Reducing Manual Tasks: How AP Automation Saves Time for SMBs

In the ever-evolving landscape of business technology, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) continually seek ways to enhance efficiency and productivity. One critical area of focus is the accounts payable (AP) process, traditionally characterized by many manual tasks. Thanks to automation technologies, this process is transforming. Goldman Sachs reports that accounts payable automation can drive time savings of 70-80% for SMBs, marking a significant shift in how these businesses manage their financial operations.

The Time-Consuming Nature of Manual AP Processes

In the realm of SMBs, the AP process is often marked by its traditional, manual methodologies. While familiar, these methods are inherently time-consuming and heavily reliant on repetitive, administrative tasks. This traditional approach to AP management significantly drains time and contributes to overall reduced business efficiency.

Pervasive Nature of Manual Tasks

Manual AP processes involve numerous tasks that require extensive human intervention. These range from data entry, invoice matching, and verification to handling vendor queries and managing payment approvals. Research indicates that AP professionals can spend up to 30% of their working hours on data collection alone. This includes manually entering invoice data into systems, checking invoices for accuracy, and updating payment records. This substantial allocation of time to mundane tasks detracts from the opportunity to engage in more strategic, value-added activities.

The Ripple Effect of Manual Processing

The repercussions of these time-intensive tasks are multifaceted and include:


      • Decreased Productivity: When AP staff are mired in repetitive tasks, their capacity to contribute to other critical business functions is significantly diminished. This lowered productivity can be a hindrance to the overall growth and scalability of the business.

      • Increased Error Rates: Manual data entry and processing are inherently prone to errors. Miskeyed information, misplaced invoices, and incorrect payment authorizations are just some of the common mistakes that can occur. These errors not only necessitate additional time and resources to rectify but can also lead to financial losses.

      • Delayed Response Times: Manual processes often result in slower response times to vendor inquiries and payment approvals. This delay can strain vendor relationships and harm the business’s reputation.

      • Impact on Cash Flow Management: Inefficient AP processes can lead to delayed payments, missed early payment discounts, and in some cases, incur late payment penalties. These issues directly impact a business’s cash flow and financial health.

      • Compliance Risks: Manual AP processes increase the risk of non-compliance with regulatory requirements, especially when it comes to audit trails and financial reporting. Ensuring compliance in a manual setting requires additional time and resources, adding another layer of complexity to the process.

    • Employee Morale: Constant engagement in monotonous, low-value tasks can have a detrimental effect on employee morale and job satisfaction. AP staff may feel their skills are underutilized, leading to decreased engagement and higher turnover rates.

    The Need for a Shift

    The time-consuming nature of manual AP processes presents a significant challenge for SMBs striving for efficiency and scalability. In an era where time equates to money, and efficiency drives growth, shifting away from these archaic methods is not just a matter of choice but a business imperative. By recognizing the limitations and inefficiencies of traditional AP 

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    processes, businesses can take informed steps towards adopting more modern, automated solutions that not only save time but also foster a more dynamic, productive, and financially sound business environment.


    The Impact of Automation on Time Savings

    The introduction of AP automation represents a paradigm shift in how SMBs handle their financial transactions. By automating repetitive tasks such as data entry, invoice processing, and payment reconciliations, businesses can significantly reduce the time spent on these activities. The automation of these processes not only speeds up the workflow but also increases accuracy, leading to fewer errors and discrepancies.

    Data Entry and Invoice Processing

    One of the most time-consuming aspects of the AP process is data entry. Manually entering invoice details into accounting systems is not only labor-intensive but also prone to human error. Automation software utilizes technologies like Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to scan invoices and extract relevant data automatically. This capability significantly reduces the time required for data entry, allowing AP staff to focus on more strategic tasks.

    Workflow Automation and Approval Processes

    AP automation also streamlines the workflow and approval processes. Automated systems can route invoices to the appropriate personnel for approval based on pre-set rules, eliminating the need for manual sorting and distribution of invoices. This automation speeds up the approval process and ensures that payments are made promptly, enhancing the overall efficiency of the AP department.

    The Quantifiable Benefits of AP Automation

    The move towards AP automation is more than just a trend; it’s a strategic shift that brings tangible, quantifiable benefits to businesses, especially in terms of cost savings. The analysis by Goldman Sachs provides a clear perspective on the financial implications of automation in the accounts payable sector. It demonstrates that the transition from manual to automated AP processes can lead to substantial cost reductions, a critical consideration for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) operating with limited resources and tight budgets.

    Drastic Reduction in Per Invoice Processing Costs

    A compelling piece of evidence supporting AP automation is the significant drop in the cost of processing a single invoice. For medium-sized businesses, the shift from manual to automated processing saw the cost per invoice plummet from $14.69 to $3.87. Similarly, small businesses witnessed a reduction from $20.79 to just $4.49 per invoice. This drastic decrease is not merely a marginal improvement but a transformative change that can redefine the financial landscape of a business.

    Understanding the Cost Implications

    The costs associated with manual invoice processing are multifaceted. They include labor costs for the AP staff who handle data entry, verification, and reconciliation tasks. Additionally, there are costs related to the physical handling of paper invoices, such as printing, mailing, and storage. Human errors in manual processing can further escalate costs due to overpayments, duplicate payments, and penalties for late payments. In contrast, automation significantly reduces these costs by streamlining processes and eliminating the need for excessive manual labor and physical document handling.

    Impact on Labor Allocation and Efficiency

    The reduced cost in processing invoices also reflects a more efficient allocation of labor. In manual systems, AP staff spend a significant portion of their time on routine, repetitive tasks that add little strategic value to the business. Automation liberates these employees from the drudgery of such tasks, allowing them to focus on more analytical and strategic roles. This shift not only enhances job satisfaction but also contributes to the overall productivity of the business.

    Long-term Financial Benefits

    The long-term financial benefits of AP automation extend beyond the immediate reduction in processing costs. Automated systems improve compliance and minimize the risk of fraud, both of which have financial implications. Additionally, by ensuring timely payments, businesses can take advantage of early payment discounts and avoid late payment penalties, further enhancing their financial health.

    The Broader Perspective

    When assessing the quantifiable benefits of AP automation, it is important to consider the broader financial impact on the organization. This includes improved cash flow management due to more accurate and timely insights into payable obligations, and enhanced vendor relationships resulting from consistent and timely payments. The cost savings realized through AP automation can be redirected to other strategic investments, fueling growth and innovation within the business.

    Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Automation

    Despite the clear benefits, some SMBs may face challenges in adopting AP automation. The cost of implementation, potential disruption to existing processes, and the learning curve associated with new technologies often deter businesses from adopting AP automation. However, the long-term benefits of automation in terms of time and cost savings far outweigh these initial challenges.

    Businesses can start small, automating one process at a time, and gradually expand as they become more comfortable with the technology. Additionally, many AP automation solutions are designed with user-friendliness in mind, making the transition smoother for businesses.


    MakersHub: Tailoring AP Automation to Your Business Needs

    MakersHub stands at the forefront of this transformative journey, offering SMBs a tailored solution that encapsulates all the advantages of AP automation. Our platform is designed to address the specific challenges and needs of SMBs, streamlining their AP processes with precision and ease.

    With MakersHub, businesses can experience a significant reduction in manual data entry tasks, thanks to advanced OCR and automated data capture technologies. This not only accelerates invoice processing but also drastically cuts down the time spent on data collection and verification.

    Our intuitive workflow automation and approval processes ensure that invoices are processed efficiently, and payments are made on time, thus enhancing your relationship with vendors and improving cash flow management. Furthermore, MakersHub’s comprehensive approach to AP automation helps reduce the overall cost of invoice processing, allowing businesses to realize tangible cost savings.

    By choosing MakersHub, SMBs can not only overcome the traditional challenges of manual AP processes but also leverage the power of automation to drive growth, improve financial health, and stay competitive in a rapidly changing business environment. Embrace MakersHub and unlock the full potential of AP automation for your business.


    AP automation presents a significant opportunity for SMBs to enhance their efficiency and productivity. By reducing the time spent on manual tasks, businesses can not only save on costs but also redirect their focus towards more strategic initiatives. As technology continues to advance, the adoption of AP automation is becoming a necessity, not just a luxury, essential for SMBs aiming to stay competitive and agile in the modern business environment.


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