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Gavin Bleasdale

There have been lots of changes since I joined AF fifteen years ago, after moving to Norfolk to be with my now wife.

I have seen a lot of changes in the Billing department from all invoices being input manually, to the gradual introduction of new electronic systems to bring invoices into our systems. So that now we are processing over 70% of our invoices electronically.

As a total, the Billing Team processed over 530,000 invoices in the last 12 months, an average of 44,000 a month. We use many ways to get these invoices onto our Members’ accounts. 

Let me explain

One of those processes we use is a system called Esker, a web-based process. Each AF supplier has its own unique template for their invoice and all they need to be able to do is email a PDF invoice. Esker can read a supplier’s PDF invoice and scrape off all the necessary details that we require this is then converted into data (Extensible Markup Language – XML) that we can then use import into our system, taking a copy of the supplier’s invoice, and onwards to the Member in their post out pack.

This works well for the supplier as there is an audit trail of when they sent in their invoice (no more lost in the post!).

This is a benefit for Members and AF alike as it contains full details, right down to line level rather than one generic line, so is great for reporting purposes. Also, if the member is signed up to our AF Interactive system, the invoice will appear in its entirety, as quickly as the very same day that AF receive it from the supplier.

We currently have over 200 of our main suppliers using this system and are testing and adding suppliers each month. Some of the invoices we process need no processing at all (provided the supplier has all the correct details on their invoice) it will sail straight though our systems and appear on the Member’s account ready for the monthly statement pack.


For this to work smoothly, we need our suppliers to have the same layout for each invoice each time, with the same detail in the same place, so they always quote the Member number and our order number (if an order has been placed through the office). If any of these fields are incorrect then this would be flagged up to us as an error and need manual intervention.

As and when suppliers upgrade their systems this then allows us to get more suppliers onboard to use our efficient process.

Gavin Bleasdale Billing Specialist

gavin.bleasdale@af.farm 01603 881 860

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