Are AI and OCR technology that important to AP Automation?

By Paul Massey, Product Director at Proactis

Most Accounts Payable (AP) automation solutions leverage Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. OCR is a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) but at its earliest form. OCR technology extracts data from printed or written text documents when a paper or digital format is scanned. The data is converted into a machine-readable form to be used for data processing, such as editing or searching. Additionally, AP automation has been gaining advancements within AI. Machine learning and deep learning algorithms have been implemented and can detect mistakes, identify unclear text or numbers, and recognize common characters.

AP Automation is now a necessity. And not just in theory, but as part of your long-term strategy. So, you need to be careful about the technology you use. Here we look into the pros and cons, and the problems that can arise, especially with a market that is now full of AP Automation solution providers that claim AI, touch-free, 100% touchless...

The truth about OCR
There are many benefits to OCR technology (we leverage OCR in our own solutions) but the whole notion of 100% captured or guarantees of accuracy is misplaced. OCR tools are not yet at a stage to fully replace humans – there are limits to how quickly businesses can eliminate manual work. To fully reap the success of OCR, manual intervention is still required, and complexities still arise to get an invoice imaged and captured accurately. There are often still some limitations:

To accurately scan images, they must fulfill a certain image quality level such as resolution, sharpness, flatness, and color before you even start the upload process.

Once the invoice is loaded, there are a variety of options to choose from to optimize the image: you can cleanse, de-skew, split (if multiple pages), or apply texture filtering. OCR reduces manual keying, but skills are still required for digital imagery detection and perfection.

OCR technology has advanced algorithms that leverage deep learning mechanisms and will prepare a layout analysis. Based on historical document imaging, this analysis will identify and enter missing context. However, if an invoice differs from the rest, the learnings are limited, how will OCR recognize what to do if a new font is detected or it identifies a lookalike character? Your AP specialist will need to intervene to push it through.

How to get the most from AP Automation?
The answer can be found in combining AP automation software and a service - advanced OCR technology with a truly touchless process. By utilizing a service for invoice processing you save time and costs from resources that may otherwise have to spend time optimizing invoices, rescanning, manually typing missing information, or checking for corrections. How? The service receives and process invoices, no matter the format, with accelerated turn-around times that meet your business needs. So, in truth it is 100% touch-free! They do all the work. This is where the magic happens, and the bottom-line savings occur.

Learn more about 'straight-through' processing with invoice scanning and capture software.