Six EDI Hassles You Never Have to Face Again

Six EDI Hassles You Never Have to Face Again

By Howard W. Sabrin, executive vice president. I recently got off a one hour call with an EDI (electronic data interchange) veteran, discussing his experiences with the venerable data sharing format. EDI has been around since the ‘60s, and for some purposes it’s absolutely the way to go. But hearing the questions this EDI user asked made me realize how much extra work EDI customers are doing, especially if all they need to do is share relational databases. Folks who’ve been using EDI for years may not realize how much of the work that costs extra time and dollars in EDI is handled automatically by relational databases. Here are six quick examples of EDI hassles you can avoid, without damage to your business, through direct database sharing. Converting data to a standardized EDI form on the sending end, and converting it back to a form the recipient’s systems can use. If you’re sharing relational databases, all both sides need to do is agree on a common database design (e.g. tables, columns, data types). Since all work is done within the database, there’s no need to get network, security, firewall, or software development staff involved. If any data must be pre- or post-processed, it can be done using standard database tools by your database staff. Avoiding duplicate entries and other data integrity issues. Database transaction processing capabilities prevents data from being written unless it can be written without error and repeat data writes until they are successful. Each data entry is tagged with a unique identifier set, preventing the same data from being entered repeatedly. No further coding or other work with specific EDI formats is required. Creating an audit trail to assure no loss or corruption of data. Using familiar database queries, the source and destination data can easily be compared to the last byte to assure integrity. Unlike EDI systems where transactions must be tracked through multiple components, the results of these simple queries serve as your audit trail. Integration with ERP and CRM systems. Since many of these systems are built on relational databases, business data from one partner’s database platform can be transferred directly and securely over the Web to another partner’s database. No integration or reformatting of data to match specific EDI formats work is required. Agreeing on, and implementing, common security protocols. DataPortal uses secure Web protocols (e.g. HTTPS) and has layers of password...

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The Agility Tax: The Hidden Price of EDI

The Agility Tax: The Hidden Price of EDI

If you’re a large manufacturer and need access to a rich Web of suppliers — or a supplier looking to sell to a major manufacturer — you know the critical importance of keeping your costs down. But you also know that one cost that can damage your business the most is not being able to share databases quickly enough to take advantage of a new opportunity. This agility tax kicks in when, say, an auto parts manufacturer finds itself short of a specialty heat-treated connector due to a burst in sales or an earthquake near their overseas supplier. If its IT systems can’t easily share the databases of production forecasts and parts it needs with potential new suppliers, production will stop and it will lose sales to its competitors. The same is obviously true for potential new suppliers, who may be able to beat the incumbent on price or quality, but can’t bid for the business because it would take too long to share the required databases. EDI: Right Answer, Wrong Problem Often, the legacy system standing in the way of new business opportunities like these is EDI (electronic data interchange.) Most major manufacturers, suppliers, shippers and retailers (not to mention government agencies) have used EDI for decades to eliminate the use of paper in common business transactions. Despite its name, EDI was designed not to share data in the form of relational databases, but to share standard business forms such as purchase orders, invoices, shipping notices and carrier-to-carrier waybills. It does a good enough job of solving that problem, assuming you and your business partner have enough volume to justify its expense and complexity. But if you need to add new business partners quickly – say, in the wake of a strike, natural or man-made disaster that takes a key supplier offline – EDI is not a good way to quickly share relational databases containing the production and order data you need to ramp up quickly. To know why, it helps to understand what it takes to implement EDI. EDI Under the Covers EDI is a software interface that sits between the different computer systems, and the different data structures, used by the sender and receiver’s systems. That means both parties must buy, configure and maintain EDI software to convert the sender’s form or data into a standard EDI transaction, and to convert the form into a format...

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