Your EDI Resource

B2B Growth Leads to New Adventures

Posted by Warren Spiller on Wed, Oct 24, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

jawsPhoto appears courtesy of Kevin Dooley.  “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,”  is what Roy Scheider famously said in the 1975 film Jaws.  Of course, this is now a well-known euphemism for “we’re going to need more resources,” which brings us to a meeting three decades later.

It was a beautiful spring evening in Atlanta in April of 2011.  Faith Lamprey of Aurora Technologies, Harrisville, Rhode Island, Roger Curtis of Sitcur, Los Angeles, and myself, Warren Spiller of JRX Services, Atlanta, were attending the annual meeting of Liaison Technologies’ reseller partners.  The three of us had been resellers for Softshare’s pioneering EDI mapping and communications software for quite a while, and now Softshare had been acquired by Liaison Technologies, a world-wide provider of B2B integration and data management solutions.

Faith, Roger, and I sat in the hotel cocktail lounge, reminiscing about our past experiences over the years, how we enabled our client companies to become EDI compliant from scratch, or helped them to replace outdated EDI software with ECS and Delta, the state-of-the-art software originally developed by Softshare, and now would be an important addition to Liaison’s product line.   

We also talked about the future.  Our individual regional approach to marketing our extensive expertise and software had been working well.  We all had solid and successful businesses, but would this be enough to meet the challenges ahead, especially in light of the global marketplace now available to us with Liaison Technologies?   We all agreed that we were “…gonna need a bigger boat,” a new business model with a nationwide presence in which we could share our combined vast EDI and data integration experience and resources, and yet maintain our individuality.  And so, the Aurora EDI Alliance was born!

The Aurora EDI Alliance has experienced major expansion, so that we now are a major nationwide provider of EDI implementation and support, data integration, and related B2B services.  And collectively, we are now Liaison’s largest reseller with customers around the globe.    

Recently Faith Lamprey decided to sell her business (Aurora Technologies/EDI Support, Inc.) to another Aurora EDI Alliance partner, GraceBlood LLC, based in Baltimore, so that she could accept a full-time position teaching accounting and technology at Providence College.  GraceBlood has retained all of Faith’s staff and customers, and Liaison has heartily approved of the transition.  The newly formed company is well poised to build upon a foundation that has been 20 years in the making.  Current solutions and support services will be expanded with more resources and expertise, while retaining the industry-leading customer satisfaction for which they’re known.  We will surely miss Faith, but we are confident that the GraceBlood team will lead us to new heights.

Faith’s leadership, along with our combined 200 plus years of experience and B2B expertise, has truly fulfilled the vision that we planned on that beautiful spring evening seven years ago.  How can we help you fulfill YOUR vision???   

Click below to read a case study on how Liaison's Delta/ECS package helped a major B2C company manage exponential growth.

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Tags: B2B integration, B2B, data integration, EDI software, data management

IOT & EDI

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Mon, Feb 26, 2018 @ 07:21 PM

17404793095_8688655ddd_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of ITU Pictures.  Recently I was reading a white paper about how Advanced Vehicle Technology is changing the Transportation Industry.  They were talking about "connected trucks" equipped with IOT (Internet of Things) devices (devices with sensors that can communicate with other devices) that can monitor things like temperature, location and speed and produce data that can be used to drive predictive analytics for companies.  I started thinking about how we can leverage the EDI software we use (Liaison's Delta/ECS) to get this data from carriers to the senders and receivers of the goods.

One area the article discussed was using IOT devices to monitor the storage temperature of food while it is being transported to provide clear cold chain tracking and accountability.  This would give proof of clear custody and control of the product if questions surround the quality of it.  Some of this data is required on ASNs in the food industry so having a carrier be able to transmit it and being able to drop it in an ASN document would add to the completeness and accuracy of the data required for food transportation.

The IOT devices can also provide data to know where a delivery is in real time so companies can schedule staff to receive and distribute the delivery when it arrives.  This would provide better visibility of the status of goods ordered and makes the carrier an integral part in the value chain.

The carrier has always been a weak spot in the EDI process, as EDI documents typically go from the vendor to the customer with no input from the carrier other than a PRO number (carrier generated tracking number).  Utilizing the Web Services functionality within Delta/ECS, IOT-enabled delivery data can be updated in real time in a secure manner to give companies greater visibility to when the goods will arrive.

This does not have to apply just to trucks.  All forms of transportation (planes, trains, ships) can use IOT to communicate shipment data.  With the frequency of extreme weather patterns across the country, real-time updating of expected delivery information would be very beneficial to keep the supply chain functioning more effectively.

Integrating the data "connected" carriers can provide into the supply chain enhances the entire process and provides for more efficiency and greater visibility for both the senders and receivers of goods.  The 856 EDI ASN (Advanced Shipment Notice) document provides receivers with what is being delivered and how it is packaged.  Being able to add a "when" dimension to that document is a logical next step given the technology available today.

Click below to watch our video on how you can become an EDI rock star within your organization.

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Tags: IOT, EDI software, data integration, integration software, Liaison Delta/ECS

Data Integration: A Buying Guide

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 @ 01:29 PM

bigstock--131190917.jpgThis blog was written by Jim Gonzalez.  Over the last 20 years I have been asked a lot of questions by customers and fellow peers about data integration. What I have found is that there are five questions that need to be answered and these are in no particular order. Of course, these questions can and often do lead to new questions.  But if you can answer the following initial questions, you will may just stop going in circles and start on a path to success.

File Formats/Layouts to be Integrated:
               
Are you looking to deal with EDI, XML, CSV, Pipe delimited etc..? A lot of times you will just need to start off handling one format based on your initial engagement. It could be an internal engagement between one department or another. It could be an engagement between your company and a buyer. As I said earlier answering one question can lead into a lot of other questions. Please try to keep your focus on what is right in front of you or upcoming in the next couple of months, not what could be many years away.  Long term goals need to be kept in mind while constructing a solution, but it’s easy to get sidetracked so it’s important to prioritize: now, one year from now, five years from now, etc.
 
Investment:
 
How much can you afford to spend? Truly analyze that question and know your answer. You will need to have your software costs locked down and not variable. A huge piece that most people don’t take into full consideration is professional services. Professional services covers billable hours for software installation, map development, consulting and training. Don’t allow a company or consultant to give you a range of hours they don’t commit too. If you allow them to change the hour range when there is no increase in workload it can ruin the entire project. All companies and individuals need to be held accountable to the Statement of Work.  You can’t change your mind and then expect the consultants to not change the hours required.  Just as a consultant can’t change the hours required to complete a project because they didn’t account for all of your upfront requirements.
 
ROI (Return on Investment):
 
How many work hours are you saving? This can be hard to quantify but see this blog for more info on that.  Also, would you be increasing revenue with customers? You have to factor in every value-add that data integration will bring. If you can pull it all together and effectively present to the upper level management, it will further your cause and help get your project approved. The more headaches that can be resolved and the less human intervention required will allow your company to accomplish its business goals.

Goals to be accomplished:
 
Was this mandated by a customer to continue doing business by using EDI or another format? Are you simply doing this to appease a disgruntled employee? Did upper level management hear of this new thing while at the latest conference? No matter how it came about, the bottom line is that you need to move forward with data integration. Keep a record of the successes you have accomplished as each process gets done. It will allow for a time line of events and can lead to more opportunities for data integration that you never even considered. I have implemented many systems over the years and resolved issues for clients who didn’t realize the issues existed.

On Premise or Hosted:
 
Can your current network handle the data integration? Do you need to purchase additional hardware? Do you have the staff to handle the support? How do you feel about another company hosting the hardware and software for you? Have you weighed the costs? The question of whether you’re better off with hosted or on-premise never has an easy answer and you will find everyone has an opinion. This usually is all preference based. My preference is to control the hardware and software in house. It is an investment that will pay off in the long run. Never allow yourself to get stuck in a short term solution that can’t grow with your organization.
 
My conclusion for all of this, is that you need to know what you want or at least have an idea.  If you can come up with answers to the above questions, with proper guidance you will be able to construct an appropriate solution to meet your business objectives. Since you are reading this, rest assured you have found yourself the right group of partners that you can trust. A good consultant can bring his or her years of knowledge and experience to help you succeed. When I finish an implementation I feel an accomplishment that is unmatched. Reach out and let us know the pitfalls you have going on with your company!  Take advantage of our no cost, no obligation consultation.

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Tags: data integration, hosted EDI, EDI software, EDI Consultant, EDI considerations

EDI as a Leading Economic Indicator – It’s Getting Hot Out There

Posted by Roger Curtis on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

36277261342_86a50f0364_z.jpgPicture appears courtesy of Christian Witte.  It’s getting hot out there…and I’m not talking about climate change.  Our garden is not doing well, but that’s a topic for another day.

I must be talking about the economy -  something is going on. For the past three years now I’ve been getting non-stop calls and myriad assignments from clients in a wide range of businesses who are either adding new EDI, XML and JSON transactions or additional and/or new trading partners.  Economic recovery is a beautiful thing for EDI consultants like myself – and for my clients.

It doesn’t matter whether they manufacture leis or souvenir t-shirts on the Hawaiian Islands destined for the local Wal*Mart and Sears stores (typically Web-based EDI) or tiles made in China or by local US artisans destined for showrooms around the country (on-premise EDI mapped into Oracle and JD Edwards).  You can have South Korean tire manufactures selling to General Motors and Audi/BMW (we even did the German OFTP protocol) and the major tire distributor/shop chains (they love their SAP) or a fast-growing company selling the card readers you see at craft fairs, farmers markets, and oh yes, the microbreweries (usually Oracle). Oh, can't forget the tomatoes, or rather the tomato packing company. They run 24/7 this time of year and heaven forbid the EDI server goes down when scheduling the shipments this time of year – their packing season.

What do they all have in common?  They are all using EDI to stay competitive in the global marketplace.  Not to mention the medical device/pharmaceutical/medical supply companies who integrate with CVS, Rite-Aid, and dozens of hospitals and health care exchanges. Everyone and their cousin seems to do business with Amazon, selling everything you can imagine.  It’s a good thing we use versatile software like Liaison’s Delta/ECS package to meet all of their requirements.  The flexibility and scalability of Delta/ECS allows for almost any integration solution you can imagine. 

Delta/ECS’ versatility calls to mind a recent assignment for a 3rd party manufacturer of game controllers which called for me to integrate their Microsoft Dynamics Navision ERP software into a 3PL distribution company down under in Australia.  We accomplished this with a custom developed XML interface in order to break into the Australian market and integrate using flavors of EDIFACT EDI documents with major electronics chains across Australia, New Zealand,  and the UK, as well as Amazon.de for the German market. I could not have successfully executed such an assignment without flexible and robust EDI software.  Just scheduling project communication alone was complicated!  Set-up calls and emails start in the early morning for Europe and end late in the day (here) for Australia.  It’s a good thing I’ve got a good Skype connection. I’m on a first name basis with EDI coordinators and business people across about eleven time zones – definitely makes for good conversation.

With all this data flowing 24/7 and VAN, AS2 and secure FTP traffic going through the roof we know the economy is really humming along and the growth of EDI is the indicator. You can invest in it.

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Tags: EDI, EDI Consultant, EDI Implementation, EDI Technology, EDI integration, EDI software, ERP integration, integration software, AS2, data integration

EDI Application Upgrade: A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

Posted by Shandra Locken on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

6611378317_c4948f659b_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of brownpau.  This blog was written by Kim Zajehowski, Aurora's Manager of EDI Hosting.  How many times have you scheduled to do an EDI application upgrade only to find out you have not met all of the requirements the day of the upgrade or that users were not informed that the system would be unavailable during upgrade time? The objective is to eliminate surprises during the upgrade process and reduce stress when you have to shut down your EDI functionality while you are upgrading your EDI system. Your EDI system is probably one of the most critical applications in your environment.

Proper planning is the key when scheduling your upgrades to avoid future headaches during the process. It is very helpful to develop a checklist of all of the tasks that are required during the upgrade process and check them off as you go. The checklist can then be referenced for future upgrades as well and tweaked as required.

Some key tasks that should appear on your checklists are as follows: 

  • Obtain the latest application version software and documentation from your reseller or application technical support. This may take a little time depending on your media choice. Some may have to download image files from a vendor’s FTP site and convert them to the necessary format to be able to use them. Make sure you have the image conversion process readily available. Others can download the files required directly to their system without having to convert them. 
  • You may want to reach out to the application community groups (i.e. Yahoo Groups) to poll to see if anyone has encountered any issues on upgrading to the latest version of the software.  Sometimes the best source of information is fellow users.
  • Review the documentation. There may be separate procedures for upgrading vs. a new installation of the applications.
  • Review your system requirements. Ensure that you have applied all of the necessary patches, system operating system upgrades, etc. prior to your upgrade date. You may also be required to do a step upgrade where you have to do a preliminary upgrade to a more recent version of the application prior to upgrading to the latest version.
  • Discuss the upgrade with all parties involved to help in planning the best time to do the upgrade. During the week may not be feasible and the weekend may be best time to do it. Keep in mind that support resources may be limited on weekends and off hours if you do run into an upgrade issue. Set an agreed upon upgrade date.
  • Schedule to do clean up and/or purge on your existing data and review your data retention policies prior to the upgrade date. The less data for the upgrade to work with is better and the upgrade will finish faster.  See another blog we did a while back on eHoarders.
  • Determine if there are any database or application interface changes that may affect your existing processes. You may or may not have to modify and recompile some of your processes, programs, etc.
  • Determine if there are any menu, screen, etc. changes within the application that you may have to review with users.
  • On the day of upgrade, ensure no EDI processes are running and all EDI users have been made aware that the EDI application will be temporarily down during the upgrade process. You may have to disable or shut down any automated EDI procedures. During most EDI application upgrades, you have to have exclusive use of the EDI system in order to perform the upgrade successfully.
  • Ensure that you are signed in as an administrator or security officer user and perform a backup of the necessary objects prior to any upgrade and ensure that you have the restore procedures readily available to restore the application if you run into an issue.
  • When doing the upgrade, you will want to be signed in as the administrator, security officer, or application service user when doing the upgrade depending on the application. For Liaison products, it is best to use the Liaison ECS service user to ensure the proper permissions are in place for the upgrade.  Permissions issues is the number one problem we see in upgrades and installations.
  • Follow the application upgrade documentation to perform the upgrade.
  • Once the upgrade has completed, try testing inbound and outbound communications to your networks, trading partners, etc. by resetting a functional acknowledgement to be sent and reprocess an inbound functional acknowledgement from your VAN if you have that functionality on their portal.
  • Once successful testing of transactions has been completed, start any disabled procedures and inform your users that the system is now available.
  • Provide training for users if any application changes or procedural changes that may affect them.

The more thorough the planning and preparations are prior to your upgrade, the more successful the upgrade process will be. I will always remember what a past manager of mine many years ago would say, “Plan your work, Work your plan.” This statement can be your mantra when working on any project not just an EDI upgrade.

Click below to read our case study how we helped Print Media become EDI compliant with state of the art software.

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Tags: EDI Consultant, EDI Technology, EDI integration, data security, data integration, business processes, EDI software, EDI, EDI Documentation

EDI: Is It Working for You, or Are You Working for It?

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, May 19, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

7349986226_50337a2c34_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Tom Childers. This blog was written by Art Douglas from the Aurora EDI Alliance.  As an EDI consultant, every day I search for new clients.  Yesterday I once again saw an ad that had frequently presented itself over the past six months.  It advertised for an EDI SPECIALIST.  In the ad, it described the job as a customer service position, and one of the requirements was, “Must be experienced in entering the EDI orders.”

This resonated with me because over the past 20 years, I have talked to scores of potential clients who seemed to misunderstand the power of EDI.  The idea that someone is “entering EDI orders” is just one indication that a company may be missing the true value of their EDI investment. 

In a fully integrated EDI environment, incoming orders appear in the seller’s sales system without intervention.  I like to call it MAGIC!  It’s not. It’s the result of planning, negotiation, and know-how combined with great software. If done right, it could be easily mistaken for MAGIC however.  Firms without this MAGIC may actually need to “enter EDI orders” into their software package.  These orders are often sent by EDI capable companies, and Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) at the selling company must retrieve them online, and transcribe them from a web form into their application.  This approach saves the investment in software and implementation of true EDI capability, but is a continuous drain on the resources of the firm.

Other firms may take the middle ground, using third-party EDI translation.  These third-party services will receive EDI orders on behalf of their clients and translate them into formats that the client’s software can use to import orders.  The difficulty I’ve found with this kind of arrangement is smaller companies have to compete for their service bureau’s resources with much larger clients. Moreover, they miss out on all the additional capabilities that come with a sophisticated EDI package.

There is good news.  EDI software doesn’t have to be as expensive as it once was.  It is not as complex as it once was.  And it can now work with many more application packages than in the past.  A good EDI software package should be able to move data securely over the internet, deposit transaction data into databases or interface files, and retrieve application data from databases or interface files for transmission.  These actions can be done on schedule, or on demand.  Today’s EDI software should handle Managed File Transfer (MFT), Extract – Transform – Load (ETL), Enterprise Application Interface (EAI) in addition to EDI. It should be able to track data flow, track changes to transformation maps, and provide an audit trail of what has taken place.

If you are working for your EDI capability, struggling with a clunky EDI interface, expecting CSRs to “enter the EDI orders,” or depending on a third-party service to do what’s best for your company’s future, consider stepping up to a fully integrated, modern EDI solution.  Get EDI working for you.

Click below for a case study on how a medical supply company with our help made EDI work for them!

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Tags: EDI Consultant, EDI Technology, EDI ROI, EDI integration, EDI options, EDI software, integration software

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

You Need the Luck o' the Irish with EDI

Posted by Shandra Locken on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

7175331883_80d3ebae45_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of JD Hancock.  I would have to say implementing and running a successful EDI system is 35% exceptional EDI software, 55% experienced EDI consultants and 10% good old fashioned luck.  So what can happen when you DON'T have the luck o' the Irish?  Bad things, very bad things.  Here's a list of some of those nightmares.  Watch out for those leprechauns - they can be very mischievous!

1. What if your EDI consultant has a heart attack?  Well, then you are scrambling to find someone to replace him.  One such situation occurred recently with David McAlister at McAna EDI.  He got a call from a potential client who was scrambling to replace their consultant who recently had a heart attack.  As luck would have it for David, (and being Irish, he has the luck o' the Irish), he was already familiar with the product they were using AND had previously worked with the consultant on other projects.  Don't worry, the consultant is currently recovering and apparently is going be okay.

2. This next catastrophe happened a few years ago with another client, this time an Aurora client.  This client used our web-solution (Athena) to print their UCC-128 bar codes and they were scrambling this one Friday afternoon to get labels done when out of nowhere, their printer stopped working.  Those pesky leprechauns!  They got their labels done after going out to buy a new printer AND having to work on Saturday.

3.  Another situation we have seen is when your EDI administrator abruptly leaves and you have no idea what is what.  You always said you would "get around" creating documentation for your EDI system but that day never came and now you desperately need help.  Talk about rotten luck.  When that happened to our client, 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 had been developed by the EDI admin.  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.

4. One issue leprechauns often have a field day with is when software vendors don't keep up with the latest security protocols (or they charge you exorbitantly to do so).  How many of you read our blog about SHA -1 and SHA-2?  This scenario might ring some bells for many of you.  Kohl's has contacted you to let you know they expect you to be using SHA-2 digital certificates by April 1st.  Uh oh, your software doesn't support SHA-2.  Or they do, but the upgrade is costly and you already have your 2017 budget set.  However, if you have the luck o' the Irish, then you are already using Liaison's Delta/ECS EDI software and can easily support SHA-2 digital certificates.

5.  Perhaps the most common problems we see happen are due to human error.  Now, some may say that is not bad luck but I disagree.  Sometimes you just have a bad day.  I asked my colleagues for their stories of situations that happened due to bad luck and one of the replies I got back said, "Permissions, permissions, permissions, permissions, permissions, permissions."  If you don't set the correct permissions when you are doing specific tasks, like installations, upgrades, applying patches, etc. you WILL run into major problems and it WILL cost you hundreds of dollars in support.  Moral of the story - make sure you set the correct permissions for whatever task you are completing.  Don't give the leprechauns an opportunity to sabotage you!

Happy St. Patrick's Day from the Aurora EDI Alliance!

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Tags: data integration, Web EDI, EDI software, EDI Consultant, EDI Documentation

Five Reasons to be Grateful for EDI Integration

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

EDI integrationFor your reading pleasure, we are reprinting our Thanksgiving blog.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving from the Aurora EDI Alliance!

This is the time of year, before the holiday bustle really begins, that we can reflect on what we're grateful for.  This is what Thanksgiving is all about.  And whether you are grateful that you have the day off or that your kids are now sleeping until 7:30 am on a regular basis (mine are not), everyone can find something to be grateful for.  The next several weeks make up a significant portion of our retail customers' annual sales and we are grateful for the opportunity to support them through this important time of the year.  So in the spirit of thankfulness, we thought it would be fun (and useful) to list five reasons to be grateful for EDI integration.  Feel free to add to this list via comments.  Comments on our blog are always welcome!

1. Two Words, Black Friday.  The National Retail Federation predicts an increase in holiday sales of 4.1% over last year.  Several major chains have already released their Black Friday ads including Macy's, Walmart and Toys "R" Us.  If you are a large supplier for a major retailer, EDI integration just makes your life easier.  The more volume, the bigger the benefit.  Or better yet, if you have a Webstore, an integrated EDI solution is essential.  

2.  No Data Entry!  When you are not integrated, you must key in your orders to your back end system whether that's a sophisticated ERP system or QuickBooks.  And then you must key in more data to your EDI system.  And if you do not get EDI POs such as in the case of Direct Store Delivery vendors, you must key in your invoices "from scratch" into your EDI system.  EDI integration eliminates all this data entry and who is really thankful for data entry???

3. Error Alerts.  If any of you have ever paid hefty charge backs, then you must be very thankful for error alerts.  EDI integration allows you to take advantage of the many benefits your EAI software or your EDI provider offers.  Being notified immediately of an error or exception and being able to rectify it before it becomes a problem is almost as good as pumpkin pie.  

4. Improved Accuracy. Integrating your EDI means less human hands stirring the pot and therefore less human error.  Less human error means less time spent correcting those errors! We all want to leave early on Wednesday and join our loved ones for the holiday festivities, but if you're stuck in the office researching EDI errors...all the turkey might be gone by the time you get to leave.

5. Better Relationships.  If you integrate your EDI with your ERP or order entry system, you are on your way to forming stronger partnerships with your customers.  An integrated EDI solution that runs smoothly and doesn't create headaches for your trading partners (who also want to leave early on Wednesday) will foster the relationship and ensure that those purchase orders (EDI 850s) keep arriving.  Who knows?  One of your customers just might invite you to Thanksgiving dinner.

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI considerations, integration software, EDI software, benefits of EDI

Why Your EDI Processes Should Be Automated

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 @ 07:06 PM

16352900150_7cf298646d_z_1.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Phill Dolby.  I spend a lot of time each summer trying to streamline and automate as many of our processes and procedures as I can.  It saves time and, if done correctly, makes our data more accurate and timely.  I feel taking the time to do this is well worth the effort and it makes us more profitable in the long run as it frees me up to do other things.

When doing EDI work for a customer we are often surprised at how manual their end-to-end EDI processes are.  Let's start at the beginning of an inbound process, retrieving documents via a VAN, AS2 or FTP.  All the EDI software and servers I have ever worked with allow you to schedule these jobs.  In addition, the software can automatically run the map and push the data to the ERP interface files.  We have seen EDI Coordinators do these steps manually so they can "monitor" the process for errors.  Today's EDI software can be set up to alert users if there are errors on any documents and pull them aside while continuing to process the other documents.  Your objective should not be to examine every document, but to deal just with the exceptions.  Automation takes the human error out of the equation, providing a more accurate processing of the documents.

Most modern ERP packages have an EDI Interface that, If configured properly, can produce a data file that can be used as input into an EDI mapper to create the appropriate outbound EDI document.  Again, all of this can usually be totally automated, including sending out files via VAN, AS2 or FTP.

And then there is the task of purging old documents.  If this is a manual task, it is one of those things that is easy to put off with the good intentions of doing it later.  When you finally get around to it, the process takes an inordinate mount of time to complete and you are then forever leery of running it again.  We always recommend that people set up automatic purging.  If they ask us to help them with that we ask them how long they want to keep each type of document and then set the EDI software to flag documents for purging according to that agreed upon purge policy.  Then we set the purge to run on a weekly basis (usually over a weekend).  This keeps the time needed to run the purge to a manageable amount.  If it runs over the weekend along with other end of week jobs, most people forget it is even being done.  Not running the purge on a regular basis can cause major problems.  This year a customer who did not automate the purge and never had time to run it manually actually ran short of disk space!   Then they were forced to run it and, of course, it took an entire weekend to complete. Running it on a regular basis also keeps the amount of documents in your transaction center smaller, making all of your transaction inquiries and reports run faster.

Most EDI software allows "views" of the mailbox data, allowing you to set up filters to only view the documents that are in error or did not come in or go out as expected.  Reviewing all of the documents for an entire day looking for these kinds of errors is a waste of time, not to mention so boring that you may miss a document in error as your mind has wandered off.  It is important to monitor for errors or disruptions in flow as no system runs perfectly 24/7 with 100% perfect data.  Just do this in the most efficient way possible so you are only dealing with the documents that have issues, not the documents that came in and went out fine.

Another effort well worth your time is to document what is needed to be set up in your ERP system when you add a new Trading Partner and their documents.  In fact, we did a blog recently on this very topic.  This last summer there has been turnover at many of our customers with little or no training of the new person handling EDI.  While we can make any needed changes to a map and know quite a few ERP systems very well, we do not know all of them.  Many times the "EDI" person also handled things in their ERP system, like setting the appropriate fields on a customer record for EDI and handling UCC-128 (GS1-128) shipping label creation.   Having documentation covering what to do when adding a new Trading Partner is invaluable to a new person in that position.  If the day-to-day EDI process is automated, at least that should run smoothly even if there is a new person in charge.

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Tags: AS2, EDI ROI, automation, EDI document, EDI software, EDI integration, electronic data interchange, data integration, ERP integration