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Integration in the B2B World
Let’s have some fun with math. What EDI translator does your company use? For that matter, what ERP, 3PL, or other service is on your short list? Next, how many trading partners do you have? And finally, what EDI, ERP, and other electronic systems do they use? It doesn’t really matter whether you have the answers to these questions. What you would get even if you use the smallest estimates available is a very large number of permutations. How is it possible then to maintain compatibility and also keep up with the accelerated pace of today’s supply chain?
Fortunately translating one trading partner’s EDI transactions into the formats your company uses is controllable. That’s not to say it’s simple and doesn’t require constant attention, but the tools have been honed to the point that daily operations move ahead without too much problem. But the processes still need handholding and manual intervention to assure every document processes correctly.
That’s fine for the external transaction exchange process. But today’s pace of business more often requires information that’s held within the company’s ERP. Information like quantities on hand in inventory, manufacturer pipeline timing, advanced cost analysis, and all the things that go toward making your products available to your customers.
Traditionally the link between your internal systems has been handled by batch processes, spreadsheets, and even manual data entry. But as customer orders become increasingly demanding those delays are costing more. They cost more in terms of canceled orders, dissatisfied customers, or increased employee hours. That’s because of the disconnect between your internal systems.
One factor contributing to the increased pressure to have direct connections between your information sources is the explosion of the omni-channel market. Customers now expect to make their purchases whenever and wherever they like, and to have those products delivered to them in hours rather than days. That means making accurate inventory information available from your own warehouses and being able to drop-ship directly to the customer. This may not be the case for every order but if your company isn’t prepared to handle the process, even one order will cause tremendous delays.
Making data instantly available is a big issue but fortunately doesn’t present the technological hurdle it once did. Most ERP systems can be directly integrated with EDI and other processes so that the data exchange is transparent and doesn’t require manual processing or even batch transfers. The key to getting your systems integrated is to find the EDI systems provider that already supports the systems you use and can implement their already available technologies quickly and easily. Be sure to check their capabilities and their history, but make this move sooner rather than later and get ahead of the curve if you are not already struggling from lack of integration.