate buyers—wine, beer and liquor—in our system,” he says. The former three buyers still work at Brooklyn Center but are doing different jobs. A central buyer now meets with all sales reps and enters invoices.
Before, AP might have gotten those invoices a week to 10 days after delivery. Now, it’s anywhere from a couple hours to a day. “In this industry, we work with a ton of paper invoices,” Agnes says. “The old way of doing things, we had stacks of invoices from multiple stores that were transported to a central location for approval, then brought to AP for payment, then scanned into our system for record keeping.”
The new scanner reads metadata such as vendor name, transaction date, amount and invoice number. (The buyer can manually and easily alter a value if, for instance, a date is wrong). AP then receives a spreadsheet of prepaid buyers to pay. “Technology development in this area was important to us,” Agnes says. “Years ago, if you wanted to learn what happened, you’d have to search a big drawer in a file cabinet.”
Agnes says he had been curious about Tungsten’s Workflow for a couple years prior to implementing it. Whatever upgrade he chose, however, would also need to accomplish the important job of protecting the city’s finances, Agnes says, to ensure the city’s money is being well kept and better accounted for. “Several other municipal liquor stores are on the system,” he says, “but we are the only ones who process right at the liquor store.”
Brooklyn Center nets about $1 million every three years, and the only expense it incurred in the shift was the purchase of the scanner and the software—but Agnes notes the scanner is used for more than just the liquor stores’ invoices. “Other cities have done this,” he adds, “but no other municipal liquor stores in Minnesota have taken the process to the liquor-store level.” Agnes says he is hopeful others will see this process and want to investigate it.
“Having fewer mistakes is so big,” he says. “In the past four months, we’ve only had one or two invoices we’ve had to correct.”