Your EDI Resource

Happy Holidays from the Aurora EDI Alliance

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Dec 22, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

11535301765_611e66934d_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Nikos Koutoulas.  And now we revisit a blog we did a few years ago for some holiday fun!  This is our take on'Twas the Night Before Christmas...with sincere apologies to the original author, Clement Clarke Moore.

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the store not a PO was issued, and 860s no more.  

RFID tags hung by receiving dock with care, in hopes that the trucks soon would be there.

The clerks were all nestled at registers and stations, while visions of UPC codes danced across nations.

With the EDI manager and I in our caps, we had just settled down for 852 recaps.

When inside the server room there arose such a clatter, we ran from the cubicle to see what was the matter.

And away to that freezing room I flew like a flash, right through the door and PVC curtains in a dash.

The CFL bulb on the copy paper supply gave the lustre of mid-day to equipment I spied.

When what to my wandering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver so lively and merry, I knew in a moment it must be the X12 fairy.

More rapid than EDI his courses they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

"Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen!  On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen! 

To the top of the server, to the top of the wall!  Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

His eyes how they twinkled, his dimples how merry!  His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up tight like a bow.  His beard was as white as the copy paper below.

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work, and fixed the EDI errors without a smirk.

He then laid his finger on the side of his nose, and giving a nod, up the cooling system he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, and to his team gave a grin, and away they flew like a 997 after an 810 came in.

But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight, "Happy holidays from Aurora EDI Alliance and to all a good night!"

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Tags: EDI Technology, technology, EDI provider, EDI Consultant

The Back to School Supply Chain

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Sep 01, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

7957359556_ddae862b53_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Lyn Lomasi.  Ever wonder how all those school supplies make it into the extremely crowded "back to school" area of Walmart?  The process involves a tightly connected network of buyers, suppliers, EDI providers, teachers and 29 million households.  The "back to school" supply chain probably starts sometime in the spring, when buyers all over the US predict what will be most in demand for the coming school year.  Will the pre-sharpened Ticonderoga pencils be available or not?  Will pencil top erasers be on the supply lists?  And will there be enough glue sticks for the two dozen each parent will be required to buy?  As I walked around Walmart this year, frantically looking for everything on my twins' supply lists, it occurred to me none of these people have any idea what led up to this chaos.

In the spring, buyers start looking at previous years' sales on school supplies.  Although many of these supplies are always carried in the stores, the levels needed for the "back to school" season will need to be drastically increased.  This is largely how they decide on quantities.  So if a store last year sold 5,000 cases of sharpened Ticonderoga pencils but only 1,000 unsharpened ones, maybe those quantities need to be adjusted to account for the difference and this year's order quantities will reflect that.  There's also the matter of locale.  In some regions, parents are NOT purchasing their children's school supplies.  In states with higher state income tax like California, parents rely on the schools to supply students with pencils and glue sticks, and those schools are likely buying those supplies via an online web portal, which is another blog topic.  Although those parents are still shopping for folders and back packs - it does not resemble Christmas Eve at noon like your average Arizona Staples in August.

Once those buyers are ready to place their orders, they notify their suppliers of their vendor expectations and that usually involves Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).  Unless the supplier is a huge company like Elmer's Glue, who probably has been EDI capable for 20 years, the supplier will need to implement an EDI solution in order to accept EDI 850s (POs) and send back EDI 810s (invoices).  The small company who makes plastic pencil cases and lands a deal with Target will likely need to research and choose an EDI provider.  Once the EDI relationship with Target is established, they will need to get through testing in time to ship those POs by the deadline.  Then the supplier hopes that my children will want those cases (along with thousands of others) and they will get repeat orders.

Once the shelves are stocked, parents are logging into the district website to download the supply lists that were requested by the teachers.  My list his year called for headphones, two boxes of 24 count crayons, erasers, a red spiral notebook, washable markers, 2-pocket folders and the list goes on.  Considering I spent close to $100 for both of my children, this is big business.  According to the National Retail Federation, 2017 back to school spending will reach $83.6 billion.  It is the second busiest shopping season of the year and encompasses more than just pencils.  Also on my supply lists were antibacterial wipes, Ziploc bags, hand sanitizer and Kleenex.  The stores' merchandising departments have figured this out because ALL of these items were available in the "back to school" area of the store.  Many parents are also purchasing higher dollar items like school uniforms, laptops and other gadgets.

One segment of this industry that is steadily growing in popularity is the category of prepackaged kits that are available from online retailers like  Edukit works in cooperation with schools to assemble boxes of supplies each grade level has requested, including specific brands as well as quantities and offers these boxes for one price, delivered directly to the school.  The limitation is your school must participate in the program and as of this writing, my school did not.  According to Deloitte, parents will spend on average 40% more on these pre-assembled boxes, but this just goes to show that convenience offers value to busy parents, and they are willing to pony up.  Other companies that offer these kits include (owned by Staples) and  

As you are shopping this weekend for YOUR kids, and trying to navigate the sea of people with their lists, just imagine all that has gone into this busy shopping season, how many hours are put in by all involved from the buyer to the merchandiser, and how much money is being poured into the economy.  Not to mention how much teachers are spending out of their own paychecks to educate our children.  I guarantee that $100 will not seem so bad.

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Tags: back to school, EDI, EDI provider, supply chain, EDI solution

Pajama Day AKA Working From Home

Posted by Shandra Locken on Tue, Jun 06, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

28129206630_a11f6ea7ae_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Marco Verch. This blog was written by Kristen Kearns, Manager of EDI for Aurora Technologies.  According to Global Workplace Analytics, research from last year indicates that 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency.  Furthermore, 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part time.  Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile. Studies repeatedly show they are not at their desk 50-60% of the time. On average, a telecommuter is college-educated, 49 years old, and earns an annual salary of $58,000 while working for a company with more than 100 employees.

Do I wear pajamas when I work from home?  A bathrobe and slippers?  No, but since I go to the gym daily after my work day, I do wear workout clothes and sneakers.  That is a huge savings on not having to have an office attire wardrobe.  I think the most important issue with working from home – are you disciplined in concentrating on your work?  Are you going to get distracted by chores, your backyard (the pool in the summer!), or your family?  Are you organized?  As an EDI provider, I work for about 25 clients and I have a folder for each that is easily accessible that I can pull if they have an emergency.  I have found what works for me.  A file folder area on top of my desk, with the folders of the clients I am actively working on and the other folders filed away.

Working from home allows for greater flexibility when it comes to doctor’s appointments, family commitments, etc., as long as you get the work done you’ve committed to and getting in your company’s required weekly hours.  You do need to set boundaries with your family.  Do family members just waltz in your office?  You might be on Skype, a Webex or Google Hangouts with a client or coworker.  You’re hoping a child does not walk in yelling that they have a poop in their diaper. Or your husband comes in asking when dinner is ready.  Or your mother-in-law wanting to chat up a storm because you “only work from home."  Or a friend or neighbor just stopping over.  When my children were little and if they happened to be at home when I was working, I had a hands up stop motion that they knew unless they were bleeding, they were to walk away.

Speaking of your office, do you have a dedicated area or a room in your house to accommodate your situation?  More and more home buyers are looking for that extra bedroom that can be a home office.  Do you have a dedicated phone line for your office?  You do not want your clients calling on your home phone line.

What about weather issues?   Living in New England, we have hurricanes causing power outages and sometimes massive snow storms.  Advantages from working from home -  no snow shoveling and no scary driving.  Disadvantages, when everyone else has a snow day, you do not unless you lose power or your internet connection.  That happened many times this past winter for me.  Everyone I knew, had the day off, but I did not.  Along with the driving, working from home is also green thinking.  Telecommuting has helped reduce the carbon footprint. In 2013, annual fuel consumption decreased by 680 million gallons, about 0.5 percent of the nation’s gas consumption, one study found.

Recently I had knee surgery, leaving me in a brace for 3 weeks and on crutches for 8 weeks.  Most people with my recovery would have been out of their office for 6-8 weeks.  I had surgery on a Thursday, and the following Monday I started back to work 5 hours a day and by the second week, I was back nearly full-time.  I think that it was a huge advantage for my company and my clients because I was able to keep my current projects moving along without needing much co-worker coverage.

Speaking of my clients, when I am not going to be in the office during normal business hours, I update my clients that I am actively working with when I will be there.  It minimizes any confusion on when I will be working on their projects.  When a client has had the need for some extra hours, it’s a little easier to do that when you are working from home.  It seems easier to fit in the time. In the EDI business, we often encounter clients that have off-hours needs, like installing or updating software. Or an emergency with their software or processing. Working from home makes that much easier to navigate.

Many managers feel that remote work can increase worker productivity.  There are no distractions like water cooler gossip, impromptu meetings, and loud colleagues are a non-issue, according to an infographic based on data from SurePayroll, a web-based payroll provider for small businesses. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said they preferred to work alone to “hit maximum productivity.”  Fewer distractions (for the disciplined remote worker) can lead to higher efficiency, a report from ConnectSolutions concluded. The numbers: some 30 percent said that telecommuting allowed them to accomplish more in less time, while 24 percent of those surveyed said they could accomplish more in about the same amount of time.

Working from home = a lot less stress!

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Tags: EDI Consultant, EDI provider, technology

Aurora EDI Alliance Biography Series: GraceBlood

Posted by Shandra Locken on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 @ 02:25 PM

forBlog.jpgLast but certainly not least in our Biography Series is GraceBlood LLC, which is composed of the dynamic team of AMY Grace and Karen Blood.  Busy ladies they are, but we were finally able to get their story.  AMY (yes, it’s capitalized because it’s her initials) Grace and Karen Blood started working together in 1997 and created GraceBlood LLC in 2003. Coming from different professional backgrounds, they merged their skills and experiences to form a company focused specifically on integrated EDI and B2B managed services.

AMY was an English major who got involved, via IBM, with computer programming after college. With an interest in medicine, she worked for many years in Baltimore for the University of Maryland Department of Epidemiology doing database development and statistical analysis in clinical trial research. Her group served as the coordinating center for multiple long-term drug trials, many funded by NIH (National Institutes of Health), in areas including cardiology, diabetes, retinopathy, Raynaud’s, and more. They designed data collection forms, collected patient data from multiple clinical centers and analyzed it for eventual publication in professional journals. She took a hiatus for five years when her children were born but returned to the same career path for the next twenty years.

Karen, an inveterate serial entrepreneur, started her first business in 1979 while studying Computer Science at the University of Maryland. Specializing in microcomputer systems for small business, by the late 1980s the company was focused on software solutions for distributors and manufacturers. It was the 1990s when her customers began to experience increasing demand for EDI trading. Filling that demand, the company developed an expertise that led to it becoming the preferred provider for all things EDI for one of the nation’s leading distribution software developers. The practice grew, and Karen recruited AMY to join the company.

AMY was flattered, somewhat ready for a career change, but freely admitted that she knew nothing about the supply chain let alone Electronic Data Interchange. Like so many of us, her first question was, “What is EDI?”  Our most popular blog is about that very question.

The learning curve was steep but the incentive to succeed was strong because the built-in customer base was ready. Together, AMY and Karen developed a strong consulting practice focused on delivering integrated EDI dovetailing with their customers’ ERP systems.

Soon Karen started another company, New Blood Inc., providing web services to help wholesalers cope with the Internet. A few years later Karen had an opportunity to sell the first company, and as she did so, she kept the EDI consulting practice and rolled it over with AMY to create GraceBlood LLC. Purely focused on B2B, GraceBlood delivers services and systems for the supply chain to trade business documents electronically. She later sold NewBlood to focus exclusively on building GraceBlood.

The vision of GraceBlood has remained the same while the company has grown greatly: to allow clients to strategically embrace B2B and to enthusiastically say “Yes!” when presented with new challenges in their trading partner relationships. The company’s motto is “We speak EDI so you don’t have to.”

Headquartered in Delaware, the company’s supply-chain tested, home-based associates work from Texas, Virginia, Illinois and Maryland. Karen’s brother, Brian, an experienced IT industry veteran, has recently joined the company as a partner and handles day to day operations while Karen focuses on new business development. Hundreds of thousands of transactions for B2B trading are handled by GraceBlood Managed Services in the cloud with servers located on both coasts, while clients are based all over North America.

In their personal lives, AMY and Karen are close with their extended family. AMY’s adult children (son a Director at PayPal and daughter a judge) have provided the couple with four grandchildren, three are now teenagers. Karen’s siblings have spawned eleven nieces and nephews ranging in age from 10 to 30 and one great nephew (another on the way.)

They have many interests and hobbies especially adventure travel; last year they went on a National Geographic trip to Antarctica (see pic above), a dive trip to Cuba, and a driving tour of Iceland. Karen is a nationally ranked Scrabble player and enjoys scuba diving, fly fishing, women’s basketball, and all outdoor activities. AMY is a reader, a gardener, a film reviewer, a political/community activist and dabbles in memoir writing.

Celebrating thirty years together, they are looking forward to thirty more years of collaboration and adventure.  

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Tags: cloud, data integration, e-commerce, EDI Consultant, EDI provider, supply chain

Aurora Team Biography Series: Shandra Locken

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Fri, Dec 02, 2016 @ 01:36 PM

linkedin2.jpgUp next in the Aurora Team Biography Series is Aurora's Sales and Marketing Manager, Shandra Locken.  Shandra first arrived in the EDI world in the spring of 2008, not knowing how to spell EDI.  With the help of her colleagues, she was quoting VAN services and Liaison's Athena web-based EDI solution within a few weeks.  Had you asked her 20 years ago if she thought she would be selling EDI services someday, she would have said, "What is EDI?"  That is always the first question as you may have learned from our blog.  It's our most viewed blog article ever.

Shandra grew up in the central valley of California and moved to Southern California as a teenager.  After having a spent a few years attending college in Boston and working as a nanny, she returned to Southern California (back to warm weather) to finish school and earned her Bachelor's degree in child development from California State University, Fullerton.  While attending college in California, she worked in sales for an Anheuser-Busch distributor, where she formed lifelong friendships and gained valuable work experience.  Her intention was to continue her education and get her teaching credential and Master's in elementary education but as these stories go, life had other plans.  She met her future husband and wound up relocating with him to Reno, Nevada.

The next chapter of her life saw her managing school fundraisers for the American Heart Association.  Although it was a great cause and she loved working with children, having recently married and about to start a family, she ultimately decided that the required traveling was no longer feasible for her.  And it just so happened that a company called Aurora Technologies/EDI Support, Inc. in the suite upstairs was looking for a sales rep - that was almost 9 years ago.  Learning the EDI industry was at times very overwhelming and scary, but with the help of her manager and colleagues, she eventually settled in.

The following years saw another relocation, this time to Phoenix, Arizona, where she still telecommutes, the retirement of her manager, Aurora's former Director of Sales and a new title.  As the Sales and Marketing Manager, Shandra is primarily responsible for sales, managing our relationship with Liaison Technologies, as we are one of their biggest resellers, and maintaining our marketing content and automation including our website, blog, newsletters and social media.  All these years later, she notes that she cannot imagine doing anything else and feels fortunate to work with this incredible team of people.  

On a personal note, she is the mother of five year old twin girls and just celebrated nine years of marriage.  In her free time (which isn't much), she is active in her twin club, Paradise Valley Mothers of Multiples, sells jewelry on Etsy and writes emergency medical grant success stories for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) website.  ISF's mission is to "...empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet and its creatures."  A cause near and dear to her heart, since the grant program was launched in February of 2014, ISF has given grants to 581 agencies and has helped 1,236 animals in need of emergency medical care.  When asked how she wants to be remembered, she says, "A good mother, a good wife, a good person.  And somone who stood up for what was right and advocated for others when necessary."

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Tags: EDI provider, Web EDI, VAN Services

McAna EDI Welcomes Michael Barnhouse

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Sep 09, 2016 @ 06:11 PM

4344878104_e537b0248b_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Nathan.  The newest superstar to join the Aurora EDI Alliance team (via McAna EDI) is Michael Barnhouse! We had the opportunity to learn more about him recently and here is what we found.  After a 15-year career as CFO in international construction, Michael Barnhouse was approached by a Chicago based consultancy to lead a new practice area focused around Business Process Management.  As this was 1996, working with organizations in all areas of Supply Chain Management quickly became the primary focus for the better part of the next 15 years.  During this period Michael helped both public and private clients in the areas of Banking, Governmental, Insurance, Medical, Logistics, Manufacturing and Retail achieve demonstrable ROI from improvements to their respective operations and delivery channels. EDI and business process automation were a key focus for the majority of the many engagements.  Michael quickly earned the confidence of his clients and established a niche for providing a proven big picture perspective that helped him lead his clients in developing the Strategic and Tactical plans necessary to achieve their goals. 

Michael also enjoyed engaging in the technical aspects of the projects.  With no formal IT education, Michael learned the tools and technologies that his clients would and did deploy, becoming a highly respected domain expert with software vendors like IBM, Microsoft, Mercator and others.  He has always believed that you cannot ensure success on any project if you do not know what or whom you are working with intimately. 

In 2010 Michael left consulting to take on a new challenge as COO for a late stage start-up.  Over the next 4 years the goals for growth and probability were achieved resulting in the sale of the organization to a larger industry player.  Michael is excited to return to consulting and has joined David McAlister at McAna EDI, focused again toward assisting organizations in achieving measurable ROI within their EDI and business process automation channels.  While Michael is new to Delta/ECS technologies, he has quickly come up to speed and likes the mapping language, the business process flow control, the flexibility, and the bundling of virtually everything you need in one package.  We couldn't agree more!  We want to give Michael a very warm welcome and are looking forward to working with him!

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Tags: supply chain, Liaison Delta/ECS, EDI provider

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.

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

The Smart Money on EDI

Posted by Shandra Locken on Mon, May 02, 2016 @ 09:00 AM

7408506410_715acb5f6f_z.jpgPicture appears courtesy of Tax Credits.  This week's blog article was written by Art Douglas.  "EDI can save your company 99% of the costs of receiving Purchase Orders and forwarding Shipment Notices and Invoices."  That’s the claim made by the author of an article who knows about measuring that kind of thing.  I would add that in my many years in the EDI industry, I have seen many implementations that squander any possible gains by failing to find out the facts before deciding how to implement EDI.

Some time back I was hired to assist a large health care insurance company select an EDI system to replace their outdated system that was inexorably linked to their outdated coverage software.  We discussed their current needs, plans for the future, discussed managed file transfer, system integration, expansion of their EDI utilization – all the things you need to determine what you need to purchase.  Then we talked about security, redundancy, fail-over, backup plans – all the things the IT people want to know.  I prepared an RFP – Request For Proposal, and sent it out to purveyors of EDI software.  Three companies responded.  One put on an amazing demonstration, and submitted a quote for just under $300G, plus consulting costs.  A second put on an impressive demonstration, and submitted a quote for just under $200G, plus consulting costs.  The third respondent put on a personalized demonstration, and submitted a quote for about $50G, plus consulting costs.

I was notified at noon the day the final demo was seen, and the final proposal was received, that my services were no longer required. I was dismissed.  Their management would make the decision, unencumbered by any insight I might provide.

My contacts later informed me that the healthplan’s IT management had selected the most expensive solution. 

Two years later, the salesman who prepared the least expensive proposal contacted me to say, “Thanks,” because my former client had abandoned the expensive solution and purchased the least expensive.  That solution is still in use today, nine years after I was there.

The client had lost two years and $300,000 plus staff time and consulting costs on a solution I did not recommend, a solution that was ill-suited to their integration and EDI needs.

Later, I was hired to install an EDI solution for a medical products company which up until then had had no EDI capability.  As soon as I arrived on site, the IT manager called a meeting and began telling me how the solution would be implemented.  For example, he would require any trading partner to use FTP point-to-point with the client, no VAN would be allowed (too expensive), and no alternative communication protocol would be considered (must keep it simple).  The first year, only a single trading partner would be implemented.  I was tasked with training a programmer to “Run the EDI.”  The programmer was pointedly indifferent to the assignment, wishing to continue in his primary role as Developer.

Both these implementations failed – one initially, the second ultimately, because management refused to listen to the experts.

EDI is not an expensive undertaking, compared to implementing a full ERP system.  Return on Investment typically begins soon after the software is purchased.  But a successful EDI installation requires understanding of the industry, and understanding of the tool set.  There are an infinite number of ways to squander all the gain a company could potentially realize by stepping into pitfalls that are easily avoided just by listening to experts who have succeeded in the past.

A start-up company recently contacted me to consider being their EDI expert.  They had decided to convert from an in-house EDI solution that was integrated with their ERP to a hosted solution proposed by a leading provider in the EDI industry.  Management had decided.  They had no staff expertise in the area of EDI.  I fear for this company.  They are struggling to get distribution for their narrow market product line.  But any wholesaler or large retail chain would be forced to pay dearly for the right to establish an EDI relationship through the hosted solution.  If only they had asked an expert, rather than relying on the word of a slick marketing team and the decision of an executive who has never worked with EDI.

If your company is thinking about adding EDI capability, or modernizing your existing capabilities, do the smart thing, call an expert.  Heck, contact me.  Art Douglas.  You can find me on LinkedIn.  Or call my friends at the Aurora EDI Alliance.  Spending a little money now could save you a bundle down the road.  Really.

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Tags: EDI Technology, EDI software, EDI ROI, EDI provider, cloud, EDI expense, SaaS

Aurora Biography Series: Kevin Klimek

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

man-156584_1280.pngNext up on Aurora's Biography Series is one of our Tech Support superstars, Kevin Klimek.  Kevin has worked for Aurora Technologies/EDI Support, Inc. for 13 years.  What started out as an interest in computers in the mid 90s has, over the course of two decades, developed into a rewarding career.  

Kevin grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Bridgeport, seven blocks from U.S. Cellular Field (home of the Chicago Whitesox).  Having relocated from Chicago to Reno, NV in 1998 to help his disabled mother, he was hired on at EDI Support, Inc. some years later.  In 2007, after having gotten married, Kevin relocated to Florida, where today he still provides tech support for Aurora's clients.  Although the software has evolved and EDI Support, Inc. eventually became Aurora Technologies/EDI Support, Inc., the one thing that has never changed is Kevin's knack for troubleshooting.  Most clients would agree that he easily locates, isolates, and solves most EDI issues in a timely manner, especially when it's a VAN issue.  Kevin is known as the "VAN King" in some circles due to his knack for dealing with the Liaison Exchange Network and setting up the necessary interconnects.

Considering himself to be on the quiet side, it's no surprise to learn that he is a gamer.  In fact one of his interests is creating modules for the games he plays, including models, textures and animations.  He says his computer is the one thing he could never give up.  In addition to gaming, Kevin is also an avid bowler with an impressive 180 average.  He plays on a local league on Tuesdays and plans to join a couple of summer leagues as well.  Kevin's hobby has allowed him to support a local charity by bowling in an annual tournament benefitting the Homeless Coalition.  He also enjoys fishing and going to the beach.  Although he enjoys the beaches and sunny weather, he does think about going back to Chicago someday.

Kevin is always a pleasure to work with.  He is professional, courteous and always finds a way to help our clients.  A man with many hats, he has helped his coworkers with IT issues (ahem, maybe me) on a few occasions as well.  When asked how he wants to be remembered he says that he wants to be remembered as someone who always helped out his friends when they needed it.  I think that's probably pretty accurate.

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Tags: EDI Technology, EDI provider, EDI history

Is Your Gentran Product No Longer Supported?

Posted by David McAlister on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

16467187412_72fd673cd9_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of theilr.  Are you one of the many companies finding yourself without support for your Gentran product?  You’re not alone.  McAna EDI, Inc., an EDI solutions provider since 1995, recognizes the need for Gentran customers to look for alternative solutions to their currently unsupported Gentran products.  Last year, many Gentran customers using older versions were notified they would no longer receive support for their software as of May 1, 2015.  Now, a year later, those companies are feeling the effects and looking for help.

Long term Gentran users likely remember Mercator, which like Gentran, was another IBM acquisition.  However, Mercator folks were a bit more fortunate since Mercator is still supported today.  At the time of the Mercator acquisition back in 2004, McAna EDI, Inc. was a reseller for that package.  We integrated companies like Odom’s Tennessee Pride, Alpha International (Big Wheel) and Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania to name a few.  The stumbling block was that IBM put a 6-figure price tag on Mercator, making the solution cost prohibitive for most mid-size companies.    

Flashback to 1995 – when I first chose Mercator, it was object oriented – a very powerful integration tool.  Their translator, Trading Partner PC, was the first Windows translator to be written for Windows.  Mercator, wanting to appeal to larger companies, wrote Commerce Manager to satisfy an enterprise server environment.  Trading Partner was then handed off to Emanio, who in turn sold it to DiCentral, who then renamed it DiTranslator. My task was to find another product that stood the test of time like Mercator, but with a more cost-friendly price tag. 

After researching various translators and integration tools in 2005, I found Softshare’s ECS and Delta package, now owned by Liaison Technologies.  Delta/ECS (E-Commerce Server) is a mapping and communications package as well as a glorified router that satisfies all the requirements of an EDI translator, while the whole of the product is an enterprise integration tool that does much more.  This package provides AS2, FTP, SFTP, HTTP and SMTP communication.  The customer can create as many AS2 connections as necessary saving thousands of dollars in VAN charges.  Most clients that we engage have reported that the software pays for itself within 1 year of implementation.  That is an amazing savings - a savings that will continue far into the future.

ECS is capable of far more than EDI.  The product is an enterprise level integration solution much like Mercator but with more bells and whistles as well as a lower price tag.  This is exactly what we’d been looking for!  Today we not only assist customers by remotely implementing EDI solutions but also other integrations to their websites and disparate systems.  For Incline Village General Improvement District in eastern Nevada, we are assisting them in integrating their ERP system as well as their (POS) point of sales systems via web services thru HTTP.  For Precious Moments, we integrated their web orders into their Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains (GP) accounting software.  With a powerful tool like Delta/ECS, the architecture is limitless.

Don’t wait to find out what’s available to you on a modest budget.  Imagine having your EDI solution on a virtual Windows 2012 Server with 64bit technology for Windows, SQL, ECS and Delta.  Those of you on Unix Platforms, as you may know, today’s Windows platforms are scalable when needed.  So whether you are running Gentran on Unix using Hewlett-Packard, IBM or Sun Microsystems OR running Gentran on Windows NT, 2000, 2003 or 2008, consider making that move to save on VAN (value-added-network) charges AND make your enterprise ready to streamline and automate your business processes.

Click below to contact us and look at alternatives to Gentran.

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI software, EDI ROI, EDI Implementation, EDI provider, EDI options, communication, EDI expense, EDI history, ERP integration, Liaison Delta/ECS