ONE LINK TO A UNIVERSE OF OPPORTUNITY
Don Green, ERP Manager for the Ewie Group of Companies (EGC), has been on a decades-long mission to maximize the automation of business processes. When EDI integration with ERP systems first became possible, he saw the great potential, but he also had to contend with the shortcomings. For instance, transactions involving automatic sourcing always required human intervention to complete. Being unable to automate all the steps from order placement to drop shipment—especially when 90% of your inventory is drop shipped—represented a significant limitation. These orders were all diverted into a manual workflow as quotes that a worker had to complete. This extra handling pulled employees away from other tasks and led to slower, more error-prone processing. The result was higher costs, coupled with customer service that was less than ideal.
Green spent countless hours on programming workarounds and ERP extensions to automate the many exceptions. At the time, his only option was to hard code the necessary information and write directly to the database. Although the method worked, it was time consuming, not cost effective, and not scalable. With the custom programming also tied to a particular database, it wasn’t designed to be repurposed or to leverage new technologies and innovations.
As a vendor and technology solutions provider for the manufacturing industry, EGC is always searching for new ways to lower costs, create efficiencies, and offer the highest level of customer service. The extensibility Green made possible with his programming expertise was much needed, but he realized it was no longer the best way to meet these objectives.
The right partnership made the solution simple, yet powerful. Green shifted the transaction processing over to UniLink, a leading EDI service provider. While building the connections to each trading partner’s system, UniLink embedded Green’s ERP customizations directly into the maps. These UniLink Smart Maps now contain all the business logic to mimic the extensibility to handle a customer’s order, verify it as a drop shipment, and automatically create the sales order and PO, without any human involvement.
The data is the same as before, but today UniLink now sends it in the Business Object Document (BOD) format, which is how Infor exchanges information across its platforms. This compatibility with the Infor OS cloud-ready environment opens up many opportunities for Green to build valuable new functionality for customers.
This company’s entire customer invoicing process was manual, primarily because they had to deal with frequently returned items due to spoilage and other issues common with fresh goods. Every invoice was hand delivered to the customer at the time of delivery, with all rejections and inventory changes noted on the invoice.
At the end of each week, employees scanned the invoices into an archival system, but inventory and credit adjustments were not updated at the same time. The number of daily invoice changes created a growing problem for managing customer credits, especially with having to communicate these changes to customers.
Each quarter, the sales reps would meet with their customers and go through all outstanding credits. They would literally throw the paper invoices and credit memos on a large table and try to reconcile them with the customer. With such long delays between delivery and reconciliation, this was often an impossible task. In some cases, they owed their customers thousands of dollars in credits, but had no easy way to reimburse them.
UniLink partnered with GRM Document Management to develop a document workflow/integration solution. The new process relied on an electronic invoice that could be modified on a mobile device at time of delivery for any quantity discrepancies, returns, or rejected items.
This document was part of GRM’s Visual Vault ECM system, and UniLink integrated it into each customer’s ERP system. Credits and edits were made the day of the delivery and automatically populated into both the customer’s system and the distributor’s system. Because the edits were accounted for in both accounting systems, credit memos could be created that were 100% accurate and current, allowing the distributor to better manage their clients’ funds and create higher overall value.
Most companies understand the value of communicating with their trading partners electronically. The challenge is having the knowledge, the proper tools, and—most important—the time to create the connections and build the integration points and document maps for each trading partner. In some cases, companies have hundreds if not thousands of connections that need to be created and maintained.
This particular company spent tens of thousands of dollars on software, outside consultants, and development time to try to create just one connection and develop the correct document map.
UniLink's 20 years of experience in building document maps and integrating with ERP systems helped move the customer forward. Our innovative methods for building document maps, along with our experience dealing with thousands of companies each month, allowed us to lead the trading partner integration process and quickly roll out new connections.
With our fixed mapping fees, the company was able to budget exactly what the costs would be per trading partner—a few hundred dollars per connection versus tens of thousands of dollars. We created many new live connections each month, drastically reducing the company's operational costs with each added connection.
A large exporter of paper products uses train cars to export huge rolls of paper to South and Latin America. Their manual, paper-based documentation process was often much slower than the actual time needed to prepare the inventory for export. This inefficiency resulted in backed-up inventory sitting on docks for days, waiting on documentation. With so much idle inventory, the customer was constantly losing money.
UniLink was able to integrate and deliver documents from various ERP systems in real time, which meant the documentation was available when the inventory arrived, and in many cases beforehand. With paperwork no longer an issue, the customer shipped their inventory sooner and satisfied their clients much faster.
This nationally known retail company with thousands of locations had a few high-volume vendors connected via EDI, but because the company lacked the expertise and resources to establish new connections, they still dealt with thousands of other vendors sending paper invoices. Even with a full staff of IT support personnel, the company wasn’t able to meet the demand for new connections and maintain their massive IT project backlog.
Although they knew it was costing them $8 to $10 per invoice, the company was forced to keep their manual process as part of their daily operation.
UniLink was called in to address the backlog and, in essence, become the client's “EDI department.” To start, the company provided a list of high-priority vendors. Within two months, UniLink had contacted and established connections with each one.
We then went to work on a larger group of vendors, and continue to onboard vendors to this day. For every electronic invoice received, the company is saving between $8 and $10, making a significant financial impact that continues to grow.
A nationally known bank faces a very competitive environment and was looking for innovative ways to create more customer value, as well as more revenue for the bank. When researching the types of services that would be attractive to their 35,000 commercial customers, the number one priority was to improve the supply chain and payment processes that customers deal with.
The bank partnered with GRM Document Management and UniLink to provide a cloud-based, supply chain automation solution that their customers could easily implement, without having to invest in software, hardware, and personnel to maintain it. By integrating the solution with their bank accounts, customers were able to take advantage of electronic payment options. They could also establish electronic connections to their individual vendor networks, eliminating millions of pages of paper.