Business & Technology Nexus

Dave Stephens on technology and business trends

Self-Service Buying & Receipts

with one comment

Long ago I toured a Bay Area high tech company, perhaps Xilinx. A lot of us development folks went there to "see our products in action." It must have been a good use of my time, because the trip made quite an impression on me.

Our first stop was the receiving dock. On the day we visited there were 3 guys working the dock – 2 were younger and the third a little older. We asked them how they "received stuff". We must of looked like a strange bunch – and the question made them laugh a little. They pointed to the receiving area and talked about how pallets were offloaded from trucks & how schedules determined which truck showed up when.

We stopped them & rephrased our question – "no, how do you receive in your Oracle system". The 2 younger guys looked at the older gentleman. It was clear he was the one stuck doing the manual entry. He sighed and said "let me take out my glasses".

And he walked us through recording a simple receipt. It took him at least a minute, maybe 2. Yikes. We had a lot of work to do to make manual recording of receipts easier.

Of course, the technology for receiving at a central dock has come a long way since then. There's a lot more use of integrated bar code scanning, emerging use of RFID, and a number of other conveniences that help dock personnel focus on the actual physical receiving instead of the system.

But when it comes to self-service buying, where increasingly goods are shipped direct to an employee's location (cube XYZ), receiving has proven quite a thorny issue.

The default answer I've seen customers employ is to skip it and go with a 2-way match (assume the goods arrived & go ahead and pay). Sure, a few brave souls have let their idealism get the better of them & tried to mandate self-service receipt of goods on their employee population. None successfully though. Compliance rates are always bad when employees are left to log into the system on their own and record receipt when a package arrives. Employees just don't bother – their interest in the whole transaction ends when their stuff arrives.

So, for those wanting to go beyond a 2-way match, I advocate a "confirmed receipt" flow. In this scenario, the buying organization waits for an invoice to come in. Once the invoice is matched against one or more PO's, and each of those PO's is tracked back to the originating requisitions, employees get an email asking them "did your stuff arrive?". If everyone says "yes", well, go ahead and pay. If a dispute arises, go ahead and put the invoice on hold. Employees will click a button or a link for you, especially when prompted via email.

Considering requiring receipt to issue payment? Give "confirmed receiving" a try!


Written by Dave Stephens

05/1/06 8:44 PM at 8:44 pm

Posted in Opinion

One Response

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  1. I don’t think I want to get one more email for the day. I would rather prefer a way for the mail delivery boy to get the same information from me when delivering my packet. No need to set timeout rules etc. Supplier performance can be measured more accurately as the event is captured right at the time of receiving the item by the employee.

    On the otherhand, sometimes the employee may not get all the items that were ordred and he may find it out long after the mail man is gone. So, there should be a way for the employee to provide this information in the system.


    05/2/06 7:08 PM at 7:08 pm

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