Retail EDI Case Study – Sherpani

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Background

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.

Situation

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.

Solution

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.”

Sherpani EDI Statement

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.

The Future

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.”

For more information about Sherpani visit: www.sherpani.com

WebEDI Case Study – Zarbee’s Inc.

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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.

For more information about Zarbee’s Cough Syrups visit www.zarbees.com