Tag Archives: trading partners

11 Ways Food & Grocery Suppliers Use Data Integration as an Advantage

High transaction volumes, limited product shelf life, variable demand, thin margins, and competition from non-traditional outlets are just some of the endemic factors that drive Food and Grocery suppliers toward finding more efficient means of managing their operations.

Food Grocery SupplyBusinesses need the scalability, efficiency, and time savings to respond to unexpected demand, minimize time to market, improve vendor scorecard ratings, and achieve revenue and profitability targets with predictability.

To remain competitive, reduce process bottlenecks that lower costs, and quickly satisfy partner demands, Food and Grocery suppliers must eliminate expensive, piecemeal data integration technology and embrace a unified solution that makes important business goals easier to attain:

Achieve transaction visibility and traceability
Safety regulations, including tracking of products from foreign sources, requires timely access to supply chain data. A central integration platform provides real-time visibility and alerts so you can verify orders, shipments, and other events and respond more quickly to exceptions.

Reduce processing cycle times for perishables and other short shelf-life items
Streamline time-critical processes by integrating directly with ERP, warehouse management, and other applications. Turn around responses to partners in near-real time.

Implement demand-driven replenishment
Support VMI, JIT replenishment, and other demand-driven processes, by triggering replenishment from demand signals generated by RFID events or POS transactions.

Gain flexibility to integrate with trading partners on their terms
Connect with retailers, suppliers, and other trading partners using their preferred protocols and document types. A centralized integration platform makes it easy for others to do business with you by implementing custom integrations faster and with less effort.

On-board new customers and suppliers fast
A centralized integration platform accelerates delivery of application data and process changes, so you can engage sooner with trading partners.

Comply more easily with key partner requirements
Implement Order-to-Cash, Procure-to-Pay, and other B2B processes, including Ship Destination Quantity (SDQ) and other specialized transactions.

Broaden your reach to include less technically sophisticated partners
Easily integrate with small or off-shore partners that are not EDI-capable by exchanging spreadsheets, flat files, and other desktop office suite-compatible documents.

Integrate directly with internal applications
Support multiple methods to integrate with all your applications, including both commercial and in-house developed software, on-premise or in the cloud, with one set of tools.

Provide secure, on-demand data access to trading partners
Create web services that expose order status, shipment status, inventory availability, and other information, on-demand.

Synchronize your product catalog data
Synchronize catalog data with retailers using EDI, Global Data Synchronization, flat files, or third party catalog applications.

Gain capacity to handle large documents and demand peaks
Except high-volume data transactions, process very large documents and handle very high transaction rates.

Learn about how Food and Grocery suppliers use EXTOL integration software as a data hub to automatically manage the exchange of any internal or trading partner message, order, payment, or data transaction and eliminate risk of process bottlenecks, redundant tasks, and costly errors.

Partner Setups and an Internal Contact with Your Provider

This blog post is the fourth part of a series highlighting the best practices for EDI-as-a-Service in planning and evaluation.

As you go about the implementation of an EDI-as-a-Service solution, knowing partner setups and determining an internal contact with your provider at the start of the implementation can save you a lot of time effort and frustration in the long-run.

Understanding partner setups, changes and how long they take

When onboarding new partners and implementing new transactions, a common complaint is that the process takes too long. Sometimes changes that should take minutes, take days or weeks. How can the expectation be set that a change sometimes isn’t instantaneous, but may take longer? Continue reading

The Long Tail of Automated B2B Transactions

The benefits of automating the exchange of business transaction documents between B2B trading partners (customers, suppliers, and service providers), including time and clerical cost savings, as well as increased accuracy, are well known. This automation is typically accomplished utilizing some type of standardized data formatting, such as traditional EDI or, in some cases, industry specific XML documents. Initial implementations frequently involve trading partners with high transaction volumes, and/or those of significant strategic importance.

The next stage of partner integration involves implementing those trading partners with lower transaction volumes, but who also have the capability to exchange transaction data utilizing standardized data formatting. After this, automating transactions with your remaining trading partners involves a greater challenge, since they are frequently smaller businesses who cannot justify the required investment in softwareand/or do not have the level of IT sophistication required to implement and integrate B2B data exchange with their internal applications.

There are a number of alternatives which a larger organization can utilize with their smaller and less IT capable trading partners that will provide many of the benefits of automated B2B transactions to both parties. These include:

  • Implementing web-based software that trading partners can use to send or receive transactions. For example, this software could present purchase orders to a small vendor from the same system used to send orders to EDI capable vendors. The small vendor would log into the website to receive the orders, which could be printed or downloaded in a spreadsheet. When the order is ready to be shipped, the small vendor could log back into the website and add the shipping and billing information to the original order. The larger organization would receive all the benefits of automated transactions, and the small vendor would also receive the same benefits except for the clerical cost savings.
  • The same scenario described above could be providedas a service by an EDI VAN (traditional EDI VANs are now considered ‘in the cloud’), or some other third party service provider.
  • Documents could be exchanged as spreadsheets attached to emails sent between trading partners. There is B2B integration software available that can create and process spreadsheet data in addition to standardized data exchange formats.
  • Software (both on-premise and available as a service) is available that can reformat data in standardized data exchange formats to an easily readable document and fax it to a smaller vendor. Some systems also have the capability of receiving faxed documents and transforming the information into standardized formats, although the accuracy achieved with this method is not always acceptable.

With the technology available today, automating the integration of business documents with small B2B partners is practical and affordable.

Revisiting the Golden Rule

You’ve probably heard some version of the “golden rule” of business (not the one we grew up with) – “S/he who owns the gold makes the rules.”  In the world of business-to-business (B2B) integration, it’s easy to see the golden rule at work.  In general, it’s the payer – the customer in a B2B relationship – that sets the rules for partner interactions, including implementation details like document types, versions, and syntaxes, document size and content constraints, communication and security protocols, and quality of service requirements.

The term “channel master” has long been used to describe the role of a dominant company in a value chain, exemplified by mega-retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, or Sears.  Companies that supply products and services to such channel masters understand that compliance with their integration requirements is a price of doing business. Continue reading

Fundamentals of the EDI Shipping Notice

Traditional EDI integration, in its’ simplest form, involves an exchange of core business transactions between two trading partner entities. The Shipping Notice or “ASN” (the “A” being for “Advanced”, although that’s not always the case) is a type of electronic document that is sent (for example) from a supplier (manufacturer) to a buyer, and precedes the shipment (and arrival) of products at the buyer’s location.  The products on the shipment would represent one or more purchase orders made by the buyer of the supplier, often combined into a single shipment.  The ASN notifies the buyer of the contents of the shipment; the buyer reconciles the received products against original purchase orders by using the ASN.  Primary advantages include the improvement of the ordering cycle and improved efficiencies in managing stock.

The Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) X12 document associated with the ASN is the 856. This transaction is structured using Hierarchical Levels (HL) where each level represents shipping and packaging levels.  For example, a shipment might consist of one or more orders; each order might have one or more cartons; each carton might have one or more items; and so on.  The ASN will detail contents of a shipment goods and contains information specific to the order, product descriptions and attributes, physical characteristics, type of packaging, markings, carrier information, configuration of goods within the equipment, and/or many other specifics to the shipment and representing purchase orders.

This information is generally sent electronically at (or about) the time the physical shipment departs, as it must arrive prior to the actual shipment. This makes it possible for the trading partner to review all ASN data before the physical shipment actually arrives, allowing them to schedule the receipt at the distribution center and identify any possible shortages from the shipment.  Technology also exists making it possible to scan the incoming shipments, which would then update inventory and reconcile the purchase order(s) saving manual time and effort, and ultimately saving money. Automation and integration of these various processes provides advantages with business logistics. As one might expect, for all of this to function as intended the ASN must contain accurate data.  Just as accurate data and synchronized ASN processes will provide efficiencies in the movement of products, inaccurate data and/or untimely processes can result in lost revenue and potential customers.

While the ASN is not a mandatory transaction for trading partners, it can be a very useful tool in shipping and receiving systems.  If implemented properly and completely, it can reduce supply chain and administrative costs by utilizing automated integration to all systems within an organization.