The Polish branch of DHL Parcel launched the All for One E-Billing Portal in 2016. The solution is already used by more than 20 thousand customers of the branch who have access to invoices for transport and logistics services in electronic form. The portal is integrated with the SAP ERP system, so an invoice generated in the system is sent directly to the customer.
By simplifying the invoicing process and eliminating the printing, enveloping, and mailing steps, the company dramatically reduced costs, improved process security, increased efficiency of receivables collection, and ensured better customer identification with the brand.
The customer satisfaction has also increased – the invoice is delivered to the recipient faster, it is visible in a well-designed, intuitive web portal, it is available in many formats (e.g. PDF, XML, EDIFACT, XLSX), and the customer is informed about the invoice issue by e-mail or can receive the document directly as an attachment in the message.
The solution which proved successful in the Polish branch was launched in July 2020 in other DHL Parcel companies in the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as in DHL eCommerce in the Netherlands. Due to different conditions (e.g. different ERP system) and additional systems requiring integration, as well as specific customer requirements, the project for branches in Benelux required the implementation of modifications and preparation of new extensions.
Web portal for invoices
The All for One E-Billing Portal is a system for mass delivery of electronic invoices. It is primarily intended for companies that serve customers based on long-term contracts or subscriptions, that is, for those that need to send multiple documents to dispersed recipients.
The solution implemented in DHL Parcel Benelux consists of the following components:
- The web-based All for One E-Billing Portal for mass sharing of electronic invoices
- The All for One Edistrada integration platform serving as a communication layer with the ERP system (DHL Benelux uses a self-build system).
Both the All for One E-Billing Portal and Edistrada are cloud-based solutions maintained at All for One Data Centers and delivered in the SaaS (Software as a Service) model. The security of the system and the sensitive data stored in it, including personal data, is confirmed by All for One’s certification to the ISO 27018 standard, which covers the security of personal data stored in the cloud.
Reliable communication platform
Within the Finance department of DHL Parcel Benelux, we have realized and put into use the new e-Billing platform under the motto “Finance goes digital". For Parcel Benelux it is the option to go from a digital invoice to an electronic invoice. It also ties in with the vision to be able to work from the Cloud as much as possible. Through the e-Billing portal we can provide our customers with good and reliable data. In addition, it is now our starting point where we want to see with customers how we can meet their wishes and requirements even better (linking with other platforms, etc.). The current version gives us the opportunity to realize this in the coming period, in close cooperation with All for One Poland.
Martin de Hoon, Program Manager, DHL Parcel, The Netherlands
For end-users, the most important component of the solution is the All for One E-Billing Portal, where the customer can view the history of the received e-invoices, access their PDF preview, and download a document in different formats. The graphic design made available to customers and users complies with the requirements of DHL Parcel as well as branding requirements. The solution supports different language versions. The users in Belgium and the Netherlands can use the English, Dutch, French, and German versions. It is worth mentioning that the portal is prepared to support more languages.
The solution launched in Benelux consists of one system serving three legal entities. There is a separate logical structure for each company – the data and system configurations within a particular legal entity are separated from other legal entities. For this reason, it was necessary to extend the E-Billing Portal with an additional level of authorization and data isolation. Users are granted permissions to specific companies and can switch between them (as long as they are authorized to do so). A great advantage is that such users, being the customers of several companies at the same time, use one application and one user account so they don’t have to log in multiple times when switching between the structures for particular companies.
Also, it is worth mentioning that in Benelux the application is available under two domains – .be for Belgian customers and .nl for the Netherlands.
How does it work?
Invoices generated in the financial accounting system are transferred to a powerful distributed database, which is part of the Edistrada integration platform. The main tasks of Edistrada include the receipt, archiving and distribution of electronic documents. The distribution is performed using e.g. SOAP WebService, REST API, AS2, SFTP etc. Different document formats are supported, including PDF, XML, EDIFACT, XLSX, as well as custom CSV and XML structures. This way, the solution can be tailored to the technological capabilities of both parties exchanging documents. The system architecture was designed in such a way as to make the system easily scalable and to enable its development with the growing DHL Parcel business.
To ensure the security and reliability of the communication between the ERP system and Edistrada, communication based on WebServices with the use of proxy servers and encrypted HTTPS connection was deployed. The interfaces were designed to ensure synchronous communication between the ERP system and Edistrada which enables quick resolution of any issues. In addition, Edistrada is equipped with an extensive email notification system and the data flow monitoring application, which gives system administrators (both on DHL and All for One Poland side) an immediate and comprehensive view of the situation.
The Edistrada integration platform (hosted in the All for One Poland cloud) makes invoice documents available to customers in a variety of ways, depending on the customer’s current preferences and capabilities – via direct EDI connections, through a web application, or directly in an email message. A new functionality in the E-Billing Portal application that was born out of the needs of DHL Parcel Benelux is the mechanism allowing easy and quick integration of new customers via SFTP (sending documents in selected formats to the SFTP server of indicated customers).
Another extension prepared for DHL is the integration of the Portal with the digital archive used in the branches in Benelux (the frequency of sending documents to the archive and their format was agreed with DHL Parcel).
From the user’s point of view, the most important advantages of the All for One E-Billing Portal include:
- the possibility to choose the e-invoice format; in addition to PDF, the following formats are available: CSV, XLSX or XML;
- online access – to current and archived invoices (invoices are stored in the application for 7 years);
- shorter document flow time: the application allows users to send an e-invoice to more than one email address, which speeds up the document accounting tasks. Additionally, documents can be sent to the customer’s SFTP server or directly to their system via EDI;
- customer-level account management: the ability to update email addresses, save individual settings, generate and save reports on issued documents.
All for One E-Billing Portal in DHL Benelux
Services provided to customers cooperating on the basis of a permanent contract are subject to invoicing for fixed periods (usually on a monthly basis). In the case of logistics and transport services, the number of services provided in a month can reach even tens of thousands. Each transport service is a separate item on the attachment generated together with the invoice. These documents can be as long as several thousand pages. Therefore, it was particularly important to ensure high solution performance and reliable communication.
To handle such large files efficiently, appropriate compression algorithms and MTOM (Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism) were used, allowing for optimal data attachment in SOAP messages.
Data transmission is the first step. Another challenge is generating PDF images for such large documents. The algorithm responsible for this has been significantly optimized. The largest documents, of around 200 MB, take up to 30 seconds to generate (documents are generated in the background), smaller files, of up to 30 MB, take 6 seconds to generate.
The solution is able to handle much larger XML files, which has been proven, for example, by the efficient processing of service invoices for a customer from the e-commerce industry. So far, the largest document size was 1.8 GB. However, in order not to overload the system with generating documents of questionable usefulness, it was agreed with DHL Parcel Benelux that the entire PDF file would be generated for documents of up to 200 MB. In other cases, only the first page of the invoice is made available to the customer, without an attachment with individual items.
Also for DHL Parcel employees
The E-Billing Portal is used on a daily basis not only by customers, but also by DHL Parcel employees. The scope of their authorizations is based on the configuration of roles, which can be managed by users with the highest administrative authorizations. From the perspective of a DHL employee, the functionality for managing the distribution of issued invoices is important.
The All for One E-Billing Portal features used by users at DHL Parcel:
- Access to customer documents, including the information about the date when a given document was opened by the customer (identification of a specific user who displayed the document) and the possibility of reporting on documents sent (with a number of filters)
- Approval and rejection of invoices for the selected customers
- Managing customer accounts (multiple customers can have access to a single customer account and a single user can have access to multiple customer accounts)
- Verification of registration requests (a customer user can register themselves in the system by filling in the registration form)
- Managing user accounts (locking/unlocking accounts, resetting passwords, assigning authorizations), and reporting user activity
- Managing email notifications (multiple email templates can be defined for various actions in the system: information about a new document, account setup, password reset, etc.).
- A mechanism for verification by a DHL employee of documents that are addressed to customers marked as “on hold" (double check) before sending them to the customer.
In cloud services, such as the All for One E-Billing Portal, success is not measured by the launch itself. All for One Poland is responsible for the ongoing maintenance and availability of the system, surrounding infrastructure, performance and verification of proper system operation.
The service includes monitoring of various system parameters, such as an outgoing email queue (so that all invoice messages reach the recipients, even if the mail server stops working), or the system availability over the Internet.
One year after the solution was launched in DHL Benelux, almost 18 thousand company customers in the Netherlands and more than 4 thousand in Belgium receive invoices through the All for One E-Billing Portal. On average, over 40 thousand documents in the Netherlands and almost 4 thousand documents in Belgium are sent via the solution every month. The All for One E-Billing Portal supports the customers of DHL Parcel E-Commerce, a company providing delivery services to online sellers.
DHL Parcel is a young brand, benefiting from 48 years of DHL experience. The DHL Parcel uses its knowledge in the field of domestic and international road shipments. In the Benelux, DHL Parcel has over 2,100 branches, including 2,000 Parcelshops, which provide a finely meshed network for consumer delivery. Furthermore, there are 15 terminals distributed over the Benelux via which the distribution for the corporate market has been organised. This network processes both packages and pallets. DHL Parcel Benelux employs over 6,000 people. The company is committed to delivering parcels in e-commerce. It also focuses on pallet transport, of which it is a leader in the Benelux countries. DHL eCommerce is an international tracked mail service created to help online sellers reach customers around the globe. DHL is part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group.