What is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)? In a much simpler five words or less definition, it means “data in, data out”. EDI is a toolset that interacts with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) business software system that takes data coming into the EDI system, processes that data in the ERP, and sends that data back out to the originator (like a customer). You would think that a process which can be explained in only four words would be pretty simple, right? And it can be, if the proper care and attention is given to the EDI’s initial setup and further EDI strategy.
If a customer’s purchase order sent via EDI is being processed and has an incorrect date, or is completely missing a cell’s data, a simple mapping adjustment can be made to correct these sorts of issues. How can you ensure that your customer’s purchase orders are processed into your system correctly, if that attention to detail is not done? How can you be sure the pricing on your sales orders and the invoices that are generated are correct if your price lists are not correctly setup in your ERP system?
The EDI strategy and process is a digital mirror of how your system is currently setup and will reflect your strengths and faults back to your customers and suppliers. Think of EDI as a linked chain and your business is a boat being pulled along by a truck, which represents your customers or suppliers. If all the links are solid, that truck will pull that boat forever always getting to the desired destination, but if there is a broken link, the chain will start to fail and eventually break, allowing that truck to continue driving but it leaves the boat behind stranded in the middle of nowhere. To avoid being stranded and left behind, make sure that your chain is strong and durable by taking time setting up the ERP data properly, the EDI mapping, and running many tests before going live with customers. With the proper care and attention to your EDI solution it will not matter how large that boat or truck gets. Your chain will not break, it can handle it. Now ask yourself this, is your chain strong and durable enough? Or could there be some broken links you may or may not even know about?
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How many ways can you find to help your customers want to do business with your organization? It does not always come to down to the lowest price but how easy your organization provides them with the tools or application such as “ B2B eCommerce” or as some know it as “Storefront” Finding new customers or keeping an existing customer takes effort from sales, customer service, manufacturing\distributing, shipping and lastly your finance department.
B2B eCommerce\Storefront\Customer Portal\ can pave the way…you can start out gradual …Give your customers access to all of their orders – open or closed, checking on the status of that open order to see if their items have shipped or maybe they want to see status of their invoices, or request a quote or a RMA – Return Material Authorization. They can do this 24×7 without your customer service department being available. What about having your customers look up the status of products such as availability or price? What if they could see details about that product that they would normally call customer service or maybe their sales rep? Next step is to make the product available for your customers to place an order…how easy can that be?
There are many ecommerce platforms out there that say they can do this…but can they really provide all of the information in real time to an ERP system? Check out Epicor Storefront powered by Parttrap or Parttrap Business One.
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