SAP electronic invoicing workflow blends data and document

A SAP e-Invoicing solution has been launched using Germany’s ZUGFeRD standard. ZUGFeRD compatible invoices are PDF/A-3 files that include the PDF file for visual control and archiving as well as the invoice in XML format for machine processing.

PDF/A-3 makes it possible to use the PDF as a delivery vehicle for one or more other files, of any type. Effectively, the PDF becomes a zip archive that may also include an integrated cover-document.

The PDF Association says PDF/A-3 is a potent example of how just a single feature of PDF technology provides a capability so powerful that it’s spawning a revolution in business process management (BPM).

“PDF/A-3 offers reduced risk, paperless document handling, shorter payment cycles, and much more. Best of all it’s all based on an open ISO specification which any vendor who understands PDF technology can meet.”

The SAP solution was developed by two European companies, the LS GmbH and LuraTech Europe, a software company headquartered in Berlin, Germany, which provides PDF and PDF/A software solutions (The privately owned LuraTech was acquired by US Foxit Corporation in late 2015).

In the first stage this solution covers the creation and sending of invoices as well as the processing of incoming invoices.

ZUGFeRD is the German acronym for the Central User Guidelines of the Forum for Electronic Billing in Germany (Zentraler User Guide des Forums elektronische Rechnungen Deutschland). ZUGFeRD is a file format for the standardisation of electronic invoices.

To create a ZUGFeRD compatible invoice, the user generates a conventional PDF invoice from the SAP system and transfers it to the Open System Integration Server (OSIS) from LS.

At the same time OSIS receives the IDOC invoice via, for example the RFC (Remote Function Call) SAP interface, this generates the XML data in the ZUGReRD format. OSIS passes this on to the LuraTech compressor with the PDF file which then converts the PDF invoice into a PDF/A file, integrates the ZUGFeRD XML file and creates the necessary meta information. The result is a ZUGFeRD compatible PDF/A-3 invoice that can also be sent using OSIS (via email) to the invoice recipient.

The EU has announced a decision to mandate e-invoices for business-to-government (B2G) across all 28 member states by 2018.

However,  Crossinx – an international network for electronic invoices and business documents – recently carried out a representative survey in the German public sector (126 municipalities in 14 federal states) in March of this year.

It found that:

• Just 8% of German municipalities already use e-invoicing
• An additional 19% plan to implement e-invoicing during the coming two years
• 73% of respondents do not have any plans to implement before 2017
• 90% of respondents not yet using e-invoicing answered that they are absolutely not familiar with the topic.