Tag Archives: Electronic Data Interchange

e-Invoicing, Beyond PDF – Part 1

At the most simple level, electronic invoicing is replacing a physical, paper invoice, with an electronic equivalent. For most businesses, their e-Invoicing process is to create a PDF version of the invoice document which is then emailed to their customer. Although this system works well in principle, it can still be improved upon.

Firewall Failure

One of the basic problems that has plagued email since it became a major business tool, is its vulnerability to misuse. The most common way to distribute viruses and malware is via an email attachment which is opened unwittingly by the recipient.

Modern network security techniques and antivirus software reduce the risk of viral infection, but at the same time are notorious for detecting ‘false positives’ and archiving or deleting genuine messages as well as those that are infected. Should your invoice be one of those messages incorrectly identified as a virus or spam, there will be a natural delay in payment of your bill.e-Invoicing: Beyond PDF

Valuable time and effort will be spent emailing additional copies of the original invoice or negotiating with IT departments to have the message released from quarantine. Such delays cost in terms of duplicated effort, time spent chasing up missing invoices and increased costs associated with late payments.

The Solution

The obvious way to prevent an electronic invoice from being incorrectly deleted is to completely bypass traditional email mechanisms completely. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) technologies already exist to perform these transactions, but they tend to be both costly and difficult to implement.

Enter the hosted e-Invoicing platform. These systems, exemplified by Celtrino’s Smart Admin service, require no onsite EDI installation and are capable of traversing corporate firewalls and anti-malware systems quickly and efficiently. An electronic invoice submitted via Smart Admin leaves your accounts system and is entered automatically into your client’s accounts system without any delay or manual intervention.

PDF invoicing is a step towards greater efficiency, but Smart Admin invoicing will revolutionise your billing and payments system for the better. Watch out for the second part of this article about life beyond the PDF on Dumping Double Entry.

EDI – Did You Know?

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)DI, or Electronic Data Interchange to give it its full title, has been around as a “standard” since the 1970s, facilitating data transfer between businesses ever since. The idea of providing a strict data structure which would facilitate data transfer between computer systems without involving human intervention, thus reducing the space for human error, was immediately attractive.

Skip forward 30 years and the attraction of automation and reduced intervention remains very attractive. In fact, so attractive that there are currently more than 50 different EDI standards in active use across the European Union.


The advent of the flexible data interchange markup language XML in the 1990s, immediately allowed business sectors who believed that their market vertical was significantly different to others to create their own EDI standards. The ease of use meant that just about anyone could define and implement their own standard to meet their needs, whether or not something suitable already existed.

Even the European Union got in on the act, creating an EDI standard specifically for short distance sea trips, such as ferry crossings between England and France, as a distinctly separate standard to that in place for long haul shipping.


This proliferation of standards is not such a problem for businesses operating solely within a particular sector, but any who supply to multiple industries or sectors will need to implement several different systems to cope with the EDI demands of each customer. Not only is such a system hugely complex to implement and manage, it is seldom cost effective either.

Clearly, pulling out of the market altogether is not an option, but a system which interacts transparently with all required formats without intervention is preferable. A system which requires no on-going maintenance and is hosted externally is even more desirable because of the potential cost savings available.

The future?

The UN and EU have both tasked committees with finding a way to condense their own plethora of competing standards; despite their best efforts they were only able to rationalise 12 different e-invoicing standards into two. Neither committee was able to find a way of bending the standards to meet every need.

The solution clearly lies in finding a system which allows industries, sectors and sub-sectors to continue with their current EDI formats, but which translates electronic invoicing and payment data automatically and transparently into the correct format for both supplier and purchaser. Such a system immediately reduces the burden on businesses looking to trade across industries, reducing their own EDI implementations to just one, externally hosted solution.


To find out how Celtrino’s Smart Admin platform could help reduce your EDI implementation complexities, please contact us at +353 1 873 99 02.


Masters of Supply Chain Management – Edward A Guilbert

Many of the large players in the EDI world would have us believe that the concept of joined-up supply chain management is a product of the 21st Century. Or maybe the late 1990s if they were feeling generous. Few however realise that the foundations for electronic data interchange were actually laid during a European crisis in 1948.

At the end of World War II, Russian forces blockaded parts of Berlin, preventing Allied access to the areas of Berlin for which each nation was responsible. US, French and British forces were immediately unable to get into the parts of the city they controlled.

The Berlin Airlift was implemented as a way to deliver food and other important supplies to Allied forces and local people through the only way possible – air cargo. For 13 months, an almost constant stream of aircraft landed, dropped off cargo, and departed again, eventually delivering more than 2 million tonnes of food.

Space on the tarmac at the Berlin airport was at a premium. Consequently flights arrived and were turned around for departure again in minutes. And with no onsite storage, cargo had to be collected by the receivers as soon as the plane touched the ground.

Edward A. Guilbert's manifests marked the start of EDI standardsBecause every aspect of The Berlin Airlift had to be performed at the fastest possible speed, logistics officers, led by US Army Master Sergeant Edward A Guilbert, had to develop a way of tracking all of the cargo arriving in the city. Upon commencement of the Airlift, it rapidly became apparent that the different manifest forms accompanying each delivery were totally different, some even in other languages. Clearly something had to be done to standardise the process.

Guilbert and his team managed to develop a standard manifest system which they could easily transmit via telex, radio-teletype or telephone and which allowed them to track the contents of several thousand tonnes of cargo every day. Cargo manifests were transmitted from the despatch point to Berlin as soon as the plane was en route, advising Guilbert and his team of the work required when the cargo arrived.

Through standardisation, Guilbert’s team were able to implement an orderly logistics and distribution system thanks to the time savings made. It may not have been as instantaneous as internet-connected systems, but Guilbert’s manifests marked the start of EDI standards.

International e-Invoicing and local VAT rules

Electronic invoicing is becoming more and more common in businesses across the world. Despite the enthusiastic uptake however, several so-called electronic data interchange (EDI) standards exist which, when combined with local e-invoicing regulations can cause major problems for suppliers.

One of the largest problems for international e-invoicing is the localised implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT) and how it is implemented by a foreign government. In most countries, businesses wishing to import goods are obliged to calculate and pay the correct amount of value added tax. Failure to calculate the correct VAT fee can lead to fines for non-compliance and delays in the shipment and delivery of goods. Presenting invoices in the wrong format can also prevent businesses from reclaiming available VAT rebates, adding further cost to a transaction.

Particularly problematic are countries within the European Union who although encouraged to implement e-invoicing under EU regulations, are also able to implement such directives in almost any way they see fit. Standardisation is therefore impossible as the determination of invoice integrity works on a country-by-country basis.

To deal with such a lack of standards, businesses can choose to adapt their existing in-house systems in the hope that they can cope with the multitude of different e-invoice expectations, or outsource the processing to a third party. Because of the diverse rules across Europe (and South America to some extent too), some companies are choosing to use the services of single country ERP cloud providers.

Such an approach however is far less cost-effective for the supplier who is ideally seeking a single e-invoicing provider who can provide the required interfaces to deal with governments and businesses anywhere in the world. Using a single, integrated solution such as Smart Admin from Celtrino will help to cut the complexity and cost burden placed upon a supplier and allow them to focus on the more important aspects of the transaction, such as manufacture and delivery. Using an outsourced solution, a business should also be able to ensure VAT is paid automatically at the correct point of the transaction and the rebate collected at the appropriate time too.

Supply Chain Integration Part 4 – Best Practice

Best Practice written on a white boardThe 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Supply Chain Integration Part 1

Supply Chain Integration Part 2

Supply Chain Integration Part 3

Supply Chain Integration Part 5

Suppliers dilemma – Keep up or shut up shop (e-Invoicing)

Want to know how you can improve your customers bottom line through e-Invoicing? Read on…

Outsourced EDI: Pat the Baker case study

Outsourced EDI: Pat the Baker case study” - a Wednesday morning case study for you. A great insight into the business transformation undertaken in Pat the Baker, Ireland’s finest Bakery, in conjunction with Celtrino, a pioneer in the provision of outsourced managed EDI services.

Why outsource EDI?

Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI, is one of the oldest methods of system-to-system communication still in use today. EDI relies on creation of standardised text files which are set between businesses in a specific format so that it can be automatically imported into the computer system of the receiver. One of the most well-known users of EDI is the BACS bank transfer system used for sending payments automatically.

Despite being a standard industry format, the encoded text files require specialist knowledge and expertise to create the export template to extract data in the correct format for submission. Worse still, when a partner changes the EDI data mappings for import into their system, each of their customers must reconfigure their exports to match the new import routines.

All of this manual reconfiguration comes at a cost. Businesses must either retain the services of their own EDI expert, or hire an equally expensive consultant to make the changes. Replacing internal systems also attract additional costs. A software upgrade, or a shift to a new platform requires reconfiguration of the EDI translator to ensure that EDI communications between customers and suppliers continue unhindered. Worse still, every system change takes time, which in turn costs the business money.

Clearly any solution which removes the burden of EDI management should result in time and cost savings.

Software as a Service (SaaS) EDI translators provide the obvious solution to many of these conundrums. With outsourced EDI solutions, configuration changes and data export tweaks becomes the responsibility of the service provider. Immediately the requirement for an EDI specialist is removed as is the hardware required to support an EDI translator system. IT staff are then freed to focus on the other aspects of their roles to the benefit of the business.

A SaaS EDI system, such as Celtrino’s Smart Admin provide data interfaces and translators for many industry-leading accounts systems as well as the expertise required for a successful implementation. Their abilities and services are guaranteed to reduce EDI TCO by at least 25%, giving businesses an immediate reduction in costs and allowing them to focus on their customers.