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Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

What capabilities differentiate the various EDI companies?

In technology on September 30, 2009 at 9:44 am

There are two parts to EDI,

  1. Message transmission, and
  2. getting the right things in the message.

Like most things in software, most systems do a reasonably good job of transmitting messages, and there is a bit of variation between systems in the ability to translate between different message formats.

MESSAGE TRANSMISSION
Most ERP vendors have their own message standards e.g. SAP iDoc, Oracle OAG XML etc.

There are then EDI/Vendor Neutral Standards

e.g.EDI
ANSI X12
Tradacom
EDIFACT

or XML
BASDA XML
cXML
UBL
etc

You need to check that your provider supports the various standards required to communicate with all your customers.

There are a few different business models:-

Software solutions such as Webmethods or Microsoft biztalk etc. These say they can translate anything from anything to anything. Unfortunately they often do not work as advertised. e.g. BizTalk had problems with cXML, and one customer with WebMethods was unable to set up their test system and so had to test everything on live, which handled all their WalMart transactions.

Integration services, where someone carries out the integrations on your behalf to all your partners. This is our business model, and I think it is better because
a) We charge less then the licence fees for gateways,
b) We already have live integrations to a large number of parties,
c) Plenty of experience of adding on additional integrations.

GETTING THE RIGHT THINGS IN THE MESSAGE
We were running one of the top 10 EDI sites over 10 years ago, so getting the messages right (for us) has always been easy, and we were surprised when some people had difficulty with routing and translating messages.

Getting the correct parts, and pricing into the messages is a completely different problem, and this has been our focus for the past 10 years. It is straight forward for an MRP system, that has a few hundred parts. It is challenging as soon as you get into 10’s of thousands of items and a serious exercise once you get over 100,000 items.

We have a single customer that has over 500,000 items under contract with suppliers. This is the UK National Health Service, and we are providing the top health suppliers, with e-commerce systems so that they can maintain all of their products, pictures and descriptions.

As the volume of information expands, the quality needs to improve so that buyers and see items that they buy infrequently and purchase the correct item.

Our focus for the past 10 years has been the correct item at the correct discounted price, with the correct carriage/delivery charges, and any configuration information(business cards, hearing aids etc).

Automating the flow of this information into a suppliers system removes most of the causes of returns and ordering errors.

We then flow back the delivery information to the supplier, so that they are aware of any disputes up front, and can send back an accurate invoice that covers the goods or service that has actually been delivered.

There are lots of other messages that can be exchanged, but the initial focus must be on accurate orders and invoices, since this removes the most waste from the process.

BEYOND EDI

There is a lot of stuff around getting quotes and ordering services, along with small business adoption so that you can have a 100% solution.

We have developed an integrated Web Development environment (Cloud Development Platform), so that it is quick to add in any bespoke applications that are required for customers. e.g. a Domiciliary Care Portal for social services, along with an integration tool kit for most common web languages so that it is easy to add in any existing applications to the process.

KEY DIFFERENTIATOR
After writing our EDI systems in the 90’s, we came back at the problem from the opposite direction by creating a business directory, and writing e-commerce sites for suppliers (which have correct price, delivery etc).

This started as a post on one of the supply chain groups in linked-in answering the above question.

Technology plus ça change plus c’est la même chose

In technology on September 10, 2009 at 5:23 pm

This is a quick response to an article http://www.digitaltonto.com/archives/124  about 3 trends that will change the world over the next decade (NOT).

Unlimited Bandwidth, Quantum computing, synergies between technologies and appliances

About 25 years ago my research topic was point contact Josephson junctions. The basis for quantum computing. It may be a little longer. However the technology will continue to advance even if quantum computing, and room temperature superconductors are not yet available.

 

However, the big issue is use of technology by people and business, about 15 years ago we were signing up organisations to electronic data interchange (EDI), and B2B transactions have not yet moved on very far.

We have around 1 million people that have purchased electronically through our network (http://www.uk-plc.net), and are still struggling to get full take up by public sector bodies. It is possible to purchase everything electronically and do away with paper. However, the change over has now taken 20 years and counting.

By contrast startups in the UK are now almost all created electronically and we have formed around 200,000 companies.

So individuals and small businesses are leading the way as usual, and we need to help large organisations to make the change into an electronic age.