Monday, June 06, 2011
When adding a new trading partner, due diligence prior to making the first mapping change will pay off exponentially in the long run. Taking your time during the discovery process can save hours of rework and downtime, as well as avoid costly mistakes caused by unknown, unmapped or rejected documents. Also, without close monitoring, which is what EDI is basically meant to replace, important information such as a pricing, ship-by or cancel dates can be overlooked and not mapped if that data was not clearly defined prior to implementing a particular T-set. The following mission critical steps are recommendations that can help prevent unknown, unmapped or rejected documents.
When you move into a new house, apartment or office, one of your first points of contact is the Post Office to ensure that mail addressed to your previous location will be forwarded to your new address in order to keep your mail flowing unimpeded. The same is true of EDI. The ISA (Interchange Control Header) segment within the EDI envelope ensures that your transactions are delivered and received correctly as identified by the Trading Partner Qualifier/ID defined within the ISA elements. This should always be the first step taken during a new Trading Partner implementation, exchanging your "address" information with your new trading partner.
Once the address of your new trading partner is known, the next important consideration will be the method to be used when trading your documents with your partners.
Methods can be defined as AS2, similar to email application with strong encryption capabilities to protect your data; HTTP Post, used to upload documents to a webpage; VAN (Value Added Network), a third party provider similar to the USPS that routes your files; and File Transfer Protocol which comes in several flavors, the most commonly used being FTPs, SFTP, or plain old regular FTP.
Tip: Each of the previously listed methods have advantages (security in lieu of cost savings) and disadvantages (cost savings in lieu of security) as well as setup, maintenance and per character charges that must be fully recognized and understood prior to committing to your selected method. Choosing the right method for the right price can lead to greater satisfaction and Return on Investment as more trading partner relationships are added by your organization.
Once you are able to “talk” to your trading partners, the next step will involve getting down to the meat and potatoes of the implementation: the process of actually defining and mapping the T-sets you will be trading. Clearly selecting and defining the required transactions to enable your business to function sans paper can seem like a daunting task requiring hours upon hours of research to be successful. However, just the opposite is true. A good old saying that should never be overlooked is “Keep It Simple”.
If you send purchase orders and you receive purchase order acknowledgements, the 850 and 855 T-sets should suffice. If your vendor allows you to make changes after the original purchase order has been sent, you will need to add the 860 (PO Change Request) T-set to your requirements. Your Electronic Data Interchange deployment should not become any more complicated than a paper-based document process.
Tip: Review your current paper processing methods and create corresponding documents within your EDI setup.
An important aspect that is sometimes overlooked is the use of delimiters. Delimiters, which are used to separate pieces of data in files similar to the way that commas, quotes, periods and new lines make text more recognizable and meaningful when read, must be clearly selected and defined by both partners prior to implementation.
Unexpected characters that may be present within product part numbers or part descriptions can wreak havoc on your data translation. A character that may be present in a part description could contain a character that is also defined as an element delimiter, or a segment terminator and can cause improper formatting and mapping of your data.
Tip: Alignment with your Trading Partners on delimiters selected can avoid improper loading of data.
As you embark on the road to implementation of your new Trading Partner, homework done prior to committing to a particular process can avoid surprises that may be encountered by unexpected or unplanned codes, documents, or delimiters, and upon completion, make your business’s EDI implementation a gratifying undertaking.