Why Do You Need an EDI Solution?
Consider the hundreds of pages you have to create and pile through every day in order to run your business. Consider all of the time it takes to interface all of these documents with other businesses and systems in order to keep moving forward. Are you as efficient as you need to be to succeed?
Manage Data with EDI
EDI solutions (Electronic Data Interchange) are designed to help you manage this massive amount of paperwork. The considerations for savings in time, potential errors from mistyped or incorrectly logged information, not to mention the impact on the environment—all of these are important considerations when you’re looking into an Edi solution for your business.
If your business model is based on having a series of processes that are labour intensive—yet completely necessary—in regards to a huge amount of work required to keep things running, then you will want to consider an EDI solution.
Manage Hundreds of Pages
One of the major benefits to an EDI solution is the automation of otherwise manual process of managing hundreds of pages of paperwork and documentation that would otherwise be done by a human agent. There is a great deal of work that goes into creating the documentation and pushing it through to the next stage, not to mention managing that documentation at the various links throughout the process. At every stage, there is the potential for errors, and these errors all limit your productivity and present potential cost.
If your business relies on paper documentation and needs to process hundreds of similar paper orders daily, an EDI system can save you considerable time and money. The other consideration is the savings in time by being able to take multiple steps out of your process.
There are various levels of EDI system integration; the system van be customized on the basis of how your company operates. It can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be.
Commport’s Integrated EDI solution can be scaled up or down depending on your needs. We have developed solutions for companies in various industries, including healthcare.
Why Do You Need EDI?
To answer the question of why you need an EDI solution, first you may want to ask yourself how much time and money you are spending on your current manual paper process. If the calculation of time and expense justifies the investment for migrating to an EDI solution, then it’s something you need to strongly consider.
Feel free to contact us to determine whether an EDI solution is right for you. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about our process, migrating systems, or EDI solutions in general.
What do you need to get started with EDI?
EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange. It can make life so much easier for large businesses that need to pile through hundreds of pages of reports, invoices and data. Sounds great—but what does your business need to get started with EDI?
Getting Started With EDI
First of all, determine the volume of paper transactions your company processes—this will help you determine how you will benefit from implementing an EDI solution.
If you have multiple documents that need attention from several agents throughout your process, and there is a large amount of data entry and document management required, then a streamlined EDI solution is for you.
The Origins of EDI
So what do you need to get started? First of all, lay out your process for handling documents from one side of the chain to the next. What is the process? Does it require a great amount of manual intervention? Think of how many places in the process where a human agent is necessary to move the process to the next stage.
Step 1: How much variation exists between documents
Think about how much variation exists between documents. Consider that with an EDI solution, there should be seamless migration from one system to another. The less human intervention required, the better the system will perform.
Step2: identify your internal network
Next, identify your internal network. What are you currently using to move your processes forward? How would you benefit from having an EDI solution in place? What would it replace? Have you considered the time and energy considerations for implementing an EDI solution?
Step3: Plan out your workflow
Once your documents have been brought to a certain level, how are they to be passed to the next stage?
Once you have identified these steps, you will be that much more prepared to integrate an EDI solution to manage a lot of the legwork currently going into your document tracking and submitting process.
Step4: Type of infrastructure you need
What type of infrastructure do you need to have in place? The great thing about modern EDI solutions (Commport offers several solutions, including EDI software solutions like CyberLiNK) you do not have to have more than an Internet connection and the proper software installed to make use of the many advantages of EDI.
The nature of Commport’s solutions is to apply optimum security right out of the gate, so you don’t even have to think about it.
Know Your Goals With EDI
The main thing to consider is that you identify the goal and purpose for integrating the EDI solution. Once you have that, integrating the physical system is made easy with Commport’s Integrated EDI solutions.
So really, all you need to ensure you are prepared for EDI is a requirement to save time and money in your document creating, compiling and submitting process.
Consider also that Commport has EDI Outsourcing solutions in place for you, so there’s no hassle involved in making Commport part of your document handling and processing solution. Contact us for more information today!
Who Uses EDI?
EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) refers to the process of exchanging information electronically. In many cases, it saves thousands of hours (and countless dollars) for businesses with scores of documents to complete and file.
Who uses EDI:
Here is the answer to the question who uses EDI? EDI has been used in the past primarily by automotive and retail businesses, however in the past few years, the format has been more widely adopted. Manufacturing, healthcare, pharmaceutical, utility and construction companies are good examples of EDI clients.
The Benefits of EDI
Basically, any type of business that deals with large amounts of identical paperwork/form data can directly benefit from adopting an EDI solution. The benefits over using a paper system are clear:
- immense savings in time
- significant cost savings
- reduced drain on resources overall
- reduced error rates in data transfer (we almost want to say 'eliminate' here!)
- improved security of data being transferred
- reliability - you can have confidence that data is reaching its destination
Plus, with electronic transfer of data, the likelihood of typographical errors decreases, as does the increase in time having to verify orders that have been filled out by someone with poor handwriting. It all adds up.
Security of information is critical. The adoption of EDI infrastructure is also largely due to the convenience and the security of EDI. EDI used over a VAN (Value Added Network) is an even more secure way to ensure the data is reaching its destination and is being managed properly.
A retailer attempting to implement a “just-in-time” inventory philosophy (that is, cutting down on overstocked inventory and replacing inventory in demand) would do well to implement an EDI solution.
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What We Do?
We provide EDI, VAN and GDSN Solutions
Explaining what Commport does isn’t the easiest or sexiest thing to try to express especially in an elevator pitch style conversation. Statements like “we provide EDI and data sync services” are most often met with a look of confusion and when we go home at night to our spouses, all they seem to understand is that we work with computers. (but doesn’t just about everyone these days?)
I was once coming home from a GS1 Standards Event and upon reaching customs I was faced with the standard re-entry questions… “You say you have been travelling for work, what do you do for work?” My go to response has always been “ecommerce” and this is usually enough detail to get me through, but not this time. The agent then looked at me and said “ecommerce is a very large field, can you elaborate”. Caught slightly off guard, I told him that I was attending a conference to “define the international standards for the electronic exchange of product catalogue information through a global distributed networ….” I didn’t even get to finish my sentence before his eyes glazed over and he just waved me through with a muttered “Welcome Home”.
So, what is it that we do at Commport? We provide value added EDI and GDSN data sync services. That’s great… but what does that mean? At our last staff holiday party, surrounded by our spouses, our COO gave a speech that for the first time, clarified how what we do affects every one of us on a day to day basis.
“We help to put food on the shelf at your local supermarket. We help to ensure that suppliers get paid. We help ensure that the product information that is made available to you as a consumer, is accurate and up to date – we help to make supply chains more efficient so that when you go to the store you can find the products and information about them that you need in order to make a purchase.”
For the first time ever, what we do here at Commport clicked for our spouses. We often get lost in the nitty gritty details of what we do day to day and sometimes fail to take a step back and appreciate the broader impact of what it is we do.
Sure, supply chains existed before EDI and data sync technologies and goods were made available at stores for consumers to purchase. However, retailers such as Walmart have famously leveraged technologies based around EDI and supplier communications to optimize their supply chain management techniques. In the case of Walmart specifically, this approach to its business is directly credited with helping to make it into the world’s largest retailer.
For a supply chain to be effective in today’s retail landscape, it takes collaboration with suppliers and the implementation of information technologies to get it right. Using this approach, retailers are able to optimize their inventory, turns, warehouse management techniques and vendor payment schedule while suppliers are able to provide timelier logistics services, accurate information regarding product availability, and electronic invoices.
Putting EDI and data sync technologies into practice is beneficial for both the supplier and the retailer organizations, but the real win is dealt to the consumer who is able to find the products they are looking for, the information they need and with those, is able make the purchase that is right for them.
Enabling that is what we do at Commport, every day.
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What is Community Enablement?
From an ecommerce perspective, Community Enablement is a recognition that in order for a supply chain to be improved through the use of technologies such as EDI and GDSN, there must be a defined program for participants to follow and that the large majority of participants in the supply chain must be on board with the program.
Most programs leverage standardization as their first goal. Logic and practice dictate that if an organization can standardize its processes, data requirements and ways of doing business, they are in a better position to focus on driving their business forward, rather than expending energy and resources trying to remember or manage the intricacies of each relationship.
The use of both EDI and Global Data Synchronization is a terrific starting point in terms of technology. Over the years centralized organizations known as Standards Bodies have worked with industry to develop data standards to support standardized usage and interpretations. For EDI here in North America, the prevalent Standards Body is a group known as American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Committee X12 – lending their name to the EDI data standard ANSI X12. For Global Data Synchronization the Global Standards Body is known as GS1.
One important distinction that needs to be made is that the standards body creates data standards in consultation with all potential users and industries. This means that the data standards are usually much larger in scope than any one supply chain or organization requires. As a result, subsets also known as implementations or implementation guides are created to express how an individual supply chain or organization will leverage the standards for their own use..
From an implementation perspective, communities can be best visually thought about as gears in a machine. In this concept each organization is its own cogwheel with its trading partners; suppliers, customers, warehouses, brokers and distributors; all cogs. When the cogwheel turns and all the cogs turn with it, everything in the machine functions at its best… however, if one of the cogs is missing or is not the right size, the efficient workings of the entire machine are at risk.
In my analogy, the program (EDI or data sync) is the design of the ideal machine. The cogwheel is the organization for whom the program was designed; while the individual cogs represent the partners that need to be shaped to fit into the machine in order for the whole thing to function. This is where Community Enablement comes in.
Community Enablement works within the framework of the program to help each of the cogs to understand the program and how they fit into it and then to provide solutions and support that enable them to do so.
The services that are provided as a part of a Community Enablement program include (but are not limited to): project management, initial and follow up contact, data collection, education/training, testing, implementation and reporting.
As I said when I wrote my Linkedin profile “Every organization plays a part of their own supply chain communities. In order to realize the full benefits of data integration services, communities need to adopt the technology en masse so that each member of the community can achieve the potential benefits.” Any organization that has a need to improve how their machine is working for them can benefit from a Community Enablement approach.
Ready to find out more?
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Which EDI Solution is Best for You?
10 Step by Step Guide To Find The Best EDI Solution Provider
So, you’re a manufacturer or supplier of goods. It could be tomatoes, it could be tires, it could be school textbooks...let’s just lump it all together as 'widgets'.
As you’ve probably already discovered, producing or sourcing those widgets is just the start. Now you’ve got to get them into an environment where they can be sold to an end user.
Electronic Data Interchange Explained
To accomplish this, there’s a lot of data and documentation that must be exchanged between you and a retailer. From Orders and Invoices to Remittance Advices and Advance Ship Notices, there are hundreds of business documents that can be exchanged between trading partners. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) has become the preferred method of exchanging this data between B2B buyers and sellers.
In simplest terms, EDI is a data pipeline that’s established between a supplier and a retailer, and data needs to flow in both directions. The aforementioned business documents flow from buyer to seller. Other data, such as standing inventory levels, sales reports, purchase orders, invoices and many other pieces of information flow from the seller to the buyer. In today’s Just-In-Time (JIT) retail environment, many retailers will only deal with suppliers who can provide data via EDI, and suppliers with any kind of sales volume generally find transmitting data via EDI solves a lot of internal data management headaches. But how do you choose the EDI solution that’s best for your business?
Choose The Right EDI Solution
There are currently about 150 different EDI providers doing business in North America. Yes, that’s well over 100 possible solutions to your needs! It is important to choose the right EDI solution provider because they will truly become a partner in your business, acting as a liaison between you and your trading partners, facilitating the daily communication of business documents.
Deciding which one’s best could be a pretty daunting task, but everything starts to become a little clearer if you follow these selection criteria to narrow down the EDI provider field:
10 Step by Step Guide To Find The Best EDI Solution Provider
1) Determine the Specific EDI Needs of Your Business
Where are you now? And where do you want to be in 5-10 years? Do you want to play with the big, big boys on an international mass retail scale or are your goals more niche market and regional? Answering these questions will help to hone in on the extent of your future data management requirements and the levels of EDI transaction volume you’ll likely have. Not every EDI partner will be able to scale up (or down!) to meet your current and future demands.
2) Stability of the EDI Partner
A lot of these are the same questions you’d ask when screening any service provider. How long have you been in business? What sort of environment (office) do you have? Tell me about your data security standards? What is your system uptime record? If you’re not a techie, you may not understand all the jargon but at least you’ll have it to compare and ask those who do know.
3) How Accessible is Your EDI Partner when You Need Them?
The geography of your EDI partner is an interesting point. Yes, EDI operates in the same fashion as the internet. Yes, data can be transferred from one side of the world to the other in a flash. So, technically, the location of an EDI partner’s offices shouldn’t matter. But what if you need tech support or operational help? A partner located three time zones away may not be available when you need them. At a minimum, find out about a provider’s customer support policy and hours of operation.
4) Industry-Specific EDI Partners
Some EDI providers focus on very specific industries, product lines or even individual retail chains. Their entire business is based on servicing that niche and they’ve become very effective at dealing with the nuances involved. They can be a fantastic partner if you’re actually in their target industry but they probably won’t do business with you if you’re not.
5) EDI Scalability
As mentioned in the first point, some EDI providers focus exclusively on SME suppliers who only deal at a regional level, while others will only partner with high volume, international suppliers. Only about 25% have the scalability in their platform to effectively do both. Keep this in mind if you’re starting small but have plans for world domination.
6) References/Testimonials for Your Selected EDI Partner
Just as if you were hiring a builder, accountant or any other specialist, ask for a list of current clients to whom you can actually speak. And don’t accept a “no” on this request. Get their opinion on the platform’s usability, stability and functionality, as well as the partner’s customer service.
7) EDI Suggestions from Retailers
While they’re often hesitant to hand out pure recommendations, the retailers you are, or are aspiring to, deal with often have lists of EDI partners they know of or have worked with in the past. Conversely, while retailers may be able to make some recommendations, they may just be comfortable with their current provider and not realize that there are better options available. As a result, it is probably best to seek out additional recommendations as well.
8) Value Added Network (VAN)
A Value Added Network (VAN) is the system of gateways, switches and routers that connects the EDI data sender with the receiver. While there are about 150 EDI partners in North America, only a few manage their own VANs. Those that do are somewhat akin to suppliers who not only offers the phones (the EDI software) but also control the phone lines (VAN), as well. Providers that do not have their own VAN have to buy capacity on other providers’ networks. EDI partners with their own VAN have total control over transmission routing, system stability, data security and other integrity issues. Aligning with a partner that controls their own VAN goes a long way toward ensure your EDI functionality will always be there when you need it.
9) Does the EDI Partner Offer GDSN Compliant Services?
Compliance with the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) is an emerging trend in supply chain management. Basically, the GDSN is a set of worldwide data formatting standards created to ensure there’s a common structure used by the thousands of buyers and sellers sending EDI data around the globe. Most large, international retailers now mandate that their suppliers be GDSN compliant, and it will become the industry standard over the next decade. If you want stay ahead of the curve, partner up with an EDI partner who’s already a GDSN certified data pool provider. There are only two in North America right now and they are on the leading edge of the future.
10) Software as a Service (SaaS) EDI Solutions
Do you want your EDI software and database to be hosted on your own internal computers or stored remotely and accessed anytime you need them via the internet? If you chose the latter, you need to source out an EDI partner who offers a SaaS EDI solution. You may have heard of Software as a Service (SaaS) and its close relative, “cloud” computing. Right now, about 50% of North American EDI providers offer a SaaS-based EDI platform. Because SaaS platforms are hosted remotely, they require no IT support from your end, no additional hardware, and can be accessed from anywhere there’s an internet connection. Plus, if your computers go down for any reason, your data is backed up and available on the partner’s servers. The entire software industry is slowly heading in this direction so, again, if you want to be ahead of curve and ready for the future, a web-based SaaS solution is the way to go.
Find out if Commport Communications is the right EDI partner for you! Contact us today for more information.
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AURORA, ONTARIO FEBRUARY 19, 2015:
Commport Communications International, Inc. announced today that it has reached an agreement with Prodigo Solutions to become the licensed reseller of its Healthcare Marketplace and related technologies in Canada.
Prodigo Solutions is a healthcare transformation company that improves provider financial control and reduces supply chain costs through pay for performance solutions made possible by people, process and technology. Prodigo Solutions’ savings technology has been developed by healthcare supply chain experts to deliver tangible results across a continuum of care.
Commport, already a leader in the Healthcare solutions market by providing digital solutions to reduce costs and improve efficiencies, such as EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and GDSN services, is excited about adding additional content services to its portfolio. The Prodigo Solutions Marketplace provides a cloud based entry point for Healthcare Providers, large and small, individual and groups to move quickly to the efficient frontier of supply chain management.
“A recent review of Healthcare Providers and their Suppliers across Canada showed that an unsustainable number of purchase orders from the Providers contain errors,” stated Dave Ralph, President of Commport, “errors are a costly issue for any organization to manage and in healthcare they also introduce potential patient safety risks.”
Suppliers across the country suggest that error rates are as high as 60% in some situations and that the majority of the errors are related to inaccurate or out of date product information. Errors of this nature in an automated system can inflate the order processing costs of both parties combined by as much as 10,000% due to the manual investigative follow up required.
One provincial Health group estimates overall savings of several hundreds of millions of dollars is possible by implementing a better procurement process, based upon high quality, accurate product data and other content controls such as the Prodigo Healthcare Marketplace.
“The GDSN is the only single true-source of product data and only the GDSN can provide global continuously cleansed data in a timely and accurate manner,” added Mr. Ralph, “with a very high percentage of Healthcare products coming from other countries, a global reach is extremely important.” As a GDSN certified data pool, Commport is uniquely positioned to tie product information, buying processes and data carriage services into a single package for healthcare supply chain management in Canada.
“Helping healthcare providers identify and drive substantial supply chain cost savings is our sole focus at Prodigo Solutions. By partnering with Commport as a Reseller, we can extend our value proposition to Canadian providers,” said Michael DeLuca, executive vice president of Technology and Client Services at Prodigo Solutions, Inc. “We chose to expand our business with a partner like Commport because the company not only understands the Canadian healthcare system well, but also has deep relationships within the provincial health authorities and at the hospital level.”
Commport plans an aggressive promotional effort to ensure that all Healthcare Providers have an opportunity to investigate this leading edge technology.
Prodigo Solutions is a healthcare supply chain focused company helping providers gain control of supply chain spend through contract compliance and automation. Powered by a proven, cloud-based technology, Prodigo’s suite of solutions delivers cost savings to leading U.S. health systems, including 4 of the top 15 US News & World Report Honor Roll hospitals. For more information, visit ProdigoSolutions.com.
See the Press Release here
The Target Canada story
As a Commport professional, I have always maintained that EDI is not really an IT function, rather it is a business function. Doing B2B EDI and/or Global Data Synch effectively, means leveraging technology and international standards to efficiently reflect an organization’s business processes and intellectual property related to organizational data.
Throughout my life I have been exposed to many business and economic trends and opportunities as well as the ensuing successes and failures. I have to admit that almost nothing makes me more excited than ramping up for that next big, business opportunity… That is unless it fails… and then the failure becomes even more interesting. When flawed processes meet business failures, I am captivated.
As a consumer, I lamented the shuttering of my local Zellers store. I waited and watched for months as the excitement of Target coming to Canada built and as I desperately tried to sneak peeks through the paper covered doors as they renovated. I had shopped at Target stores in the U.S. so, like many Canadians, I eagerly awaited the hyped up new Canadian retail option.
And then I went to work.
In my professional life the Target Canada experience was something else. At the beginning Target Canada so thoroughly committed to the use of EDI with its vendors that it would only source product from vendors that already had EDI capabilities and experience. Vendors were led through a process to prove their capabilities and incurred configuration costs to do so. They weighed the fees against the promised opportunity of the anticipated success of Target Canada and took the plunge. In the end, a number of the vendors I worked with entered into this process and incurred the costs, only to receive confirmation part way through that they wouldn’t be selected as a supplier to Target.
Those that were selected were identified and began receiving orders. After all the systems set up and testing were performed and even after the first set of orders, suppliers to Target Canada were subjected to seemingly constant uncommunicated system changes that would only be discovered after transactions were exchanged. By then it was too late to update the system at Target Canada, so the supplier was locked into working in “as-is” conditions with the data on hand.
Without getting too deep into the technical details, a retailer’s business system is the life blood of the organization. It supports the business processes and supports the operations. If the data contained within the systems is wrong, for any reason, the results can be disastrous, especially when the users have been trained to rely on the system. Based on my experience, this explains a lot of what went wrong at Target Canada.
In May 2014 Reuters published the article Exclusive: Target Canada’s supply chain gridlock: how Barbie SUVs snarled traffic in which the authors talk about mismatches between expected quantities and actual received quantities and about problems with barcodes not matching what was in the computer system. They mention a source who reports “As goods arrived at the warehouses, workers found errors, 12 shirts per box when the computer system expected 24”.
In those early Target Canada days I remember working with suppliers who received orders where the quantities being requested by Target didn’t match the physical reality of the product configurations. The vendors I worked with would contact Target and warn of the issues only to be told that what was in the system is what they intended to order, so the vendor must be incorrect. Or worse, when push came to shove after repeated attempts to submit EDI shipping notifications, some suppliers were told to fudge their data so that it matched what was in the Target systems and then ship the product and that it would be dealt with at the warehouse. Invalid quantities combined with unresolvable barcodes are a recipe for a disaster in any warehouse that is intended to utilize mostly automated receiving, with far reaching implications for the rest of the supply chain. The bottom line is that inventory that doesn’t move through the warehouse efficiently, isn’t available to the store to be stocked, causing customers to be met with empty shelves and ultimately a disappointing shopping experience.
To me, these two contributing factors speak loudly to a significant mismanagement of the product catalogue data within the Target Canada systems. There are a number of root causes and potential approaches to fix these issues and I expect that the root causes will continue to be examined for years to come.
As for fixing the problems, well it seems, that just won’t be necessary.