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Digital disruption is having a profound effect on every industry, but the changes are perhaps most striking in industries like manufacturing, transportation logistics, and retail. Companies must be able to deliver new products and experiences, quickly adjust to changes in the marketplace, make business processes smooth and invisible to the end-consumer and, most importantly, be agile. Customers simply won’t tolerate delays because of a supply chain issue, and low switching costs mean that customers can simply switch to another vendor. 

It’s clear that this level of competition is the new normal. What’s less clear is how to create the agility, operational excellence, and constant innovation needed to succeed while retaining legacy systems and messaging protocols. 

Digital transformation and the agile supply chain 

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In working with leading retail, manufacturing, and logistics firms, we see three consistent business objectives: 

  • Launching products to the market more quickly
  • Increasing agility to more rapidly respond to changing production and supply chain needs
  • Delivering operational excellence

In support of these business outcomes, we see a set of corresponding supply chain technology, and, specifically, B2B/EDI-related challenges: 

  • Decreasing partner on-boarding time (partner setup, message mapping, business logic). B2B/EDI partner setup, trading profile management, and message processing are core to the onboarding process. But that onboarding can take a significant amount of time – often weeks to months.
  • Decreasing the time needed to make changes to partner configurations. Change is constant. This can be a change in industry standards or regulatory mandates. The suppliers businesses rely on today may not be there tomorrow, but the customer still wants goods and services quickly. Changing the partner configuration needs to be easy for IT to do.
  • Decreasing risk and/or cost by replacing a legacy or custom point-to-point B2B/EDI solution. EDI technology is 20-30 years old, so the EDI solutions most companies have are 20-30 years old as well; they’re either custom solutions that have had extensions built over layer-by-layer, or they are legacy systems with value that the original vendor is no longer supporting or longer actively investing in. 

Achieving operational excellence with B2B/EDI 

A manufacturer of telecommunications equipment was using an older messaging standard, RosettaNet, and had to impose this burden on its trading partners. The consequence was that it took partners up to a year to onboard. It is difficult to do business when you’re waiting for a year to onboard a partner. In other words, that is a full year of time sitting idle and not achieving value out of the partnership. 

In addition, when a new partner was added, the manufacturer wanted the flexibility of not having to wait for IT to onboard the partner or change the file format; it wanted to enable a particular business unit to be able to respond in an agile and flexible manner. The manufacturer wanted more control over the process. After realizing significant partner turnover, it wanted to shorten the partner onboarding time, so it turned to our approach to B2B integration: API-led connectivity

The manufacturer is currently creating and reusing APIs internally to connect to the RosettaNet messaging protocol. In the second iteration of the release, they will expose those APIs so that partners leveraging APIs can simply use them instead of the old RosettaNet EDI standard. This not only decreases onboarding time, but also eliminates the need for specialist coding to integrate the systems. The idea is to have both an internal API layer, which is being built now, and then they can implement a “public” API strategy so partners can use modern development practices.

My next blog will dig into the concept of API-led connectivity and EDI. To learn more about streamlining B2B/EDI processes, check out our whitepaper, Modern supply chain management and EDI systems.