Robot Fiona takes care of incoming invoices


KLM receives a huge number of invoices, including those from agents, intermediaries, and suppliers. These must meet a number of conditions. This used to be checked by Finance employees, a time-consuming, costly, and rather boring job. That's why Martin Eisses and colleagues have developed a robot that can take this work off their hands. 'Much more precise, and besides: now we have time left for the fun work.'

Invoice after invoice after invoice

All invoices coming into KLM must meet several requirements. 'The amount must of course be correct, but the same applies to the description, cost centre and a few other elements,' says Martin, finance business analyst within KLM Commercial. 'Previously, it was up to myself or a colleague to approve an invoice. Not the most exciting work, as it's quite repetitive. Besides: if you have to check a lot of invoices, an error soon creeps in. It also takes time, so it costs KLM money'.

Plane landing

To the decimal point

This can be done more efficiently, thought Martin when he started at KLM. That's why he soon got involved in the development of a Finance robot. 'The potential was the same as for other technological, AI-based developments: doing more work in less time and with lower error rate. I drafted exactly what requirements the tool needed to meet and kept in touch with colleagues at RPA Finance, the ones who carried out the development work. In total, it only took a few weeks to create the robot using UiPath software.'

We are now using the robot and she has a name: Fiona. And she does a fantastic job! She checks all incoming invoices within the Distribution part of Commercial, for example by supplier, cost centre and currency. The invoices that comply with the requirements are approved, and the rest she identifies as errors. She also draws up a report on everything, so that we can see exactly what she finds. Only invoices with large amounts are still checked manually, but there aren't that many, so it doesn't become tedious work. Thanks to Fiona, KLM spends a few euros less to check an invoice and my colleagues and I have our hands free for more fun, challenging work.

Martin, finance business analyst

Flywheel effect in the smart direction

There are still a lot of similar opportunities within the KLM Finance organisation. Martin therefore thinks it pays to further automate and digitise. 'Repetitive work is something nobody wants, so it's great when machines and systems can take over. Moreover, it provides all kinds of useful data, which in turn offers a lot of analysis and automation opportunities.

Where can we apply that principle concretely? Well, for instance, after Fiona's invoice check: right now, we still process the invoice in the system ourselves. But a PDF in a folder or the relevant info of all invoices in a database, that's a world of difference. That will be the next step in our improvement process.'

Learning and copying from each other

'Fiona is catching on. The same goes for Filipe and Fayenn, the robots from other Finance departments,' says Martin. Other teams within KLM can learn a lot from the experiences of Martin and his colleagues. But also vice versa: there are a lot of KLM colleagues with relevant experiences or products that we can benefit from. Innovations are ongoing throughout the organization. We try to keep each other up to date and learn from each other.'

All the room for initiative

Martin had only just started working at KLM when he became closely involved in Project Fiona. 'I love that: I was asked to contribute and think along. When does that ever happen, when you've only just started working at a company? In eighteen months, I've noticed that you really have all the freedom to innovate and come up with ideas, if you have a good idea and take the initiative - despite its size, KLM is a very flat organisation. Add to that the endless growth opportunities, and you get the picture: work here never has to be boring.'

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