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How international logistics Giant Deutsche Bahn automated their Invoice Processing with Serrala

Success Story
  • Invoices: 3 million per year
  • Proportion of electronic invoices: 40-50%
  • Proportion of invoices with purchase order reference: : ~ 70-80%


Sector: public company
Employees: 310,000 worldwide
Travelers: 4.6 billion per year
No. 1 in Europe in rail transport
(passengers and goods) and rail infrastructure

Business Need

Deutsche Bahn had good reasons for introducing Serrala´s AP automation software for SAP: FS² AccountsPayable . As an international group, the logistics giant receives approximately 12 million invoices from around 100,000 suppliers every year, which equates to about six freight cars full of paper. 3 million invoices out of that total are processed with FS² AccountsPayable as part of this project. Between 40 and 50 percent of the invoices are received electronically, and 20 to 30 percent of all invoices have no purchase order reference. 

The biggest challenge for Deutsche Bahn was therefore the high degree of manual effort involved in processing invoices. If, for example, a purchase order reference is missing from an invoice, Accounts Payable users would have to manually research and allocate the data correctly. The company also used various systems and workflows for processing invoices to date.

As a result, there was a lack of process consistency and there was no company-wide view of invoice status. The highly manual and disjointed process also made cooperation between purchasing or requisitioners and accounting difficult and led to a lack of acceptance by the users of the different tools in place. The company know, however, that good cooperation between the two specialist departments is the decisive factor for efficient, end-to-end processes.

Invoice processing is an important part of the procure-to-pay process that Deutsche Bahn has begun to optimize. Deutsche Bahn initiated the „InPro“ (Invoice Processing) project to tackle the challenges in its end-to-end process and strategically solve existing problems and tasks. It defined the following objectives:

  • Transparency: Know where an invoice is in the process, where it may getstuck and when it will be paid.
  • User friendliness: Easy to use, clear software that makes work easier and is well received by users.
  • Efficiency: Optimize accounting processes and simplify collaboration with purchasing and requisitioners through an integrated solution.
  • Automation: Achieve more autonomous processes and reduce the time required to respond to vendor queries
  • Cost reduction: Use cash discounts and avoid receivables through faster processes
  • Mobility: Approve invoices even when on the move


To achieve these goals, Deutsche Bahn started a selection process for a company-wide uniform software solution for invoice processing. The company wanted a solution where „The tool determines the process and not vice versa“. They wanted the new AP solution to cover all desired functionalities so that a company-wide standard could be created directly with the new solution.

A detailed evaluation was carried out to determine which functionalities already existed in international markets for the deployment for an AP automation tool. With a request for information (RFI) the market was scanned and based on the results the set of standard features for Deutsche Bahn was defined. In a next step, these features were discussed and fine-tuned in roadshows and evaluation workshops together with the Deutsche Bahn entities and shared service centers concerned: procurement and accounting. In this way, all stakeholders were involved in the project early on. The goal was to achieve a common vision for the success of the project. 

Based on the defined functionalities, Deutsche Bahn finally opted for FS² AccountsPayable from Serrala. The solution is fully integrated into SAP and thus worked seamlessly with the existing SAP system environment at Deutsche Bahn. In addition, Deutsche Bahn wanted to take advantage of the AP automation solution’s unique factors and functionalities.

  • AP for SAP: Direct integration into SAP ERP system reducing process friction, creating a true end-to-end process
  • Intelligent automation: invoice processing with high automation rates
  • Uniform and transparent workflows: • Receive invoices in different formats from an external scanning service provider.
  • Validation: Automatic check whether all legal mandatory data is available and whether all invoice amounts are consistent, using over 50 different validation points. The FS² AccountsPayable solution also automatically compared invoices with orders 
  • Approvals: Automatic posting after invoice approval. Users can release/approve parts of an invoice and can complete approvals using mobile devices at any time. Invoices are sent to the responsible users and authorizers automatically according to defined procedures and hierarchies defined in the corporate database in SAP the data of which can be accessed with FS² AccountsPayable
  • Clarification cases: Optimized handling of invoice exceptions, including the communication with the respective stakeholders. Standard letters to suppliers for the respective exception, defined escalation stages as well as absence management for employees support faster, more consistent handling of invoices
  • Processing: Invoices with or without a purchase order reference can be posted automatically, directly in the SAP system if they meet established posting criteria. The solution provides automatic 3-way matching of purchase order, invoice and goods receipt so that the invoice to be paid can be booked instantly
  • KPI Reporting: Large number of reporting options (cycle times, cash discount utilization, transaction evaluation, etc.) so that up-to-date reports can be generated at any time


So far, FS² AccountsPayable has been implemented in three companies of Deutsche Bahn. The positive effects on the Group‘s invoice processing are already evident. At the end of the first phase „we were able to reduce manual processes and are now looking forward to more transparency and efficiency,“ says Gunter von Dewitz, Head of Global Processes Accounts Payable at Deutsche Bahn AG. Many processes today are increasingly automated and are therefore faster, more reliable, and transparent. The cooperation between purchasing / requisitioners and accounting was also improved and employee satisfaction increased.

Overall, since the use of intelligent automation, the time required to clarify and reconcile invoices has fallen. Last but not least, with accelerated invoice processing, cash discounts can increasingly be used, avoiding receivables and optimizing costs.

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