Your EDI Resource

Do You Know Your Customer's EDI Guidelines?

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Jan 26, 2018 @ 06:02 PM

4341277184_c7b37f5074_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Brianna Lehman. This week's blog was written by Kim Zajehowski, Aurora's Manager of EDI Hosting. As a person who has worked in the EDI area for many years, I have learned that it is not an easy task to stay current and on top of all of your customer requirements at all times. Not only are your customers always enhancing their internal processes, but your organization may be doing the same. This has a direct effect on EDI trading partners and how they communicate EDI transactions, ticketing ramifications, and shipping requirements. There are also customer GS1-128/UCC-128/Carton Label requirements to follow, down to the size of the font used for the printed information, the format of where to put certain information, and bar coding specifications. If you don’t keep up with these changes, you will see a great number of compliance chargebacks. This can get quite expensive really fast and can end up with you having to pay for the orders placed to your company due to the issues. No net gain there.

As an EDI coordinator, you should aim for reaching out to your trading partner community each month to review their specifications and note any changes. We found that this really could become a full time job just to review everyone’s requirements and let alone handle the everyday issues that might crop up. Depending on the number of trading partners you do business with, it can get overwhelming and compounded by the fact that you know that if one trading partner has an approaching deadline there may be others with deadlines in the same timeframe or pretty close to it. I have also seen this type of monitoring be delegated to the customer service representatives that handle each customer account. Regardless of whose responsibility it is, it’s better to be proactive than reactive to changes.

There are a couple of suggestions to help in this process. One suggestion is to ensure all of your trading partners have current company contact information to reach you in the event of changes as they may generate mass emails notifying their trading partners of changes in the future.  We have seen many clients have a dedicated email address for all things EDI so that is one way to keep all communications in one place.  You may also see that your customers/vendors employ third parties to handle all of their testing and label compliance to offload the massive volume of onboarding to minimize the issues as trading partners work to become compliant. These third parties may handle the mass emails as well. One thing to note is that you may be required to pay testing fees and label review fees prior to implementing your customer’s compliance changes.  This is becoming more and more common.

Another suggestion is to do your research as there are EDI companies out there that will do the monitoring of retailers’ requirements and will give you a heads up of any changes as well. There will probably be subscription fees for this service but this may be well worth it if you don’t have the staff to handle it.  So it is very important to always know your customer’s EDI Guidelines and shipping requirements as it can end up saving your organization money and increasing your bottom line.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we will have a follow-up blog on prioritizing tasks to keep up with your customer’s guidelines.

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Tags: EDI, EDI Technology, EDI considerations, benefits of EDI, EDI basics, EDI compliant

TBT - The First Question is, "What is EDI Capable?"

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, May 04, 2017 @ 02:27 PM

34399736736_194bb0611c_z.jpgIt's Throwback Thursday (and May 4th, see pic) so to celebrate we are reprinting our most popular blog article.  Photo appears courtesy of Michel Curi.  

I get many calls each month from suppliers who have been told by their customer that they need to be EDI capable.  And their first question is, "What is EDI capable?"  Simply stated, being EDI capable is the capability to send and receive electronic business documents in a specific format based on established standards.  There are essentially two ways to accomplish EDI capability:  Outsource or buy your own software.

Companies who choose to outsource have about as many options as there are days of the year.  Between Web EDIhosted services, managed services, FAX-to-EDI, email-to EDI, and SaaS...the choices are almost limitless.  And the EDI providers who offer these services each add their own attractive features that make their solutions distinctive.  So depending on your priorities, the chances are good that you will find the perfect outsourced EDI solution.  

Buying EDI software offers many benefits if the volume of EDI warrants such an investment.  There are many things to consider when purchasing software and that's another blog article in and of itself.  But briefly, EDI software consists of a data transformation tool and an EDI communications vehicle.  Many EDI software packages have the capability of handling multiple data formats which is important in today's varied business environment.  You will also likely need VAN service and/or AS2 capability for communicating your data.  

So when the inevitable question, "What is EDI capable?" comes along, starting with this information will get you moving.  Just remember that being EDI compliant is not the end game.  It's an evolving business function and like everything else, must be periodically evaluated and updated. 

Click below to read our latest case study on we helped Quibids.com to move their EDI processing to the next level.

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Tags: automation, AS2, EDI basics, data transformation, Web EDI, SaaS, EDI Implementation, EDI software

Why EDI is Like Community Theater

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 @ 11:40 AM

11083824_10205662819705155_1046677289759748044_o.jpgThis blog was written by Kristen Kearns, Aurora's EDI Manager.  You might think this blog is a stretch – how can EDI, a very technical concept, be anything like Community Theatre, a very arts-based activity?  I’m going to tell you how. 

First you hear about an audition for a play/musical that a theatre group is going to produce.  In EDI, you hear about a Trading Partner that wants to trade EDI documents with you.

 Secondly, you prepare for the audition and get the script.  If it’s a musical, you get the music and review it. In EDI, you get the mapping specifications and the connection information. And you review that.

Then you go on the audition in front of the director, assistant director, stage manager, the musical director. If it’s a musical, you must learn a piece of the choreography if there is dance involved.  In EDI, you’ll most likely start communications via a phone call or emails with the testing team on the partner side.

Then you WAIT and WAIT.  You’re dying to know if you got the part you tried for, or any part for that matter.  You rehash what you did and what you could have done differently.  It’s the worst feeling.  Then you get the call.  Yay, you got the part!  Or OK, you got A part.  Or UGH, no part.  Same thing with EDI, you start the process to “do” EDI and you WAIT and WAIT for the trading partner to get back to you.  Sometimes you don’t, but many times you do.  It may be good news and they are ready.  Or bad news, the project has been pushed back 6 months or worse – pushed up and they need to be ready next week!

Next you start rehearsals.  Every director is different, just like every trading partner.  Some directors want many rehearsals.  Some trading partners wants many tests for the transactions.  I’ve tested one 850 Purchase order and then I’ve had to test 40 850 Purchase Orders.

There’s a lot of waiting again at this point.  At rehearsals, if you’re not in the scene that is being rehearsed, you’re sitting and waiting.  With testing, you’ve sent the trading partner tests and then you might wait an hour, a day, a week for a response.  I like to say EDI stands for “hurry up and wait!”

Friendships form during the rehearsals and during testing.  If you are working closely on an EDI project, you might have some conversations that you get to know the person you’re working with.  The same is true with theatre.  I have met so many good friends over the years in theatre and even a couple that I consider my best friends.

Testing is done.  Rehearsals are done.  Time to go-live with this new trading partner and the transactions.  Time for the theatre shows.  Opening night!  Jitters!!!  Double-check you have all settings to production.  Is your stage makeup perfect?  Hair in place?  All pieces of your costume intact.  Flip the switch.  Curtain up.

First show is over, what do you need to do to make the next performance better?  Did you miss a line?  Did you sing loud enough in that second song?  Did you trip?  First transactions have come in?  Did they go into your production environment?  Did you forget to change the T to P on the ISA?  Did you forget to enter all the ship-to’s in your ERP?  Fix, adjust, and accommodate.

Lastly, when you are involved with community theatre, you make a commitment to the group to help.  The same is true with EDI.  You must make a commitment to keeping up with mapping modifications if your trading partner gives that to you.  You must check for errors in data, in your logs, or train someone to do that.  You can set up alerts to notify the proper person of issues.

Now go out there and BREAK A LEG!

Click below to read about how Wayfair leveraged the power of Liaison's Delta/ECS to manage their growing business.

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Tags: EDI basics, communication, EDI document, EDI Implementation, EDI Technology

How EDI Helped Santa Deliver Presents This Christmas

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Fri, Feb 03, 2017 @ 01:05 PM

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAGdAAAAJGI0YTliMDg1LTg5NzMtNDA4MC04ZGVmLTdmNTA0YmVlYTcyMA.pngThis blog was written by Faith Lamprey, Aurora's President, and is reposted with permission from Providence College School of Business.  This past year, for the first time ever, online sales in the U.S. surpassed in store purchases. An annual survey byanalytics firm comScore and UPS found that U.S.consumers are buying more things online than instores.The survey, now in its fifth year, polled more than 5,000consumers who made at least two online purchases in a three-month period.

According to its results, shoppers now make 51% of their purchases online, compared to 48% in 2015 and 47% in 2014. Cyber Monday achieved a new record with $3.45 billion spent online, a 12.1 percent increase over 2015. This was the largest online sales day ever in the United States.

Most people have become very comfortable with, and even reliant on, buying products online. For many of us, it is now our preferred method of purchasing goods.

Are you aware of what is working 24/7 “behind the scenes” to streamline and automate the entire process? No, it is not Santa’s Workshop of Elves! It is a technology called Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) that has been deployed by companies for decades, long before the Internet became a household word.

In fact, EDI helps most people without any one even knowing it! Each time you visit a doctor, when she files a claim with your insurance company for payment, the request is transmitted electronically using EDI. When you use Tax Software to prepare your tax return and hit the Send key to transmit it to the IRS, the software converts your data into an EDI format and delivers it electronically in seconds.

EDI is used to communicate business transactions via documents in standard electronic formats with your Trading Partners. The data generated from each transaction is “mapped” to EDI data segments and then transmitted to the Trading Partner. When it is received by the Trading Partner, the EDI data segments are “mapped” to their application files and the data is processed accordingly. If set up properly, this can all be accomplished without any human intervention.

So how does EDI help with online ordering? Online Retailers rely on numerous suppliers to stock adequate inventories of the items they sell to you, the end consumer. They require their suppliers to ship the items directly to you. Even mighty Amazon does not stock all of their items for sale in their own warehouses.

Suppliers use electronic catalogs (in EDI we call them 832 Catalogs) to post their items online with product descriptions, pictures, and pricing information. This information can be used to populate the item information on web sites. The suppliers send their available inventories (via 846 Inventory Inquiries / Advices) to the online retailers so they can communicate, on their web sites, how many of each remains for sale.

When you place an order, the web site sends it to the supplier via an 850 Purchase Order with codes to indicate that the order should be drop-shipped directly to you. The supplier acknowledges to the retail web site system via an 855 Purchase Order Acknowledgement that the order was received, and that it can ship the item.

When your order is ready to ship, the supplier sends all the shipping information via an 856 Advanced Shipping Notice to the online retailer. It then sends you a “Your Order Has Shipped” e-mail message. The supplier also sends the online retailer a bill for the item shipped via an 810 Invoice.

There is even an EDI document, called an 820 Remittance Advice, that informs the supplier that payment has been made. It can also instruct the retailer’s bank to initiate a funds transfer to the supplier.

Faster than Santa can lay his finger aside of his nose, give a nod, and rise up the chimney, EDI can help to make sure that your orders are processed and delivered in time to place under the tree for Christmas morning.

Click below to read our eBook, EDI 101.

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Tags: EDI basics, supply chain, automation, JD Edwards, electronic data interchange

EDI and Halloween: 7 Reasons They are Closer Than You Think

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 @ 02:35 PM

8149470331_2f0f5fae57_z (1).jpgPhoto appears courtesy of David Sorich.  This fun list was created back in 2013 in honor of Halloween.  We love it so much, we pretty much post it every year.  So once again, to honor EDI and all things that go bump in the night, we give you, "EDI and Halloween: 7 Reasons They're Closer Than You Think."  

1. EDI and Halloween are both scary.

2. They both have tricks and treats.

3. They both turn relatively normal people into witches and trolls.

4. They both involve copious amounts of chocolate or alcohol, sometimes both.

5. They both sometimes involve charge backs (remember when your parents raided your take for the night?)

6. Speaking of, big thank you to Walmart, for cheap costumes, cheap candy and EDI mandates.

7. Lastly, EDI and Halloween both involve séances (we have all tried to contact Edward Guilbert to thank him for getting us into this mess.)

Happy Halloween from the Aurora EDI Alliance!  Stay safe…

Click below to read our case study on our Quibids.com project!

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Tags: EDI basics, chargebacks, EDI history, EDI Technology

Aurora EDI Alliance's Greatest Hits Volume 3

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 @ 08:30 AM


tapes.jpgPicture appears courtesy of Asja Boros. Third in our greatest hits tradition comes an updated Greatest Hits list.  This list represents the 20 most viewed blogs from the beginning.  We found it fascinating to see how this list has evolved since we posted our first and second greatest hits lists back in 2014 and 2015.  We appreciate all of our readers and invite you to let us know if there is a topic you'd like to see a blog on.  We will do our best to accommodate.  Without further ado, we give you, Aurora EDI Alliance's Greatest Hits Volume 3.  

 

20. History of EDI Technology 

19. Macy's Begins Requiring RFID Tagging of Items Nationwide

18. Is EDI Dead?

17. Importance of EDI in the Supply Chain

16. EDI in Logistics: A Brief History

15. EDI Professionals Help Define Scope for EDI Projects

14. When EDI Outsourcing Makes Sense for Your Business

13. Five Ways to Calculate ROI for EDI

12. Five Common Mistakes When Setting Up an AS2 Connection

11. EDI and the Internet of Things (IoT)

10. What is an SDQ Purchase Order?

9. Why Replace EDI Software with Liaison's Delta/ECS?

8. EDI 856 Demystified

7. Is Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) Replacing EDI Purchase Orders?

6. EDI in Healthcare: A Brief History

5. Walmart EDI: What Suppliers Need to Know

4. Part 1: The What, Why and How of JSON for EDI Integration Specialist

3. Doing EDI with Amazon.com

2. What is a UCC-128 Label?

1. The First Question is, "What is EDI Capable?" 

Click below to download our free eBook, EDI 101.

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI considerations, integration software, data integration, benefits of EDI, EDI basics, EDI compliant, EDI onboarding, hosted EDI, EDI history, vendor managed inventory

Avoiding "Failure to Communicate" EDI Data

Posted by Warren Spiller on Fri, Jul 01, 2016 @ 11:44 AM

data_transfer.jpg

I’m reminded of the famous line from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke: ”What we have here is a failure to communicate.”  I have found that many newly EDI compliant companies, as well some EDI veterans, are not aware that there are multiple methods of sending and receiving EDI documents.

Here are the 3 most often used:

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

FTP is a standard protocol used to transfer data between a client and a server, so at least one party must have an FTP Server.    I don’t want to get too "geeky," so I won’t go into all of the technical aspects of FTP.  But basically, the server partner sets up the client partner with a login and password, and the client uses an FTP application to log in to the server and send/receive the EDI data, usually to and from a specific folder on the server.  For secure transmissions that protect the login/password, and encrypts the content, FTP can be secured with SSL/TLS.  SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) can also be substituted for FTP.

There are several standalone FTP programs available.  Liaison Technologies ECS, on the other hand, in conjunction with Liaison Delta (the EDI mapping application), can easily be set up to automatically send and receive EDI documents to and from trading partners via FTP or SFTP.

Once FTP communication is set up with your trading partner, there are no transaction charges.

VAN (Value Added Network)(Value Added Network)

Using a Value Added Network, EDI documents are sent to one or more “mailboxes” set up on the VAN with which you have contracted.  Using the ID on the EDI document, your VAN can determine which VAN your trading partner uses, and forward the EDI document to the trading partner’s “mailbox” on their VAN.  Your trading partner then retrieves the document from their “mailbox”.  All VAN’s interconnect with all other VAN’s.

Using a VAN is by far the simplest method of transferring EDI data to and from your trading partners.   The Liaison VAN, for example, provides a user-friendly website, called LENS, on which you can view all EDI documents sent or received, along with the delivery status and other pertinent information to help you control your EDI processing.   Different VAN’s have different methods of charging for the service, some of which may be somewhat complicated.  

AS2

AS2 (Applicability Statement 2) is becoming more and more popular with many industries.  It provides secure and reliable HTTP data transfer over the internet, using digital certificates and encryption.   Each trading partner has its own digital certificate, which can be purchased through several providers such as GoDaddy and Verisign.  Liaison ECS also provides the ability to generate a free self-signed certificate.  Each certificate has 2 keys:  The public version is sent to your trading partners to be used to encrypt data being sent to you.  This data can only be decrypted using your private key, which is only on your computer.  It works vice-versa for your trading partners.

certs3_2.jpg

Setting up AS2 connectivity with a trading partner might take some work, but once set up, there are no transaction charges.  Many companies use a combination of methods as some trading partners require AS2 (think Walmart) and some require VAN.  A good EDI consultant (along with powerful software like Liaison’s Delta/ECS package) will be able to set up any of these methods to satisfy your requirements.

Click below to read our free eBook, EDI 101.

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Tags: EDI basics, AS2, technology, communication, Liaison Delta/ECS, EDI considerations

Planning for Disaster - Is Your EDI Department Prepared?

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 @ 04:51 PM

8089302431_66fca12d1b_z.jpgPicture appears courtesy of Michael Wifall.  In March of 2012, I wrote a blog titled "No Purge Routine?  Are You Becoming an e-Hoarder?"  Now, in June of 2016 I find myself dealing with that topic and also with a pet peeve of mine, documentation of procedures and process steps.  Let me explain why all of this popped up suddenly.

As you probably know if you follow our blogs, we assist companies with their EDI mapping.  When their EDI software is installed on their servers, we stress the importance of a regular purging process to keep their files at a reasonable size.  We point out that the system will run faster with smaller files.  While people understand that, the task of setting up the purge procedure goes on their To Do list and soon is forgotten or becomes that task that there is never time to do as the criticality of it is in the future. 

Going back to the story, the EDI system of one of our customers recently came to an abrupt halt due to an error that a file had reached the maximum size allowed on the system.  Of course this happened late on a Friday afternoon as people were getting ready for a 3-day weekend.  They just had to get out those last EDI documents and then off to cocktail hour!  The call went out to us (luckily our support staff had not started their cocktail hour yet!) and we worked with them to get the purge started.  It ran for 6 hours.  Hopefully, the company will now put a regularly scheduled purge in place so this will not happen again.  This reminds me of companies that do not have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place...until after a disaster.

Now, to the lack of documentation of procedures and processes.  The President of one of our customer companies called me and said their EDI person (we will call him John) had moved on to another company and the person John had trained to do his job had also left.  There was no documentation of what needed to be done.  So we rolled up our sleeves and delved into their system to make sure the EDI documents were all sent and received with no errors.  They brought in another consulting company to assist with the ERP interface as that was not documented either and was developed by John.  If you are a follower of our Blogs, I refer you to the blog Kristen Kearns wrote back in May about Documenting Your EDI Processes.  Kristen includes a great list of essential items to include in your documentation.  

I am a big fan of checklists.  They help you make sure all the steps of a process are done in the correct order and are of great assistance if someone else is filling in for you.  We had two instances this spring where one of our employees was unexpectedly out for an extended period.  We insist that our project managers create what we call a client sheet for each of our customers that contains all the pertinent information about that account in case someone else needs to work on a task for that customer.  So between the client sheets and checklists, we were able to get through the extended periods when those people were not available.

We all know these things need to be done, the problem is like the problem with a Disaster Recover Plan, there never seems to be time to do it.  Just remember that the consequence of not doing these things can cost the company a lot of money, lost time and lost business if the company cannot recover quickly enough. 

Click below to read our case study on how we helped Alimed optimize their EDI operations.

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Tags: EDI basics, communication, EDI considerations, EDI Technology, purge routine

Documenting Your EDI Processes

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, May 12, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

2234680879_e91ccb931d_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Nikki Tysoe.  This blog was written by Kristen Kearns, Manager of EDI Services for Aurora Technologies.  EDI Documentation - the one thing we love to hate, but MUST do.  How do you run the inbound 850 process once the data is mapped?  What are common issues that prevent 850s from automatically creating orders?  What do you do if an 810 fails?  What if an 856 fails? 

Documentation IS important and possibly critical to implementing a successful project.  Documenting EDI processes as you go along, will accomplish two things - you don’t forget a step AND you won't have to do it later.  It is very difficult for employees and supervisors to remember everything on a daily basis. When there is a question on who is supposed to do what or what are the next steps, detailed documentation is very handy. 

EDI documentation is also important when only one person is responsible for something and that person leaves the company.  Recently we had a client whose only IT person left the company.  We only do their EDI mapping when needed and other than that, they were pretty self-sufficient.  Their IT person processed orders, handled shipments, and set up everything in their ERP which we had not yet touched.  There is NO documentation on anything.  We’re currently working with them now to figure out their newest trading partner and how to get them up and running.  Detailed EDI documentation would have made this transition go much smoother and now they are scrambling to get this new trading partner into production.

Documentation can also be used to train new employees on the processes that need to be performed. See above!

What about if you are on vacation or you are out on an emergency?  Recently a coworker had an emergency, but because we have Client Sheets with detailed documentation, other coworkers were able to connect to various clients, solve issues, and move projects along.  This enabled us to work as a team and continue to support our clients, in spite of the unforeseen emergency.

Some of the items we list on our Client Sheets are:

-     Connection information such as VPN access information, remote desktop information, server connections, important processing information, modifications to their ERP, pertinent EDI processes

-     Server and ERP library information

-     Specialized commands

-     People you deal with at the client, names, email address, phone numbers

-     If we installed software there, licensing information, software versions, user names and passwords

GREAT -- now that you have documentation – are you updating it on a regular basis?  Those Client Sheets only work if you are updating them regularly with changes and revisions.  Updated documentation will ensure that you always have the most current information available.  If I work on that account regularly, it is expected that I am keeping that Client Sheet up to date.  If the VPN access changes, and I did not document that change, my coworker is not going be able to cover for me.  If I receive a notification that someone left the company, that information should be added to the Client Sheet.  These sheets are available on our website so that anyone on our team can access them so that someone other than their usual support rep can always help the client.

The moral of the story is, Kristen keeps updated documentation.  If Kristen wins the lottery and quits her job, Kim can do Kristen's job.  Be like Kristen.

Click below to read our latest case study on how we helped Quibids.com move their EDI operations to the next level:

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Tags: EDI Technology, EDI considerations, EDI basics, EDI provider, EDI document

The First Question is, "What is EDI Capable?"

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 @ 06:43 PM

What is EDI CapableTo end 2015, we thought it would be fun to reprint our most popular blog of the year.  And actually, it's our most popular over all time.  Enjoy and Happy New Year from the Aurora EDI Alliance!

I get many calls each month from suppliers who have been told by their customer that they need to be EDI capable.  And their first question is, "What is EDI capable?"  Simply stated, being EDI capable is the capability to send and receive electronic business documents in a specific format based on established standards.  There are essentially two ways to accomplish EDI capability:  Outsource or buy your own software.

Companies who choose to outsource have about as many options as there are days of the year.  Between Web EDI,hosted services, managed services, FAX-to-EDI, email-to EDI, and SaaS...the choices are almost limitless.  And the EDI providers who offer these services each add their own attractive features that make their solutions distinctive.  So depending on your priorities, the chances are good that you will find the perfect outsourced EDI solution.  

Buying EDI software offers many benefits if the volume of EDI warrants such an investment.  There are many things to consider when purchasing software and that's another blog article in and of itself.  But briefly, EDI software consists of a data transformation tool and an EDI communications vehicle.  Many EDI software packages have the capability of handling multiple data formats which is important in today's varied business environment.  You will also likely need VAN service and/or AS2 capability for communicating your data.  

So when the inevitable question, "What is EDI capable?" comes along, starting with this information will get you moving.  Just remember that being EDI compliant is not the end game.  It's an evolving business function and like everything else, must be periodically evaluated and updated. 

Click below to read our latest case study on we helped Quibids.com to move their EDI processing to the next level:

Download  Case Study

 

Tags: EDI software, EDI basics, EDI provider, EDI options, Web EDI