Your EDI Resource

EDI Testing Challenges - Lessons Learned

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

3716273172_fe716fbf1f_zPhoto appears courtesy of frankieleon.  This blog was written by Kristen Kearns, EDI Manager for Aurora Technologies. Who else does this happen to?  Mapping is done, VAN/AS2 connections are set up, you have gotten through testing with flying colors, and then you go-live and EVERYTHING falls apart.  OK, perhaps I’m being overly dramatic….maybe not everything. Sometimes it is just a minor thing, but other times you are blindsided by a major problem!

I just went through extensive testing with a large trading partner, we passed their testing with several documents.  We go live and BAM!  Come to find out there was a large amount of data missing or wrong when we went live.  I really do not know how they passed us.  And the specs were incredibly vague.  Getting slammed with chargebacks is not a great way to start out a new trading relationship.  We did not change a thing when going live, so why was everything so different? 

How can you avoid potential issues?

  • Get the latest specifications from the trading partner.  Sometimes a trading partner does not have specifications so you need to make sure you work with them ahead of time to find a solution.  You do not want to test through documents only to find out when going live there was additional information they wanted/needed. Work with your salesperson and their buyer to find out what type of documents you will be receiving/sending as well as what should or should not be included in them.

  • Sometimes the trading partner has several sets of the same document depending on the business rules.  Find out if you can just test the documents and the types of documents you will be actually trading.  That will also cut down on the confusion

  • Make sure you have the right people involved in the right pieces of the process.  Most of these projects are B2B (business-to-business) integration projects rather than just EDI implementations.  That means there are typically a lot of different business processes involved.  I just had a client who did not have the warehouse review the packaging requirements and they are getting hit with some major chargebacks for not placing the labels on the cartons correctly. 

  • Where data is concerned, the number one issue I see is item numbers.

    • First issue with item numbers is the trading partner tries to send you data with “dummy” item numbers but you cannot test that through your ERP system.  Just ask, most trading partners, even the EDI testing companies (i.e. SPS Commerce), will allow for real data.

    • Second issue with item numbers, is once you go-live, the trading partner doesn’t have all of your items entered, or entered correctly.  Make sure your people talk to their people and get the items correct between the 2 companies.

    • Another data issue is ship-to location codes.  Make sure you get their list of location codes and set them up in your system correctly.  Doing this ahead of production, will make for less intervention.

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Tags: chargebacks, EDI testing, B2B integration

EDI is 90% Political

Posted by Shandra Locken on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

6811644901_04d479b706_zPhoto appears courtesy of Newtown grafitti.  This blog was written by Art Douglas, member of the Aurora EDI Alliance.  We have all heard some of the sayings of that wise American philosopher, Lawrence Peter Berra, aka Yogi.  “It isn’t over ‘til it’s over,” and “You can observe a lot just by watching.”  But my all-time favorite is, “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.”
 
Yogi’s sayings make you think, and it made me think of a corollary to his math-challenged quote that is every bit as true:  “EDI is 90% political, and the other half is technical.” Think about it.  Once you’ve learned the basics of the technical part of EDI, nearly every challenge is political in nature.  The CEO wants to know if EDI is so great that it runs automatically, why does he need to budget for a staff of even one to babysit it?  Political.  Here’s one I’m dealing with right now.  The connectivity team at a giant health plan will only talk to one person at each of their trading partners firms.  Technical?  Nope, political.  A new CIO comes in when the company is acquired and announces that he has a buddy who can program a custom EDI system so they don’t have to pay the annual maintenance on it.  Definitely political.  Another client brought in an EDI expert who helped them put together requirements for their new EDI system.  Together they produced an RFQ and received several responses.  Once all the responses were received, the managers got together and decided to purchase the most expensive package.  The architect was not consulted.  After two years, they abandoned that package and purchased the least expensive package.  Ten years later, they’re still using it.  Political?  You think?

How do we, as EDI consultants and experts, handle the political issues?  We know how to correct a mapping error, or how to configure an FTP to place files in a sub-folder on the target server, but how do we deal with the misconceptions management, trading partners, and the business units of our employers or clients have that cause even bigger headaches? Let’s become experts in communication.  This can be somewhat challenging for so-called techies, but I would argue that it’s necessary to be successful.  We must learn how to network with people, how to become known and respected, how to speak up, write coherently and cohesively. We must view our roles as much bigger in scope than they appear to be or in some cases, want them to be.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Speak to your superiors about their goals for EDI, IT, and the firm

  • Offer your expertise when questions arise for which EDI could be the answer.

  • Learn the company org chart – who is responsible for what.

  • What are your company’s challenges?  Could an EDI solution be part of the answer?

  • Join a local Toastmasters club. Find one at Toastmasters.com.

  • Ask somebody who is good at writing to help you improve.

  • And in case all else fails, update your resumé.

Remember, as Yogi says, “I tell the kids, ‘Somebody’s gotta win, sombody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just get better.’”

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Tags: EDI Consultant, EDI, EDI solution, EDI expert

What is Tableau Software and How Does it Relate to EDI?

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 @ 08:36 AM

2126909099_b37c305b9b_zPhoto appears courtesy of Todd Huffman.  Data seems to be the be-all end-all of today’s business world.  We have access to more data than ever before, but no one seems to know what to do with it.  Enter Tableau.  I spent three days in a Tableau class this summer to learn how to use this software package to discover interesting insights that can be found by analyzing data about a company’s customers and products.  The Tableau software is a data visualization tool that allows you to explore and better understand your data and create insightful visuals and dashboard displays to help with decision making.  Using the analytical tools and robust visualization the software contains can unveil trends, correlations and meaningful statistics that are not obvious by just looking at the raw data.  Tableau also enables a story about the data to be told in a format that is interactive allowing for slicing and dicing of the data to answer questions from your audience during a presentation to reveal even more insights on the fly.  This software is powerful and easy to use and is being utilized by many organizations to uncover a wealth of information from their data to help with decision making.

What becomes quickly apparent when working with this type of software is that it is essential to spend time up front to review and clean the data sets.  In order for the software to provide valuable and actionable information that can be trusted, the data that is used must be accurate, consistent and complete which is not usually the case with data.  The data cleaning step (also called data cleansing and data scrubbing) can take some time, but investing the extra effort will allow the software to provide more meaningful results. 

Data should come from a trusted source.  It should be compiled and maintained under a sound data governance program that uses good editing and verification techniques to ensure the integrity of the data.  In a data cleaning process all fields that are to be used for analysis should be verified to ensure that the data values are not missing and the fields contain valid data.  For instance, in order to perform meaningful and accurate geographic analysis, all state fields cannot be blank or contain an invalid state code.  Often codes must be standardized when looking at data from different divisions of a company to make them consistent across organizational lines. 

This is no different than what we find with EDI transactions.  A missing item number will cause an outgoing Invoice map to fail when the data element is a mandatory field.  An invalid item number on an incoming Purchase Order will cause a delay in the processing as that item will be unknown to the Trading Partner receiving the order.  We are currently working with a customer whose Trading Partner continues to send invalid item numbers that slow down the incoming purchase order process while demanding a short time for our customer to ship the order without penalties.  In addition, the users at the company have been changing data on the order accidently (carelessly?) which causes problems with the outgoing invoicing and ASN process.  This is frustrating for all of the parties involved and the chargebacks are mounting.

I have been in the Information Technology field for many decades and while so much has changed, one thing has remained constant.  Only good data will yield meaningful results that can be trusted for decision making.  The process of data cleaning, while it is a rather mundane, very time consuming task and not on the top of anyone’s list of fun things to do, is essential as a basis for all information processing.

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Tags: data transformation, data integration, EDI, big data analytics

The Definitive Guide to the Business Benefits of Digital Transformation

Posted by Shandra Locken on Tue, Jul 03, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

bigstock-Win-Win-Strategy-199453594This blog, written by Liaison VP Gary Palgon, is reprinted with permission by Liaison Technologies.  Much has been said and written about digital transformation and its benefits. But as companies that have embraced digital transformation continue to be analyzed and studied, patterns emerge and the positive impacts of digital transformation can be summarized into three major benefits: the transformation of business operations, the evolution of customer-centric organizations, and the revolution of business models.

Key Benefit #1: Business Operations Transformation

Arguably, the most important and impactful benefit of digital transformation happens behind the scenes. The transformation of business operations lays the foundation for other key benefits of digital transformation.

This benefit can be further categorized into three types: the digitalization of business operations, empowerment of employees, and greater resource management.

Digitalization of Business Operations

Using technology to transform business operations reduces or even eliminates processes that do not require human judgment or strategic thinking. By digitalizing business operations, enterprises are freeing their employees from menial tasks and allowing them to focus on strategic tasks. Digitalization achieves this for enterprises through applications that make business operations less time consuming, and programs that completely automate business processes.

For instance, T-Mobile transformed its IT department by automating its testing process. By automating over 83% of its IT department’s test scripts, T-Mobile’s IT experts, programmers, and developers were able to focus on more complicated test scripts that require human judgment. At the same time, automation streamlined its testing process, leading to greater efficiency and reduced errors.

Greater Resource Management

Digital transformation has paved the way for enterprises to capture large amounts of varying information and transform them into deeper insights. Big data analytics provides enterprises with real-time information and greater visibility and insights into its operations, especially the performance of its assets. This allows enterprises to make faster and more objective decisions based on data. 

As the ingestion and analysis of data become faster and more powerful, the level of detail that enterprises are able to capture and generate is also improving, allowing them to make even deeper and more informed decisions that were not previously possible. For instance, big data analytics has enabled the analysis of thousands of connected devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT), which provide extremely detailed information on assets, operations, and processes.

Empowerment of Employees

Aside from being able to focus on strategic tasks, technology has also increased the mobility of employees and the collaboration and knowledge sharing among them.

Through the virtualization of work processes, many employees can perform their work regardless of location, even in the comfort of their own homes or when posted overseas. In the area of field service operations or aftermarket industries, the virtualization of processes is even more beneficial as it allows field service engineers and technicians to access the latest information even when they are on the field or when they are mobile. This also allows enterprises to reduce costs by saving on office space rentals and other related expenses.

Networking and collaboration applications enable employees to work together, even when they are remote. It also eliminates the inconvenience of having to find a meeting room and setting a schedule when the meeting proponents are all in one place. These applications also open the door for enterprises to communicate with third parties and even global partners. Finally, these applications can also enable and encourage the sharing of knowledge and best practices among employees leading to the overall improvement of the enterprise. This is what Marriott has done exceptionally well as it incorporated the best practices across its 15 brands into its entire company culture.

Key Benefit #2: Evolving into Customer-Centric Organizations

Among the three key benefits of digital transformation, elevating enterprises into customer-centric organizations is the most obvious and evident. The results of this key benefit are greater customer insights and a better overall customer experience.

Greater Customer Insights

Just as technology is enabling enterprises to gain insights on their assets, it is also enabling them to capture information and gain deeper insights on their customers.

With the rise of e-commerce and social media, there is an abundance of customer data for enterprises to gather. For instance, by listening to what people say on social media, enterprises are able to gain an understanding of what customers like and what leads to dissatisfaction.

By using applications and programs that can integrate with e-commerce and social media websites, enterprises are able to capture, utilize, and analyze these information and transform them into meaningful insights. For example, McCormick, one of the leading spice companies in the world, launched FlavorPrint. FlavorPrint captures customers’ flavor preferences and recommends recipes that they can try based on these preferences. Not only did this enable McCormick to engage with customers and add value, but it also put their customers at the center of their future product development and promotions based on the data they capture.

Better Customer Experience

Greater customer insights also lead to the transformation of the overall customer experience. By better understanding their customers, enterprises are able to deliver what their customers want. For example, using these insights and customer data, enterprises are able to provide customers with more personalized products, services, and even promotions.

Technology also empowers enterprises to provide their customers with a truly digital experience. For example, enterprises are now able to provide customer service through social media channels, thus assuring customers that they are heard and that their grievances are addressed as quickly as possible.

Key Benefit #3: Revolutionizing Business Models

Digital transformation is not only improving how enterprises operate from within and how they interact and engage with customers — it is also redefining their entire business model.

Creation of Digital Products and Services

Consumers are now willing to pay not only for physical products and services, but also for digital ones. Technology is also enabling enterprises to augment their physical products and services with digital offerings. Some companies use digital technologies to promote and sell their physical products, while others are even able to build businesses around purely digital products and services.

Under Armour has developed a fitness app that captures not only its customers’ health and fitness information, but also data on how its customers use its products. Knowing that the average running shoe breaks down after 400 miles of running, Under Armour is able to notify customers and recommend its products based on their activity and fitness regimen.

Opening the Door to Globalization

Finally, technology has truly connected economies of all sizes and opened the door to globalization.

Technology has allowed enterprises to operate in any part of the globe by enabling faster communication and by establishing shared services for their support functions (such as finance and human resources) and even their core functions (such as sales and manufacturing).

Massive improvements and transparency in shipping and logistics, coupled with easier and greater access to shippers, extended trade from advanced economies and large multinational companies to developing countries, startups, small companies, and even individuals.

While the opportunities presented by globalization are providing an incentive for enterprises to transform digitally, the competition that globalization brings also compels them to change.

Digital Transformation Starts With Integration

Digital transformation enables organizations to open up new sales channels, find new markets and opportunities, increase revenues, and improve efficiency. But in order to begin their digital transformation journey, enterprises must start with connecting and managing data to ensure the highest quality of data is supplied to the enterprise — and only then can enterprises fully harness the business benefits of digital transformation.

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

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Tags: data transformation, data integration, globalization, big data analytics

Change in EDI is the Only Constant

Posted by Roger Curtis on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

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Photo appears courtesy of Gabriel Villena.  The only thing that is constant in EDI is change.  Coming up on 30 years in EDI I’m observing lots of change in my customer’s EDI.

Companies are moving to new VAN or adopting AS2 after sometimes decades on one of the older VANS. Along with that EDI IDs sometimes change. AS2 security certificates usually expire after 2 years.EDI software and ERP systems are updated, often with new user interfaces.

EDI standards are changing and companies are adopting new processes, documents or even moving to XML (they were worrying about that in the 1990s). And now more than ever EDI coordinators and programmers are retiring or moving on to hang up their hats and do something else.

One thing is often missing – good record keeping!!! This is a topic we have blogged about many times and it cannot be overstated.  Twice in the past few weeks I’ve encountered a changing of the guard at a customer's site where someone calls in a panic, “What’s our EDI ID?” or, “Our AS2 certificate is expiring, where’s the original?”  Also, “Where are the EDI guidelines for abc company?”  and, “Who’s the EDI coordinator at our big customer? Suzy coordinator has retired!!!”

Now more than ever, with all the change happening in our industry it is incredibly important to have a record, spreadsheet, database or Cloud storage of your EDI records with IDs, EDI Guidelines, AS2 certificates, software versions and a good contact list of who to call for help!!!  If you cannot put this together, find a company who can help you document all of this information.  Critical business processes depend heavily on EDI running smoothly so your success depends on that.

Have a great summer everyone, and document, document, document to support YOUR changing of the guard.

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Tags: ERP integration, electronic data interchange, EDI Consultant, EDI Documentation, EDI, Integration, EDI solution

EDI Communications Using AS2 or VAN

Posted by David McAlister on Fri, May 18, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

5645175542_fa12ab159f_zPicture appears courtesy of frankieleon. How many times have we gotten frustrated because the software on the computer or our phone changed with an update or upgrade, causing us to have to search for a function that once was so simple to find like changing the display characteristics on the computer?  Seems like it never ends - just when we think we know what we are doing in our golden years, we have to learn something new….real golden!  

According to book.bionumbers.org 100 million new red blood cells are created every minute and that the lifetime of these red blood cells is four months.  Thank God software does not have that kind of turnover!  That being said, every software package also has its own life cycle.  Those who have worked on myriad systems might run into a client that has carefully kept a system alive even when the current versions are far more advanced.  My intention is always to actively keep my clients’ software current while mitigating the risks that come with any change.  EDI software is the backbone of most companies’ customer base.  Knowing the old adage, the customer is always right, would lead one to believe keeping EDI software current would be their highest priority.  Never fails though, the penny pinching always seems to get in the way of making prudent decisions.

The largest value-add to my selling Liaison’s ECS (Electronic Commerce Server) as an EDI translator and communications package is the product’s ability to do AS2.  By its name it truly does so much more.  Commerce Suite by Liaison or Exchange CS is just one of those packages that has seen the end of its life.  Without further updates on the horizon, those needing to fulfill newer certificate requirements are no longer able to satisfy the requirements of their customers like SHA256.  The most convincing argument for me to a client prospect is the cost of using the Value-Added-Network (VAN) versus AS2 direct to their trading partners.  During the sales cycle we are able to show the client the payoff of Liaison’s ECS by the money they spend on VAN charges trading EDI.  In some cases the payoff is just a few years away. 

In these cases this is only icing on the cake due to so many features ECS offers to solve challenges within the enterprise integration environment.  A client never thinks they will use API integration until they decide to communicate with Amazon or UPS with these technologies.  Then the options are wide open for what they can do to satisfy future requirements.  For a techy like me, this kind of flexibility is exciting.  We have been doing installs now for more than 12 years in ECS and Delta and each implementation is as interesting and thrilling as it was that very first day.  Seeing all of the moving parts work together and knowing I am helping an organization reach its potential is its own reward.

As the news speaks of companies giving $5,000 down on a mortgage to come live in Grant County, Indiana, the news is real that unemployment is at an all time low.  Jobs are the last thing to come back in a down turn.  Is your software up-to-date and ready for the spike in the economy?  Are you sitting with your version of Commerce Suite waiting for the next customer to tell you to conform to their requirements in a short time? What will you do to be prepared and ready to satisfy your customers' requirements in short-order?  Give us a call so we can show you the real golden years!  McAna EDI has been in business for 22 years selling and supporting EDI and data integration solutions.

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Tags: EDI integration, data integration, communication, AS2, VAN Services, Integration

5 Things Your Boss Wants to Know About Data Integration

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

5780056202_385dcf8f95_zPhoto appears courtesy of Martin FischThis blog was written by Jim Gonzalez, an independent EDI consultant for the Aurora EDI Alliance.  I am often asked what the benefit is for Data Integration. Usually, the person asking is someone on a decision making panel who has the least amount of technical experience. Let’s provide some answers that can put your boss at ease and help you look to Data Integration as a positive change for your business.

  1. First and foremost, having integrated systems will free up time for anyone that is manually entering information. More time means other tasks can be taken care of without adding employee hours and therefore cost.  For example, one of my clients had five full-time Data Entry employees being paid to process Purchase Orders. The same amount of Purchase Orders, are now being processed through an automated system by ONE employee that monitors the Purchase Orders.
  2. Secondly, Data Integration eliminates user errors. You can set up systemic validation that can prevent users from keying in wrong information or from missing mandatory information.  Wrong information and/or missing information is the stuff of chargeback nightmares.
  3. Next, increase revenue and close new business. A lot of your customers (and potential customers) will want to see that your organization can handle things in a timely manner. Some of these big companies (think Walmart) count on their suppliers to operate 24/7. Through Data Integration we can construct a solution that is hands free and runs after business hours and holidays. Computers don’t require a break or time off.
  4. Further, unify your various systems in your company. You might have a Warehouse Management System (WMS) that doesn’t talk to your Accounting System. A well constructed Data Integration solution can communicate and share data between disparate systems to keep things moving seamlessly.
  5. Lastly, the four previous points all lead to one thing - MONEY!!! Data Integration will save you money and help you make vast financial strides.  More money means you have resources to invest back into your business whether it’s new employees, new equipment, or manufacturing.

If you ever find yourself looking to provide ROI (Return On Investment) for Data Integration, you need to look at all facets of your business. Start with areas that will have the most impact overall. Then move onto the pain points to get those alleviated.  Invest in your data and you will be investing in your future as a business.

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Tags: EDI integration, data integration, supply chain, ERP integration, wms

Blockchain in the Supply Chain: Starting Blocks for Success

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

Photo appears courtesy of Scott RobinsonThis week's blog was written by Aurora EDI Alliance partner, Karen Blood of GraceBlood LLC. You’ve seen the increasing drumbeat of sensational headlines about supply chain blockchain, for example:

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Yes, there’s plenty of excitement and cheering. And phrases like “game-changing” and “massive disruption.”  Reality check - beyond  the technology providers who will make buckets of money and besides the extraordinary effort being put forth in transportation and logistics by Maersk to grow their business, there truly are major and influential supply chain companies like AmerisourceBergen, Unilever and Walmart who have pilot projects well underway, as described in Walmart and 9 Food Giants Team Up on IBM Blockchain Plans.  Walmart has already filed a blockchain use-case patent application, according to this Digital Journal article.  Note that much of the supply chain effort to date has focused on package, pharmaceutical, and food with tracking and provenance pilot projects.

Blockchain technology is nascent and has many challenges to resolve before widespread adoption. While such certainly will not occur in 2018 for supply chain projects, it will happen more rapidly than one can now imagine. Furthermore, this writer believes the technology will be adopted and advanced for supply chain projects far more rapidly than for public financial transactions. See  Fundamental challenges with public blockchains for more on the latter and note how many of the challenges would be minimal for private blockchains.

So, what should the forward-thinking supply chain company be doing now to be better prepared to win the race? What about our current investments in technologies like EDI? How can we continue to best address these common inefficiencies in the supply chain while we’re still at the starting line?

  • lack of transparency due to inconsistent or unavailable data
  • high proportion of manual work
  • lack of interoperability between systems

While lack of transparency within a given company can be addressed by today’s properly used IT systems, the B2B architectures to support emerging supply chain visibility requirements are still evolving. This piece from Todd Margo of IBM, From EDI to Blockchain, does a good job of illustrating the unique transparency nature of the blockchain as compared with EDI and other point-to-point B2B. He says, “Events representing the exchange of B2B documents, for example, could be recorded on a blockchain, and made visible to all participants in a particular supply chain process…The actual exchange of B2B documents that occurs today can continue to operate as is, and a blockchain could simply provide a shared visibility. “

The Starting Blocks...

More than ever, the unchanging company is at risk for being left at the starting line or not being around for the finish. There’s plenty we can and must continue doing – here are our starting blocks:

  • We must document our visibility requirements for sourcing, fulfilling/manufacturing, transportation, and sales for all three kinds of business information – transactional, planning and unstructured.
  • If our worthy goal is to have the right business information in the right hands in the chain at the right time and to have the information flow as hands-free as possible, then we must understand exactly what we are doing today. Gap analysis of today’s processes as compared with our goal will clarify our work plan.
  • Armed with this documentation and understanding, we’re in excellent position to build out our digital supply chain by investing wisely in digital tools to obtain, use and deliver useful real-time data. This means real-time inventory and sales channel results, warehouse management, shipping system integration. It means moving as much transaction activity as possible from manual/email/fax/snail mail to EDI, EFT and APIs/web services. Check out the excellent “Four Steps to a Digital Supply Chain” section in this article from Supplychaing247.com by Bain & Company partners Sam Israelit, Peter Hanbury, Rodrigo Mayo & Thomas Kwasniok.

Along the path to digitization we will resolve many stakeholder integration and interoperability challenges such as data harmonization for items, including identification, units of measure and pricing; location management for warehouse slots, known delivery points, and drop ships; authorities and permission models for data access; meeting compliance requirements; and trading under the latest security initiatives.

Further, to hear the starting gun, you must stay informed about industry and consortium efforts built on blockchain technology. Remember, it took less than 15 years for the internet to disrupt the supply chain, it will take even less for the blockchain.

For basic blockchain information, this IBM article Blockchain basics: Intoduction to distributed ledgers is a great resource.

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Tags: supply chain, EDI, blockchain, logistics

Prioritizing EDI Tasks

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Mar 23, 2018 @ 05:10 PM

532076662_55fac597b9_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of R/DV/RS.  This blog was written by Kristen Kearns, Aurora's EDI Manager.  Ping! You hear your email and there’s another one of those “New Requirements” emails from one of your trading partners, Perfection Construction.  Yeah, yeah, I’ll look at it later.  You never get to it because you have Evan in Sales breathing down your neck about getting ABC Company up and running for EDI ASAP so they can place orders.  Wait a minute!  Did Evan put you in contact with ABC Company’s EDI department to get the specs?  Do we even know if we can do all of their documents and if we can meet their requirements?  Here comes Mary Jane from Accounts Receivable– what does she want?  She needs you to research Best Hardware as they are not paying their invoices.  Let me work on that now before the CFO starts yelling about lack of payments.

A month later, you get another email from Perfection Construction – oops, you never reviewed those new requirements and those revisions go live tomorrow!  Again, you stay late in the office missing your son’s baseball game because you have all these mapping changes to get in place and test in case you get orders tomorrow or have shipments.

What’s an EDI Analyst to do?  A couple of months ago, we had a blog on knowing your customer’s EDI guidelines (requirements) so now let’s talk about prioritizing workload and how those EDI requirements fit into that.

Maybe you’re the IT Director overseeing 5-10 people, maybe it’s just you and another person in the IT department, or maybe you’re on your own!  Regardless of your responsibility level, you first need to make a list of what needs to get done and delegate what you can.

To help you manage your EDI workload, here are five steps to prioritizing your tasks:

Make a list of all your EDI tasks:

  • Leave time for the unexpected issues.  This is probably the number one thing in EDI.  I cannot tell you how many times I think I’m going to work on a particular task, only to be blindsided by three emergencies.
  • Daily checking for errors, logs, etc. – do not forget this as a task.  Sometimes this might take ten minutes a day, sometimes two hours. Keep track of how long it takes you and give yourself an average a day allotment.
  • List all the open tasks that are current and put them in order of their due dates.

Identify Critical vs. Important vs. “when you can”:

  • Critical tasks might be chargeback issues, data failures, mapping modifications that prevent trading partners from receiving your documents correctly.
  • Important tasks might be EDI testing to be completed in the next month
  • When you can” tasks are things that need to be done, but do not fall into the other two categories.

Assess value

  • Following the above Critical tasks, getting chargebacks from a trading partner is negative revenue so it is in your best interest to take care of this immediately.
  • If you implement the trading partner for EDI, will it minimize keying orders into your ERP potentially with mistakes from human entry?  Do you have to email, fax or snail mail invoices?  That takes time and money.  Do you have to key online shipment information into a Web-portal?  If it’s lots of manual work with many orders, maybe this trading partner would be good to get on EDI ASAP.
  • If you do not get this trading partner up and running with EDI soon, could you lose their business to a competitor?

Order tasks by estimated effort.

  • Sometimes it is better to just get a quick task done right away.  Is it just a 5-minute mapping change?  It gets something off your list.  It’s good for your morale to have one less “thing” to do.  At least I feel that way.
  • Do you need to rewrite a big process of your ERP to fit in the needs of this trading partner?  Should you wait?  Or should you do it now because it potentially could be an issue for many more trading partners?

Know when to postpone or delegate to someone:

  • Does Emma from Customer Service keep asking you to check on the raw EDI data about a carrier code?  Why not give her the tools to do the job herself?  For example, in Liaison’s ECS software, you can set up a user to have read-only access. You could train her to go to Data Administrator and find the purchase order herself and look up the carrier code.
  • You do all the mapping, but can you train another person in the IT department?  Not only will you have another resource, you’ll also have a backup for emergencies, sick kids or vacations.  Do you really want to sign into the server when you’re supposed to be enjoying your vacation? 
  • Is this trading partner really important to get up and running?  Have sales do a review of their business with your company.  Do they do hundreds of orders a month or is it just a few a year?  Does the volume justify getting this done right now or can you postpone?  I had a client tell me a salesperson wanted this trading partner up on EDI ASAP. Come to find out in two years, they only had placed four orders worth $1,000.
  • Do you have an ERP upgrade coming up?  A server move?  Maybe all EDI changes and/or developments needs to be suspended until those situations are completed.
  • Lastly, have you reached out the trading partner to ask if you can have an extension?  I’ve found that most trading partners are willing to give you some more time.  They are usually understanding of time constraints.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you prioritize your EDI tasks.  The idea here is to work smarter rather than harder!  Of course, all these tasks can be handled by a good EDI service provider in a managed services scenario.  (wink wink)  Now get to your son’s baseball game…this might be the time he hits a home run. 

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Tags: EDI onboarding, EDI document, electronic data interchange, Liaison Delta/ECS, EDI Consultant, EDI Documentation, Managed Services, business processes

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.

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