Processing the order is just the first step in the getting products to their markets. Some will say that getting the order to the loading dock is the easy part while moving it to its final destination has become increasingly complex. If you’re running in-house EDI systems you already know that it isn’t the truck that is the issue but tracking the order through the chain of events between docks.
Making the connection between customer and supplier is complex enough, but is generally a single event that once tested continues to work reliably. Adding multiple carriers and warehouses along the path of delivery can not only be more complex, but includes time constraints that make connections more critical. Having a VAN in the middle of the process can take a large portion of the pain out of the process while also providing additional visibility along the way.
One of the things a VAN can provide is a managed approach to both connections and delivery. Configuring protocols (e.g. AS2) can take significant time and effort. That’s time that internal staff could be devoting to other projects. But the point is that a VAN can be a good alternative to full outsourcing. It keeps the operations internal while bringing full support to the communication and connection functions.
As supply chain connections become more complex with additional carriers, DCs, and omnichannel options, having full visibility at all times is not only more important, but also more difficult. Electronic connections need to be managed on a 24/7 schedule, but more importantly anomalies in scheduled events need to be detected, announced and resolved immediately before schedules deteriorate and orders get delayed. While in-house systems can be monitored remotely, once they have completed their EDI document processing they are mostly uninvolved in the chain of events that get the products to their eventual goals. It’s more typically the communication networks that are in charge at that point.
One of the main responsibilities of a VAN (in addition to providing connectivity) is to monitor the health of the network and communications between trading partners. When issues arise that impact those communications, the dedicated resources of the VAN kick in to fix what is broken and get things back on track. Most of the time issues are resolved before the VAN’s clients are even aware of them, and are only noticed when the trading partner checks their online dashboard and sees the error/resolution report as an historical event.
Keeping the supply chain flowing takes resources and attention to detail. VANs are positioned to provide exactly that.