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EDI + API = Supply Chain Success!

Mon, Jun 26, 2017 @ 08:30 AM / by Shandra Locken

8603836832_48dd384d11_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Morag Riddell.  This blog was written by Karen Blood of GraceBlood LLC, a partner of the Aurora EDI Alliance.  No surprise, today’s most successful supply chain companies are doing more and more business electronically. From a personal consumer perspective, aren’t we all? Industry leaders like Amazon, AutoZone and Walmart understand this and are driven from the boardroom to the warehouse to handle all aspects of business over proliferating electronic channels. Suppliers at each level up on the supply chain are finding it necessary to accommodate their down-channel customers’ end-customer’s desire for, and reliance on, real-time transactions and information. This has a challenging ripple effect on their suppliers, carriers and 3PLs, as well as their own operations.

So, what’s becoming more important? For B2B, and B2B-fulfilling-for-C, interdependence, collaboration and flexibility are joining responsiveness, accuracy and quality product as hallmarks of a successful business relationship. For any kind of profitable volume, Integration at the data level between business systems remains THE basic requirement to achieve this.

Taking a high-level view, there are two main technologies being used today to exchange and integrate data between business systems: Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The chart below examines the functional differences of these two approaches as might be important to a supply chain company.

 

E D I

A P I s

Types of Message Content

PO, PO ACK, ASN, Invoice, Order Status, many more

Same, with an emphasis on real-time queries such as pricing & availability

Typical Trading Partners

 Amazon, Autozone, GM, Walmart- big retail & manufacturers, buying groups

Amazon, Jet.com, e-commerce shopping carts, carriers

Usage in the Supply Chain

Still growing

Growing exponentially

Max Speed

Minutes, although typically batch processed on a schedule

Real-time

Content Structure specified by

Usually provided by customer

Target business system

Response to message Content

Another EDI message

May be immediate and actionable

Visibility of messages end to end

Varies by business system and middleware

Varies by target business system

Use with Legacy business systems

Good

Not recommended for direct integration

Best Integrated by

Person most familiar with trading partner and target business system, and EDI implementer

Person most familiar with trading partner and target business system, and API developer

Maintenance required

Minimal, as usually stable & well-defined

Comparably, more due to moving target aspects

Transport

HTTP/S, SFTP, FTP

HTTP/S

Response to message Transport

Immediate for some, otherwise return EDI message

Immediate

Content Type

X12, EDIFACT

JSON or XML

Security of message

may be encrypted

may be encrypted

# of Transactions in a Message

One to large quantity

One

Bulk (size) of Message

Least, especially for larger batches

XML is bulky, JSON less so but still carries descriptors with each data element

Readability of raw message

Easy for EDI-savvy

Should be easier

Both EDI & APIs may have a place in your organization. There is no need to choose one over the other, only what is most appropriate for your various business requirements and considering your human and system resources. GraceBlood’s typical distribution client is using EDI for trading with customers and suppliers, and APIs for carriers and their e-commerce shopping carts. In any case, achieving Integration for as much business activity as possible is paramount.

Preparation for Integration – Best Practices for EDI, Required for APIs!

  • Inventory system is in order – items, warehouses, availability, catalog information including size & weights
  • Order management system is well-used – pricing, fulfillment priorities, notifications, returns
  • Shipping system is integrated with order management
  • Inventory system is integrated with Everything
  • Systems Housekeeping is a Routine Process
  • Printing to paper is Very Unusual
  • The company runs by ADWIAD, “A Day’s Work in A Day”, and usage of all business systems supports this
  • Business partners are selected by their ability to ADWIAD too

More than ever, supply chain success means meeting the challenge of keeping up with the down-channel customer – us!

Topics: amazon, API, Walmart, EDI, Autozone, Integration

Shandra Locken

Written by Shandra Locken

Shandra is the Director of Business Development for GraceBlood LLC.

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