Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

That Darn UOM Problem

thumb UOM image 1I’ve made a lot of friends in my consulting travels, some of whom keep in touch by running various business problems by me. I received a note from one of my old contacts the other day that read like this:

“Dear Cecil,
Unmatched invoices are driving me up the wall! Since you left us, we started doing EDI with our biggest (by order count, anyway) MRO supplier a few months ago. We began with just 850s, but then our AP folks got the bright idea that we should let them EDI bill us, too. Sounded reasonable, so we contacted the vendor, went through a short test, and KA-BOOM! The whole thing blew up. We make about 10 buys a day from these guys, and now I have a couple hundred invoices in our ‘rejected’ queue.
UOM image 1
I had Tom take a look through them, and the line totals and invoice totals are generally OK, but the units of measure are off. For example, we sent them an order for 12 cartons (CT) of filters and they send me an invoice with 12 EA on it. Tom went through a sample of about 25 of them and that’s the problem with every single one.

I called their local store and talked to the manager- she said there’s nothing she can do but referred me to their EDI department over in Dallas. They pretty much said the same thing. They have lots of customers and too many products, so they can’t keep a cross reference for every partner. Our problem is that we buy lots of MRO items from lots of distributors and we can’t build cross references on our end either. This wasn’t an issue before we went EDI on the invoicing since Helen in AP would just approve invoices if the totals matched.
UOM image 2
What the heck can we do about this, short of going back to paper invoices? If you can help me with a good fix, I promise to delete that video of your karaoke ‘performance’ from your last visit here off my IPhone for good!”

Geez, I can’t afford to have that video get out on YouTube….my reputation would be ruined! So, here are some options I want to propose:

  • Return to manual invoicing.


  • Turn off the UOM validation, if possible.


  • Ask your partner to fix it with some tricky programming mapping if you send the PO EDI (ie. save it in a text field that will end up in the EDI data, then map it accordingly on your end).


  • Build a limited cross reference on the most popular items. You may have a number of repetitive-buy parts that would be pretty easy to manage that could eliminate a lot of errors.


  • If none of the above works, figure out a really efficient way to process your error queue and determine whether it’s better or worse than manual invoices.
UOM image 3
Can you think of any other approaches? I absolutely can’t let that video get out!
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