The recognition that supply chain integration with your suppliers and partners is of paramount importance is the first step in a sometimes challenging and complex process. Each member of a supply chain has their own way of doing things, using a variety of different systems which at first glance are probably not fully interoperable.
Despite being a “standard” Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI as it is known for short, there are many minute variations and tweaks required in order for one computer system to “talk” to another. As a result, reconfiguration will have to take place at each supplier to allow for smooth communications. EDI setup and maintenance is an expert job and being time intensive, is also costly. As a result the use of an outsourced service which does the required EDI translations automatically is preferable.
The use of an externally hosted Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP) system allows every member of the supply chain to integrate their payment systems for maximum compatibility, whilst retaining complete autonomy over their own data and in house processes. During the supply chain integration process, companies can choose to enable as much or as little interchange as they desire. Obviously the more interchange permitted, the greater the on-going cost savings through a reduction in labour costs that would be accrued through manual processing of the same actions.
Clearly the complexities of such an integration is outside the experience (or interest) of most businesses and so they will need to secure the services of a specialist consultancy. Here are three suggestions to help when choosing:
- A proven track record in successful completion of supply chain integration. Any company you consider should have verifiable testimonials from previous customers and reference sites which can be visited for first-hand verification.
- Experience in trading community onboarding. Integration projects deal not only with system interoperability, but also the political issues raised by bringing together businesses with differing values and ethics.
- The ability to make integration as simple as possible with the minimum of disruption for any member of the supply chain.
In the light of these suggestions, expertise in supply chain integration is just one facet of the decision process. The technology and methodology used is just as important with on and off site implementations of supply chain integration. Clearly Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) options which see the EDI services hosted externally are preferable in terms of scalability, speed of deployment and minimisation of disruption – all data interchange is performed externally with minimal local reconfiguration required.