Last week SaveMart Supermarkets, a 240 store innovative regional grocery chain in Northern California, presented a case study at the VCF conference on the effectiveness of the Infoborders no-fee EDI testing platform. The results: 300% (3x) improvement in time on moving supplier into EDI production. Feedback from suppliers: “I used it and it was easy and user friendly. One of the best self-testing service web I have ever used!” “Testing with you was one of the easiest tests I’ve ever performed. My greatest pleasure was not having to go through SPS Commerce or one of the other organizations that charge an arm and a leg.” “With Save Mart, I was able to test at my speed (which is a get_it_done speed) and it was totally painless. Everyone I dealt with through emails was helpful and professional. Keep up the good work.”
Title:Utilizing new industry tools to gain efficiencies in managing suppliers Description: Case Study: Like many growing regional grocery retailers, Save Mart needs to do more with less in order to compete with larger national retailers. The thin margin and high volume grocery business is particularly sensitive to supply chain exceptions, errors, and costs. Learn how Save Mart is utilizing cloud based no cost EDI testing, on-boarding, and performance management tools to cut costs, exceptions, and errors in working with its 2,000 active suppliers. Hear about their success and what’s next for this 240 store grocery chain.
Organization continues pledge to build dream team of industry professionals
The Woodlands, TX – May 08, 2012 – DataTrans Solutions Inc., the industry-leading B2B supply chain network, announced the addition of Kenrick Roberts to the Support Team. Mr. Roberts will be responsible for the implementation, training, and on-going support of the fast growing client base.
Mr. Roberts brings over 13 years of experience in supporting EDI transactions, communications, translation, and integration. His experience started with Sterling Commerce (now a division of IBM), working with Gentran and supporting large retailers such as Wal-Mart, AAFES, Best Buy, and Target. He then moved into the healthcare distribution space supporting EDI for Biovail with trading partners that included McKesson, and Owens & Minor. Most recently, Kenrick expanded his experience in the banking industry with the Bank of Montreal and with consulting work with 3PLs.
“We are excited to have Kenrick on board. He is an asset to the organization and is already appreciated by our clients and their customers / EDI trading partners” said Mike Franks, President. “His reputation and all-around high energy personality is exactly the type of support team member that is vital to our small company.”
“I am impressed with the leadership, vision, and the comprehensive multi-tenant cloud EDI solution, said Kenrick. “It is a unique and scalable system built from the ground up. I’m excited to be part of a team bringing game changing solutions to market. It’s fun and I get the flexibility of being connected to a decentralized organization.”
It’s not the first time Kenrick worked with some of the members of DataTrans. He was known and recommended for his leading support role at Owens Direct LLC.
Mr. Roberts is located in the Toronto Canada area.
About DataTrans Solutions Inc.
DataTrans Solutions Inc. delivers customer centric supply chain and EDI outsourced services in retail distribution, energy, process manufacturing, and healthcare industries. We offer a comprehensive on-demand hosted platform that allows clients to CLICK TO CONNECT™. Our Mission is to provide constantly improving B2B and data management services to allow our customers to operate at peak efficiency. We operate with integrity to provide our services in a responsive and respectful manner. We will leverage our knowledge and technology to provide the most appropriate and efficient B2B solutions for our customers. The company is privately owned and has been profitably grown since it was founded in 1998. DataTrans is headquartered in The Woodlands, Texas.
The DataTrans team is excited to announce expanded services of local China based support!
Our first Asia office was put in place to meet the requests of our North American retail partners who needed an easy, low cost, and reliable way to connect China based suppliers.
The supply chain begins in China. China is the manufacturer to the world. DataTrans sees a universe of opportunity in China for connecting supplier electronically to share business data. It opens up new challenges for translation and integration. But in a business environment that is still dominated with manual paper processes and far reaching Internet connectivity, it is ripe to quickly show benefits in EDI connectivity.
It means that we, the DataTrans team, understands small business needs and challenges and focus on ways to level the supply chain playing field with the larger multinationals.
While some of the larger EDI industry vendors like to dazzle their clients with massive applications that do 100 extra neat tricks that no one will ever have time to implement, DataTrans focuses on where can we bring the most value for the smaller competitor. The big guys talk about visibility and collaboration throughout the entire order to cash process lifecycle to give you the perfect purchase order. That is fine if you are a supply chain intellectual at P&G. But our clients don’t want to try to express the grief to a support rep in the Philippians of why they cannot pick and pack a shipment to match the original purchase order. DataTrans clients know they have a supply chain partner who they can trust to handle their mission critical supply chain transactions.
Yesterday we get a call from a small company who is comparing us to one of our competitors. The potential client told us that we were $15 more expensive a month then the competitor. This was after we made our presentation and short demonstration. We understand thin margins especially in the grocery space but from this statement it was obvious that this person has never done B2B EDI before. And these are the types of clients that we like to refer to our competitors.
Fifteen dollars in value can be eaten up in one phone call. What is the value of losing a purchase order? Or not being able to complete a difficult ASN (advance ship notice) in time? Or missing non-compliant labels? A truck load of bad labels could cost $30-40K in chargebacks. How about one’s time, or losing a client, or not being able to handle a new clients requirements in time? Fifteen dollar, eh? How does that saying go? The most valuable lessons are often the most expensive.
Perhaps our competitor says the same thing and they are not only less expensive they are better. So prove it. But how? What are the right questions to ask? We have a couple of tools to help you ask the right questions. Click here for a 20 question online RFP builder and click here for the top 8 questions to ask a potential EDI provider.
Being small business owners ourselves we have come to realize the unique and innate decision making talents that successful small business owners possess. Check out our case studies for some of these high growth business owners. At DataTrans, EDI is our life and Click to Connect™ is all our client needs to know about EDI.
QuickBooks is currently the most popular small business accounting system on the market and has been for some time now. With the various versions of QuickBooks (Manufacturing, Retail, Point of Sale, etc.) it has expanded to support multiple industries and provides a variety of add-on solutions. The program has become a key tool for many small and start up businesses. It has grown in capabilities and architecture to the point where some fairly good sized companies still utilize QuickBooks. Many of these businesses also require EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) in order to conduct business with their customers and other trading partners. However, integrating EDI with Quickbooks presents some challenges.
EDI integration with Quickbooks requires the use of a form of XML proprietary to Intuit called qbXML (QuickBooks Extensible Markup Language). So, it is not typical EDI mapping where you may have a map that translates ASNI X12 850′s or other EDI transactions sets to a flat file to be imported into an ERP system. Intuit provides a Development Tool Kit that allows for the creation of qbXML streams utilizing modern programming languages such as the Microsoft’s .Net architecture and Web Services as part of its integration process. In order to obtain access to the QuickBooks SDK and Intuit’s Development Portal you need to be a part of the Intuit Developer Network. Bottom line is QuickBooks integration is not simple EDI mapping that a small business can easily do.
The good news is that some EDI companies like DataTrans are members of the Intuit Developer Network and have the infrastructure built to help companies make the integration with QuickBooks relatively simple. In fact, DataTrans WebEDI utilizes WebServices and its own in-house QuickBooks Connector to create a direct tie into QuickBooks that is relatively seamless. The QuickBooks Integrator uses the QuickBooks SDK’s Foundation Class to generate QBXML streams that are compatible with the different versions of QuickBooks and provides the end-user with a streamlined solution for integrating their EDI with QuickBooks.
By integrating your EDI solution with QuickBooks, you reduce the amount of time spent rekeying data between the two systems and streamline your business processes significantly. Make sure you evaluate EDI integration capabilities of any EDI vendor you are considering, especially if you use QuickBooks.
Many business owners are unfamiliar with the world of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) until first informed that they will be required to trade EDI by a major customer or trading partner. In fact, for a number of business owners this may be the first time they’ve ever heard of the technology. In our ongoing EDI 101 series we examine the basics of EDI in order to help business owners, IT managers and marketing teams get a handle on this important and prominent type of ecommerce.
What is EDI? Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the process of transmitting business documents electronically utilizing a standardized data format. Even more simply, EDI is a structured exchange of business data between two different computer systems. It is meant to replace the use of faxing or mailing in the transmission of business document such as purchase orders, invoices and ship notices.
Who uses it? EDI is used by countless businesses, government agencies and healthcare centers around the world. In the United States EDI is probably best known for its role in the retail sector. Most major retailers have leveraged EDI for use in their supply chain operations and now mandate some level of EDI compliance from their supplier base. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (better known as HIPAA) also established EDI as a major technology in the healthcare industry, where it is used to transmit patient and subscriber information between healthcare providers and insurance companies. EDI is the most prominent method of ecommerce in business to business relationships.
Why do I need to use it? Trading business data via EDI is less expensive and also less time consuming than traditional paper documents. EDI allows document processing to be automated, saving both time and money. There are less errors caused by the rekeying of data and the gains in efficiency allow individual suppliers to be paid faster than if they were sending paper invoices.
By requiring their suppliers to be EDI compliant, companies ensure that all documents they receive arrive with a standard data layout. This allows companies to process each document in the same manner, saving time and removing complexity. Many trading partners will be willing to fax purchase orders to a new supplier for a time, but as a supplier’s volume grows the trading partner may begin to implement fees for each document sent by a means other than EDI. EDI is no longer an option for companies aiming to be competitive in today’s market.
What is required to do EDI? In order to be considered EDI compliant a company must be able to send and receive data in the EDI format required by their trading partner. Business data produced by one party’s internal systems is translated into the correct EDI format by a process known as mapping. Generally speaking, a business needs four components in order to trade EDI:
EDI mapping software to translate their data to the correct format as well as to read the data they receive.
A data communications component to allow for the secure exchange of business data electronically
An electronic connection to their trading partners.
When combined, these tools provide the infrastructure needed to successfully maintain a production EDI environment. Of course, many small and midsize businesses lack the in-house resources needed to maintain an EDI system on their own. These companies often find the expertise of an EDI service provider, such as DataTrans, an invaluable asset in maintaining compliance with their trading partner’s requirements.
Next week we’ll take a look at the most commonly used EDI documents and examine EDI naming conventions.
Sherpani, the leader in women’s-specific bags in the outdoor industry, was founded in 2003 with a straightforward idea: to provide female consumers with a variety of stylish bags designed specifically for the outdoor lifestyle. The Boulder, Colorado based firm produces a wide variety of bags, everything from purses and satchels to child-carriers and bike bags, all of which are produced with an eye toward fresh style and capable functionality. Sherpani was among the first to cater to women (a demographic largely ignored in the outdoor products industry) and helped to introduce outdoor lifestyle bags that came in colors other than black, gray or brown – an innovation that other brands would quickly copy.
Quickly eclipsing its humble beginnings, Sherpani has leveraged its unique brand identity and quality products into a global brand. Sherpani bags can be found in more than 1000 retail stores across the United States and are also sold through distributors in Europe and Asia. A key factor in the company’s success has been the relationships formed with large national retail chains – the majority of which require some form of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) compliance.
It became obvious early on that being able to comply with the EDI requirements of major retailers would be a vital step in targeting and maintaining these key accounts. However, the technical barriers to compliance can be considerable for small and midsize firms. “Obviously, as a small company we don’t have the EDI expertise in-house or the bandwidth necessary to support [an EDI system],” noted Chad Kline, Director of eCommerce with Sherpani. With these hurdles in mind, Sherpani began searching for an EDI service provider whom they could partner with in order to achieve EDI compliance. Their search brought them to DataTrans Solutions and their WebEDI platform. By outsourcing the technical aspects of an EDI implementation to DataTrans, the Sherpani team has been able to focus on keeping their customers happy, not on dealing with complicated compliance issues.
Sherpani uses DataTrans’ WebEDI platform to receive and process EDI documents on a daily basis. The web-based system provides users with a familiar interface to receive orders and create response documents. In addition to providing a high level of reliability, WebEDI’s cloud-based infrastructure allowed Sherpani to avoid the costs normally associated with in-house EDI systems. The level of support received from DataTrans has also been a key factor in their relationship. “I’ve been very pleased with the service,” said Kline. “Every analyst has been very responsive and very good at setup, response time, and addressing any issues if they arose.”
As Sherpani grew, so did the number of their customers who they traded EDI documents with. Kline began to look into options that would allow Sherpani to more closely integrate its existing ERP systems with the EDI process being handled by DataTrans. Specifically, he was interested in what could be done to speed up the order fulfillment process. DataTrans was able to integrate the Purchase Orders sent to Sherpani via EDI directly into their existing order management systems. Whenever a new PO comes in from a trading partner that document can be viewed and responded to in WebEDI as needed, but is also automatically brought directly into their order management system. By integrating WebEDI with their internal systems, Sherpani reduces the amount of time its team spends rekeying and double checking data. This frees up company resources for other projects. Having a copy of each PO brought into their order management system streamlines the order fulfillment process and allows the Sherpani team to more easily stay on track with customer demand. “It’s not nearly as time intensive [as manually entering orders]. It’s been very helpful in helping us manage our time,” said Kline.
System integration was also the solution when one national department store informed Sherpani they would be required to provide daily updates on their available inventory levels. If done manually, this would require a Sherpani employee to monitor and transmit inventory levels each day – quite a time sink. Instead, Sherpani chose to automate the process though DataTrans. Sherpani’s ERP system is able to compile a complete inventory report each day. This file is then sent to DataTrans’ systems where it is automatically converted to the required EDI format and then sent to the trading partner. This process allows Sherpani to maintain its relationship with the trading partner while minimizing the amount of time spent interacting with data.
As Sherpani continues to grow and move into new markets, EDI remains an important link in their supply chain roadmap. “EDI is and will continue to play a major role in our company strategy,” said Kline. “We recognize that EDI compliance will make our company more efficient with more customers.” We definitely have a strategy to focus on larger retail accounts that we know we will need to be EDI compliant with.”
EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) allows for companies with different internal applications to electronically exchange business documents, such as purchase orders and invoices. For the longest time, EDI has been required by major retailers and other large companies. So what are the reasons for this requirement? Below is a summary of the top 5 reasons retailers require EDI.
Cost: One of the most important factors for any business is keeping costs under control. EDI allows retailers to cut cost in the procurement side of the business by establishing an infrastructure that electronically sends and receives purchase orders, invoices and other documents. This replaces the labor involved in faxing or e-mailing these documents. When you multiply the labor savings out amoung the thousands or millions of documents exchanged each month, the savings become significant.
Efficiency: Quicker processing of business documents through automation allows for a more efficiently run business and a more competitive organization. EDI’s automated exchange eliminates the inefficient manual processes that typically occur in exchanging information. Fully integrated EDI on both the Retailer and Supplier side actually eliminates all rekeying of data. Thus, the document exchange takes place in an completely automated manner with no human intervention.
Reduction of Errors: Integrated EDI drastically reduces the chance of errors from transcribing or miskeying data, resulting in a more efficient, cost-effective and predictable business process. Costs associated with incorrect order fulfillment (typical in a manual process) are also reduced through the effective implementation of EDI.
Consistency & Predictability: Rather than having different methods for communicating important business information to different companies, EDI allows for one consistent method of communications. Thus, the business process is simplified and becomes more predictable and manageable. The use of EDI acknowledgements (X12 997 functional acknowledgements acknowledge the receipt of an EDI message) practically guarantees that the communication is successful. If it is not, the sender is alerted. In addition, the use of Advance Ship Notices (X12 856) gives the retailer advance notice of shipments so that they can plan accordingly.
Performance reporting: Finally, EDI allows for the Retailer to establish metrics for measuring the performance of its partners. This allows them to make certain decisions about business relationships and analyze the procurement process
If you answered in the affirmative, then please proceed to question number two: Are your mother and father, brother and sister?
I know you’ve been busy growing the business. But it’s time to upgrade the AOL company email address and swap the EDI software in the cash for clunkers deals that EDI service companies offer. Generally, EDI software customers are the most appreciative EDI SaaS customers since they understand, rather than someone new in the business needing service. Let me give you one simple example.
The EDI ANSI X12 860 — Purchase Order Change document, version 50…who_cares — it’s always different. An EDI Coordinator smiles every time they here those numbers; 8-6-0. It could be a mini-series but it definitely is job security. Because not only is the document syntactically different per customer, the meaning and business rules behind it are different as well. It may generate additional documents, need changes to existing ERP data, and create challenges when coming to invoice creation. Whooo, how long and how much will the quote on getting and maintaining this with several customers cost?
I attended the VCF (Vendor Compliance Federation) West Conference this past week in sunny Scottsdale. On stage were a few major retailers, a distributor, a manufacturer, and business leader from the GS1 association talking about their supplier’s challenges with handling the eight sixty. Just in this small group there are several differences on how the document is used:
DSW, retailer: An 860 can mean one of two things — “replace all with…” or “these are the only changes.”
AAFES, retailer: only means “these are the changes to the original order.” And AAFES changes the original purchase order 18% of the time according to Brenda Barnett, EDI Compliance Lead.
Genesco, retailer and distributor: also uses the documents when changing out SKUs.
Bugaboo, manufacturer, mentioned, Bed Bath & Beyond division Buy Buy Baby: only uses the 860 to cancel the order then sends another newly changed 850 purchase order.
Further challenges include just understanding the metadata behind the elements in the document. A common misunderstanding is “does that number apply to the original or is it to be replaced?” Data quality is sometimes a culprit and then there is timing of receipt of not meeting a “cancel by” date. Most companies running older ERPs cannot even handle the changes without custom programming and they may never make it a priority to get it done.
Where is the logic in having a full time staff resource fighting the battle individually when the battle has already been won at the EDI service level for thousands of other suppliers to AAFES, Bed Bath & Beyond, DSW, Genesco, and others? This is one example.
B2B EDI is best served on the SaaS server level. Another interesting data point was brought up at the VCF conference by Scott Koegler, editor of the eC-BP.org (eCommerce best practices). Scott performed a recent survey of his readers and found that (I lost the exact numbers — Scott help me out here) basically EDI user-customers give a short leash and have higher expectations of SaaS EDI provider than EDI user-customer who have their own internal EDI software and staff. Then, in the same survey, EDI user-customers using their own software and resources had higher downtime and longer implementation times.
More to come as I tour the Southern States in the month of December.
In 2008 traditional cough syrups came under increased scrutiny by the US Food and Drug Administration. After identifying health concerns related to giving cough syrup to younger children, the FDA increased the age restriction on over-the-counter cough remedies to the age of four.
Shortly thereafter, pediatrician Zak Zarbock began to research alternative cough remedies for his patients. Research done by Dr. Zarbock found that buckwheat honey could help accomplish the same goals of traditional syrups – only without the drugs and chemicals typically found there. Zarbock began to work on his own formulation of throat-soothing honeys and, a few short months later, Zarbee’s All Natural Children’s Cough Syrup was born.
Beginning with just a handful of small retailers in 2008, Zarbee’s has grown to be offered in approximately 30,000 stores and pharmacies across America. The all-natural formula of honeys and immune-boosting ingredients provides parents with a safe and effective way of treating sore throats and coughs.
As the company began to expand its sales presence past its Salt Lake City beginnings into larger national stores, the need arose for a system to help them comply with the stringent ecommerce requirements of their larger partners. “We quickly found that we needed a way to comply with EDI requirements mandated by our customers,” recalls Nick Johnstone, VP of Operations. Many large chains are happy to begin by faxing purchase orders but after a time will either mandate the use of EDI or will set a charge for each non-EDI order faxed. According to Johnstone Zarbee’s would, on average, be facing around $5.00 in fees for each transaction not sent via EDI.
“Since June 1st, 2010 we have processed over 400 customer orders, which cover a minimum of 2 transactions,” recalls Johnstone. “Without an EDI provider we would theoretically face $4,000.00 in fees for paper-based transactions. Additionally, the labor saved over manually processing hard-copy POs and Invoices would amount to another $1,000.00 in wages.”
Johnstone had used internal EDI systems at another company and was familiar enough with the process to know that they didn’t have the resources to setup an EDI system in house. In the summer of 2009, with ease of use and cost effectiveness in mind, Zarbee’s began to look into other solutions for their EDI needs.
ZarBee’s search for an EDI solution brought them to DataTrans’ WebEDI system. WebEDI was developed for businesses looking for a way to comply with their trading partners requirements without the traditional EDI requirements such as EDI software, previous EDI experience or existing infrastructure. Johnstone quickly found that DataTrans WebEDI was the perfect combination of ease-of-use, accessibility and cost effectiveness that they had been looking for. The web-based interface proved to be easy to learn and use and allowed access to the system from any computer, both in the ZarBee’s office and on the road. It also worked perfectly in their Mac-based environment.
“It’s been great. I can login from anywhere in the office, I can login real time. It’s just really easy to use. The interface is great, the other capabilities… I probably don’t know half of what’s there right now,” said Johnstone.
WebEDI provided Zarbee’s with a solution that allowed them to manage their EDI transactions without having to purchase costly in-house EDI software. It also meant less paper flowing around the office and faster invoice processing.
Though initially drawn to WebEDI by the simplicity of the interface, Zarbee’s soon found DataTrans to be a capable and responsive business partner. “I work with several other third-party businesses and would have to say that DataTrans is at the top of the list with regard to providing a great solution, being extremely reliable, and having excellent support teams,” says Johnstone. “As a smaller business we typically do not receive this level of service.” WebEDI has helped the Zarbee’s team realize additional gains in office efficiency as well. Interacting with customers via EDI removes the need for invoices to be faxed or mailed. This means that customers are receiving invoices within minutes or hours, not days. Easy compliance with EDI requirements also helps Zarbee’s to avoid costly non-compliance charges.
As Zarbee’s continues to grow their business, the number of their customers using EDI grows as well. They currently connect to fourteen of their largest customers via WebEDI and have plans to expand into as many as one dozen new channels in the coming season. Their growth has not been unnoticed as they’ve received national attention through such outlets as Fox News channel, People magazine and American Baby magazine.
DataTrans Solutions, established in 1998, is an industry leader in EDI services and support. With our corporate offices located in Houston Texas, DataTrans is proud to be an American owned and operated company.