Processing hundreds of thousands to millions of documents can take a lot of time. Computers, however, are very capable of reading, understanding and processing documents. The Groningen-based firm Klippa develops specialised AI-based software to help companies automate administrative work, so that employees can focus on tasks that add more value and are more rewarding.
Klippa is a company based in Groningen that specialises in automated document processing, particularly for organisations that deal with large volumes. Founder and CEO Yeelen Knegtering became fascinated with the ability of computers to understand and learn language during his Information Science studies in Groningen.
When he started working as a consultant after he graduated, he soon noticed that a relatively large amount of time had to be spent on repetitive administrative work such as expense claims. “I felt that this could be done more efficiently, and after talking to my employer I was given the opportunity to develop a platform that could process expense claim flows automatically. I recruited a couple of good programmers and together we set up Klippa.”
His former employer became the first major customer for the expense claims platform SpendControl. It soon became apparent, however, that other companies at home and abroad were also interested in Klippa’s underlying technology. That was the start of rapid growth in 2015 of around 100% per year, to the current number of 65 employees.
“We have to deal with various demands from the market, but a clear trend is that a shortage of people is currently the main limiting factor for the growth of organisations. At the same time, they have to deal with repetitive administrative work that is not really challenging for people. That part of the work could very well be automated, in point of fact. That would free up people to do other work. So with our software they get more efficiency and save on costs.”
Klippa’s second solution is called DocHorizon and falls under the category of Intelligent Document Processing software (IDP). This software can complement automation platforms such as UiPath. “Our technology is designed to automate certain specific document processes, whereas RPA is a platform that enables you to automate generic processes. So when you want to extract or verify very specific information from a document after automating such a process with RPA, we can help.”
This specialisation makes Klippa’s software eminently suitable for integration with other packages: “About half of our customers are not end users, but software companies that develop their own administrative solutions. These parties do not have the knowledge in house to go deeply into the content of documents. They come to us for what is a white label construction, in fact.”
Klippa’s other customers are large organisations that develop their own document solutions. “Our software is interesting for them when they process thousands of documents or more per month. But there are companies that process hundreds of thousands or sometimes millions of documents a month.”
“An example of such a company is Nivea, which uses our software to run their customer loyalty programme.” Nivea’s products are sold in shops, so this manufacturer does not have direct contact with its customers. In order to establish this contact, savings campaigns are organised, for example, in which customers have to send in a picture of their proof of payment. Klippa’s software can automatically read, check and process these documents.
Other companies also use Klippa’s software in their loyalty programmes. “In addition, our software is frequently used in the financial sector to process documents. Another segment that is important to us is KYC compliance. There are many processes where you need to prove with documents that you are who you say you are. For example, by scanning a passport. This is a rapidly growing market, partly due to the trend of operating more and more remotely.”
Another reason for organisations to process documents automatically is to deal with peak loads. “Every company has to keep its administration up to date, but there is often a huge peak at the end of each quarter when the VAT return has to be filed. Not only for companies but also for the administration offices that have to process it for the companies. You can’t just hire a few people temporarily at the end of each quarter, but you can let our software do it.”
AI is a key ingredient of Klippa’s solution. One of the pillars is computer vision, i.e. the ability to recognise external features. Another pillar is Natural Language Processing (NLP), which enables a computer to read and understand the text on those documents. “With the current state of AI, we can automate the vast majority of documents in organisations, more than 90%. The small proportion that remains is then processed by humans. And the percentage that the computer can process with AI is getting higher and higher.”
He continues: “AI is a fascinating topic. I do notice that the further away people are from it, the more they think the technology is advanced. And the closer you are to it, the more realistically you look at maturity. You still need large amounts of data at present to achieve an accuracy that comes close to that of people. Many organisations think they have a lot of data, but it can’t always be used one-to-one to make models.”
“For us, the most important development in AI would be that less data are needed to create models. Then you can produce results for even more companies in a shorter time. Most of the work in AI is in the preliminary phase. So it is not so much the training of the algorithms themselves which is complex, but complex mathematics, in fact. Much of the work is in collecting, structuring and annotating the data. At the moment, that is still mostly human work and there is still room for improvement.”
Klippa has an ambitious growth strategy, in an international market. “We have always been an international company. Europe is an open market, so we can make the most of the economies of scale that come with international operations. That is why we are already operating in 35 countries. This international orientation enables us to generate our growth, because the volume of documents at internationally operating companies is enormous. And they can deposit those volumes with us in all the countries where they operate.”