Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 36 seconds

EDI Problems?

problemI just had a chance to look through the results of our recent survey on EDI costs. Some interesting responses were there, with not a lot of surprises.  I’m sure one of my fellow writers will provide a summary for the class. What really caught my attention, though, were the verbatim responses.

'Verbatims' are the free form texts that allow survey participants to expand on their answers.  Surprisingly, there were plenty of responses that seemed to follow the “we hate EDI, it’s awful and costly and we only use it because some big customer forces us to” theme. So, let me play devil’s advocate with those respondents.

As a former EDI leader at a big hub where doing EDI was a business requirement for our suppliers, I’d ask whether you pushed back or otherwise expressed your displeasure when the requirement was communicated.  If so, to whom? We onboarded hundreds of suppliers on both traditional EDI and the SPS platform over the past few years, and I can guarantee you that we received pushback daily.

Did it work?  Sometimes, but it wasn’t our call. In all cases, the supplier was given his buyer’s phone number and advised to discuss it with him. The requirement to ‘do EDI’ is, in almost all situations, a business decision. We had a process in place to direct someone who felt it wasn’t right to force them to use EDI to the right person who could discuss it with them.

The verbiage of the contract to supply products to a company typically carries the requirements to utilize EDI for business transactions. The best time to ‘push back’ is obviously before signing the contract. If the problem scenarios aren’t part of a contract situation, then it’s up to you to communicate your concerns and recommendations to your internal business partners.

Granted, in some cases it truly may not make sense to use EDI- an example in one of the responses was of low cost items being supplied and the EDI transactions costs were too high a percentage of the sale.  In that case, unless it’s contractually required, it makes good business sense for someone to have a discussion with your customer to negotiate an alternative.

It’s painful for me as a former EDI professional to hear negative comments about the process.  For those who have responded about their dissatisfaction, I’d like to ask if you had input into the contract process, if you’ve stated your case to your internal business partners, and if you’ve found the appropriate contacts in your customer’s organization to whom you can voice your opinion. Also, are you doing everything possible on your end to make the process cost-effective and operationally sound?

EDI works and is cost effective for most companies that use it, but if it doesn’t work for you and it affects your profitability, then it’s up to you to do something about it. The right path to take is on the business side of the equation.       

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