In increasingly complex modern supply chains electronic data interchange (EDI) is no longer a nice-to-have, but rather an essential cog, enabling businesses to achieve substantial time and cost savings. Unfortunately, however, whilst EDI and e-invoicing usage has been growing steadily over the years, few supply chain organisations are yet in the position of being able to conduct classic EDI with all of their partners, whilst many also find themselves struggling with inefficient supplier onboarding processes.
While businesses may be able to conduct EDI with larger partners, it is with smaller suppliers that automation often proves difficult, as many of these partners simply do not have the capability to send or receive automated messages. Even if trade with each such supplier is limited, the cost of manual processing soon adds up.
Web EDI provides a simple and effective solution to this problem. In this article we’ll look at how Web EDI works, what the benefits are, and how to identify a good Web EDI solution.
What is Web EDI?
Web EDI enables the transmission of EDI documents via a web portal. This portal provides an alternative method for smaller businesses to exchange automated messages. By providing suppliers with access to such a portal, businesses can extend automation across their entire supply chain.
What does Web EDI look like in practice?
Once smaller partners have been provided with access to your Web EDI portal, as far as your ERP system is concerned there is no difference between the messages received via Web EDI and those received from larger partners via traditional EDI. All B2B message exchange is automated, with all incoming messages arriving directly into your ERP and all outgoing messages similarly sent directly from your ERP.
- A more streamlined partner network
- Cost and time savings through increased automation
- Less pressure on in-house teams
- Once connected via Web EDI, smaller partners should be able to resolve issues with your EDI provider directly rather than you
- Web EDI can serve as the starting point for an even deeper integration with Supplier Relationship Management modules
For your suppliers…
Once your Web EDI platform has been created your partner will be provided with a login. Within their portal access rights and alerts can be set as desired.
Incoming messages: The supplier is informed by email when a new message arrives, meaning none are missed. Structured data is presented in a human readable format and can be downloaded as PDF.
Outgoing messages: Can be semi-automatically created based on incoming messages (e.g. turnaround process from order to order response).
Below is a step-by-step example of a typical interaction of a partner and their Web EDI portal:
- An email notification is received that a purchase order has come through
- Deep link in notification email is clicked, taking the viewer to the purchase order (this can then be printed if desired)
- A purchase order response is generated
- A dispatch advice is generated
- An invoice is generated
- Once checked, these documents can be sent with a single click
- Access to real-time purchase order information and purchase order changes (good systems can merge relevant changes so the supplier is always presented with the most recent information)
- Semi-automated creation of key B2B documents
- The ability to trade with larger retailers
Supplier experience is important
Although the user experience of your Web EDI portal may not seem like a key concern as you will not be using it yourself, the usability of a portal can impact on the quality of the output you get via it from your partners.
The less information your supplier needs to enter, the fewer errors they are likely to make. If your portal is able to partially automate the turnaround process by generating key documents for your suppliers, meaning all that is required is for them to check the information and confirm/send, there is little chance of incorrect information being entered. In addition, the simpler your Web EDI is to learn how to use, the faster new onboardings can be completed, and the happier your suppliers are likely to be with your relationship moving forward.
No matter how user friendly the portal is, for the supplier, Web EDI is not as smooth as classic EDI. Therefore, if orders with a certain supplier increase substantially, they may wish to transition to doing traditional EDI to reduce manual effort on their side. As a fully managed service provider, ecosio can handle this transition from start to finish, ensuring minimum disruption to both parties.
Is supplier onboarding via Web EDI complicated?
Unlike with traditional EDI, where each partner connection requires substantial technical work (mapping, testing etc.), with Web EDI the vast majority of this work is done before any partners are connected. Before Web EDI partners can be onboarded two very important one-time tasks must be completed:
- A connection between your ERP system and EDI solution must be established
- The Web EDI portal must be configured by ecosio according to your specific process needs
After these two tasks are done, supplier onboarding is comparatively simple. All that needs to be done to connect partners is to provide them with a login and training so they can use the portal correctly. This means partner onboarding can be completed quickly.
Don’t forget the work required after go-live!
Once everything is live, there are several scenarios that will still require work on your end. If a fully managed solution (such as ecosio’s) is used, these of course are taken care of, but must be accounted for if opting for a non-managed solution.
- Your suppliers have questions about the process
In the absence of a solution provider to contact for answers, your suppliers will come directly to you.
- Suppliers need to train new employees
Unless your service provider is able to provide training videos and walkthroughs (like ecosio), this can prove problematic and result in declining or substandard platform usage.
- Certain suppliers encounter high traffic (e.g. an overload of purchase orders)
In this scenario your EDI provider may help to transform them into classic EDI partners.
- You wish to change requirements on your side
If, for example, you wish at some stage to add a batch number to purchase orders, complicated reconfiguration is needed.
- You want a way to test new features or give people hands-on training
The best way to resolve this is through a dedicated test environment such as that provided by ecosio to all clients.
For businesses looking to reduce internal effort to a minimum whilst enjoying maximum B2B automation, the sensible choice is therefore to select a supplier that is able to handle ongoing operation of the solution. With the assistance of a fully managed EDI solution provider, internal teams are free to focus on more value-adding activities, confident in the knowledge that their message exchange is in safe hands.
ecosio’s Web EDI
With our solution, customers enjoy a unique Web EDI portal with:
- Tailored branding
- Customisable business processes and documents
- Intuitive interface and sleek user experience
- Potential for additional Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) features
- Ability to create documents for suppliers automatically based on incoming messages to minimise manual input (and resultant errors)
- Dedicated test environment (fully featured, just like the production environment)
No expensive software and no in-house expertise is needed. To ensure supplier onboarding is speedy and successful all customers are also assigned a dedicated project manager. Further, our fully managed service includes ongoing monitoring, installation of updates and error resolution, meaning you can concentrate on what your business does best.
Let us help you achieve automation across your entire supply chain!
To find out more about ecosio’s Web EDI solution and how it could improve your B2B processes contact us today. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.