Last updated: 13 March 2023

Published on: 20 October 2021


For not-for-profit organisation GS1 Singapore, e-invoicing is what the barcode is to the supply chain: a quicker, simpler and more precise digital method for transferring crucial business details.

By Kami Navarro

Across the world’s supermarkets and department stores, there is one universal sound: a faint, but familiar beeping noise produced when the scanner is pointed at a seemingly random set of lines accompanied by an equally random sequence of numbers - the barcode.

In reality, this random set of lines and numbers—known in the industry as the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)—plays a key role in data transfer, allowing businesses to efficiently track the status of their product stocks and operations. Every day, the barcode is scanned over six billion times and remains at the core of identifying products or inventory around the world. Today, GS1 Standards are the world’s most widely used standards for supply chain management, helping organisations to bridge physical identification to digital data flows.

Behind the scenes, the not-for-profit organisation GS1 Singapore Ltd ensures that the use of barcodes and other standards of automatic identification like radio-frequency identification (RFID) are correctly administered. Being fully aware of the advantages of automating or replacing outdated manual processes, it is no surprise that the organisation applied the same principles to invoicing. They have now made the switch to InvoiceNow, the nationwide e-invoicing initiative by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

When manual invoicing gets messy

Established in 1987 as one of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF)’s associated services, GS1 Singapore Ltd implements and administers the global, multi-industry GS1 standards-based system of automatic identification technology. First developed under the leadership of the Brussels-based GS1 Global Office, GS1 identification numbers and barcodes permit companies of all sizes to order, track, trace, deliver and pay for goods anytime, anywhere.

While GS1 Singapore Ltd promoted the conveniences of standardised automated process, the same organisation was still preparing invoices the manual way: through paper hardcopies and posting them out by snail mail. With over 2,400 active customers, GS1 Singapore Ltd had been printing individual invoices on paper after generating them on Microsoft Great Plains—an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software—before folding them and posting them out.

“The team would generate more than 2,000 invoices for our annual membership billing and it took about a week to complete this process,” shared Mr Liew Wai Leong, CEO of GS1 Singapore Ltd. “The lengthy process involves printing, checking, folding, and mailing of the invoices.”

To further ensure that the deluge of invoices was processed without errors, the Finance Team would then have to manually scrutinise all invoice details. After all, the cost of rectifying an invoice error would cost GS1 Singapore Ltd extra time and money.

InvoiceNow to the rescue

To implement InvoiceNow into their processes, the GS1 Singapore team underwent several consultations with their service provider Datapost Pte Ltd, after which sending invoices became a fuss-free affair.

Looking to achieve error-free automation, save time and cut costs, GS1 Singapore Ltd became part of IMDA’s 

nationwide e-invoicing network InvoiceNow in July 2020. According to Mr Liew, the organisation made sure to bring all business units onboard the new process. They also took time to deliberate on the various proposals from different Access Point Providers to ensure they selected the most appropriate solution provider.

Through the adjudication process, the organisation shortlisted InvoiceNow service provider Datapost Pte Ltd to kickstart their transition into e-invoicing. “We underwent several consultation sessions with Datapost to identify our needs, requirements and to determine the best-fit solution before embarking onto the data mapping of invoices with required fields with the Peppol network along with scripting changes,” shared Mr Liew.

While the onboarding process was smooth, GS1 Singapore Ltd encountered some challenges during the implementation, learning useful operational lessons along the way about the usage of specific data fields used in their ERP software vis-à-vis those expected on Peppol. These were quickly resolved as the team worked to streamline the field mapping accordingly to accommodate GS1 Singapore Ltd’s needs.

“Sending invoices then became a breeze—create and click send, that’s itThese few steps have tremendously reduced the amount of paperwork. With InvoiceNow, we have cut down on all manual work and only spend less than two days generating and transmitting invoices to clients.”

Mr Liew Wai Leong

CEO of GS1 Singapore Ltd

According to GS1 Singapore Chairman Mr Douglas Foo (left) and CEO Mr Liew Wai Leong, InvoiceNow tremendously decreased the company’s time spent on manual processes—encouraging them to take further steps towards digitalisation.

With the proactive training and support given by Datapost, switching from manual to e-invoicing proved to be initially challenging but an ultimately rewarding process for the organisation. With InvoiceNow, GS1 Singapore Ltd’s invoices are now directly transmitted across finance systems in a structured digital format—ushering in a smoother, faster and greener experience compared to the labour, time and paper-intensive processes of before.

Having experienced the benefits of InvoiceNow first hand, the GS1 Singapore Ltd team is now looking to inspire other companies in its network to reap the rewards of e-invoicing and digitalisation.

Mr Douglas Foo, Chairman of GS1 Singapore Ltd, concluded, “We at GS1 Singapore Ltd believe that if we want others to transform, we have to transform first. Hence, e-invoicing was undertaken as a first step for our organisation towards going digital. While there are some challenges during implementation, the pros outweigh the cons tremendously. Hence, we would like to encourage other organisations to embark on e-invoicing and take the first step towards digital transformation.”

To discover more on how companies like GS1 Singapore Ltd are leveraging the convenience and efficiency of e-invoicing, register for InvoiceNow’s monthly business briefing webinar here.

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