team, Careers

Day 3 of our annual Data Masons' company meeting was a short but productive one. Check out the images taken by our awesome team members. Be sure to read the posts from Day 1 and Day 2, and if you're interested in joining us next year, take a look at our openings on our Careers page!

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The sunrise over Lido Beach greets employees as they start their day.


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Fiona Beckstrom, Director of Customer Success, educates her audience on the operations of Managed Services.

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Director of Customer Success, Fiona Beckstrom.

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The Customer Support Team meets for a group photo.

 

Again, if you haven't read about Day 1 and Day 2, please check them out! Thank you for letting us share a glimpse into our awesome time together with you. We're excited for another year of providing great EDI experiences to our customers and partners, and we encourage you to subscribe to our blog so you don't miss any news or information that could help simplify your EDI experience.

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team, Careers

Day 2 of our annual Data Masons' company meeting was full of great breakout sessions, valuable connections, and fun trivia. Take a look at some of the highlights below, and be sure to check out snapshots from Day 1 as well!

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Employees gather for breakfast at the Lido Beach Resort.


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Nancy Eads, PMO Consulting Director, presents strategic updates to the implementation process.

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Consultancy Manager Donna Kratzer reviews Data Masons' Automotive Solution architecture.

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Managed Services and Support Staff attend a training session.


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In between breakout sessions, employees work-- with a view!


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KJ Johnson and Glenn McPeak emcee'ing a hilarious and suitably challenging trivia night.

 

Again, if you want to catch up on Day 1 of our company meeting, you can do so here. We'll post about our short but sweet Day 3 on Monday. During our time here, we've been generating ideas for valuable content we can bring to you over the coming year, so please subscribe to our blog so that you don't miss the next post!

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team, Careers

Most of the Data Masons team is currently in Sarasota for our annual company meeting. As many of our readers know, the majority of Data Masons team members are spread out all over the world. Our annual meeting is a chance for us to connect face-to-face, discuss our company objectives for the coming year, and learn from one another to help us deliver the best experience to our customers and partners. We commenced on Monday, January 14th, and we're excited to present some visual highlights from that day.

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Our kickoff meeting on the morning of Monday, January 14th.

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Glenn McPeak discusses the current state and future of Data Masons

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As Glenn emphasizes, our company puts our customers and partners first.

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Glenn and David Irvine answer questions from Data Masons employees.

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Molly Kelly, VP of Operations, presents on professional services and the great feedback we've received from our customers.

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Dennis Bruce, Director of Business Development, discusses sales and marketing goals for 2019.

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Steve Massey, Director of Application Development, demos the upcoming updates to Vantage Point EDI.

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Larry Velez, EMEA General Manager, discusses Data Masons' progress in the European and Middle Eastern markets.

 

Our leadership team was excited to present awards to six Data Masons employees, who embody our company values and spirit. Linda Huth, AX Developer, won the Rookie of the Year award. She was unable to attend the meeting this year, but we're sending out our heartfelt congratulations!  

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Mary Paulin, Finance & Administration Manager, receives the Laura Buro award, for proactively looking for ways to better serve customers and the Data Masons team, and for a high degree of personal accountability, among other qualities that embody the spirit of longtime Data Masons employee Laura Buro.

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Donna Haycock-Drazic took home an award for her great work as a Consultant.


 

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Customer Support Staff Member Maggie Negrete was honored for her work in Support.

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Managed Services Staff Member Courtney Bush is 2019's Customer Hero, for consistently going above and beyond for our customers.

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Technical Deployment Specialist Rich Reither received the Team Player MVP award, for consistently helping his team members.
 

 

Later this week we'll present highlights from Day 2. Be sure to subscribe so that you don't miss our next post!

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Third-party Logistics, edi

Welcome to the third blog in our series about third-party logistics management via electronic messaging/EDI! The first blog explained that outsourcing distribution to 3PLs is popular with companies that are expanding into new markets or want to focus on their core strengths and let the logistics experts manage the physical storage and distribution of their goods.

We also discussed that in 3PL automation projects, interactions can be generalized into two master file exchanges and five transaction scenarios. Part 2 delved into the master file exchanges, and this blog, the third and final blog of the series, focuses on the five transaction scenarios.

Transactions

At a high level, warehouses are simple operations. Goods arrive, goods are moved around inside the warehouse, and goods are shipped. In the “real world,” things get a little more complicated, as goods can be damaged, stolen, expired, and have other issues that require inventory adjustments. Man_in_warehouse-1

Another factor (for a future blog), is the value-added services 3PLs provide to repack items into different forms and partner numbers. This “conversion” of inventory is similar to production environments where components are removed from inventory and new inventory is created with no physical receipt or shipment process. However, today we’re focused on the basic 3PL process for the simple distribution of finished goods.

To understand the basic premise of the X12 document’s intent as it relates to warehousing, imagine we’re commencing a new relationship. We’ve sent the item catalog information to the warehouse, so they know the item numbers and characteristics of the items they’ll be housing. The first step in the process is to ship goods to the warehouse. In a best practice scenario, we’ll send the warehouse a notice of in-transit goods so they can plan the receiving and storage activities. In the X12 standard, the document that fits this scenario is the 943 Warehouse Stock Transfer Shipment Advice. The data in this document can have many sources, such as a planned inter-warehouse shipment, purchase order, or ship notice from a related party. Regardless, it lets the warehouse know that goods are coming with a high level of detail.

When the goods arrive, the warehouse should inspect and possibly count the goods to make sure that what was scheduled to arrive did. If the goods are coming from a vendor, it’s essential to validate invoices and payments. The document that fits this purpose in the X12 standard is the 944 Warehouse Stock Transfer Receipt Advice.

The next logical transaction in the 3PL relationship is the X12 standard’s 940 Warehouse Shipping Order, which gives the 3PL the details to integrate into their internal systems for accurate fulfillment of the shipment. 

We want to know the goods were shipped and have details on freight carrier information, freight costs, lot numbers, serial numbers, and other crucial details for accounting and inventory control purposes.

The last common transaction in the 3PL process interaction is the Inventory Adjustment Process.  Because there’s always the possibility of inventory loss through errors and obsolescence, we’ll need a means for the warehouse to communicate what’s being disposed of and why. This scenario is covered nicely in the X12 standard by the 947 Warehouse Inventory Adjustment Advice.

Achieving a finely tuned 3PL process flow can deliver significant benefits to a business that distributes goods through outsourced warehousing. The discussion today is supported by the X12 EDI standard, but that’s not a prerequisite of a successful endeavor. Other formats, such as CSVs, XML, EDIFACT, JSON, and others can also do the job – but they require careful evaluation and implementation, as they are not supported by a highly evolved standard such as the X12 standard. 

We hope you find this information useful in understanding a simplified approach to 3PL project implementation. Again, you can find part 1 here and part 2 here. If you have questions, please contact us at techblog@datamasons.com or www.datamasons.com. And be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don't miss our next post!

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amazon, edi

Amazon Seller Central (Fulfillment by Amazon) can present challenges to companies with an existing EDI capable infrastructure by mandating the use of Web Services and XML data formats. Data Masons offers a simple and effective solution for those organizations that want a fast and cost effective way to integrate Amazon Seller Central into their existing EDI system. shutterstock_1152348296_packagesonporch

Data Masons now provides an EDI solution for Seller Central that manages the communications and translation of all messages to and from any EDI standard message such as X12 and EDIFACT. Setup can usually be accomplished in a day and has a low setup cost and modest ongoing fees. 

Amazon Seller Central offers companies a way to quickly enter new markets and outsource product distribution. Data Masons can quickly connect Seller Central into your ERP platform without any special changes to existing systems and infrastructure! Contact us to learn more, whether you’re an existing Data Masons customer, or considering us for your EDI needs.

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Welcome back to our series about third-party logistics management via electronic messaging/EDI! Last week we explained that outsourcing distribution to 3PLs is popular with companies that are expanding into new markets or want to focus on their core strengths and let the logistics experts manage the physical storage and distribution of their goods.

We also discussed that in 3PL automation projects, interactions can be generalized into two master file exchanges and five transaction scenarios. This week, we delve deeper into the master file exchanges.

Master Files

Master file exchanges enable synchronization of critical data between the 3PL’s warehouse management system (WMS) and their customer’s ERP system. 

Product Catalog (Sent to the 3PL by the 3PL customer)

The third-party logistics service provider and its WMS system need information about the products they’ll be warehousing and distributing, including part numbers, descriptions, special handling information, barcodes, and other elements that allow the 3PL to plan capacity for, store, and ship products safely. Because most businesses have an ongoing process of adding new products and updating or discontinuing others, the 3PL and their customer must consistently exchange information to stay updated.shutterstock_788905441_warehouseman

The X12 standard for this document is the 832 Price/Sales Catalog or the 888 Item Maintenance. (Author’s note: The 832 is used predominantly in 3PL scenarios, but there’s a strong argument that the 888 is the better fit.)

Inventory Status (Sent by the 3PL to the 3PL customer)

Soon after the initial product receipts and shipments occur between the customer and 3PL, the inevitable question is, “Is our inventory accurate and in sync?” Periodic transmission of an inventory status document is a best practice for most 3PLs – although that sometimes makes it difficult to reconcile discrepancies, whether they be timing related or more serious shrinkage or theft issues. The document for this interaction is the 846 Inventory Inquiry/Advice.

Please come back next time for the final blog in our series about third-party logistics management via electronic message/EDI – we’ll be discussing the five 3PL transaction scenarios. Subscribe to be notified when the next post goes live!

Read part 3

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And if you have questions, please contact us at techblog@datamasons.com.

Third-party Logistics, edi

Welcome to our three-part series of blogs about third-party logistics management via electronic messaging/EDI. We receive many questions about 3PL from our readers, and we’re excited to share our knowledge of integrating EDI with this business practice.

Outsourcing distribution to 3PLs, also known as public warehouses or logistics service providers, is increasingly popular for companies that are expanding into new markets or simply want to focus on their core strengths by allowing logistics experts to manage the physical storage and distribution of their goods.

To make outsourced logistics seamless and cost-effective, advanced organizations implement electronic communications. Data Masons has worked on over one hundred of these projects with stakeholders who have various levels of capabilities and approach standards. We’ve learned that these projects have consistent patterns that are useful to understand when approaching this type of project.shutterstock_396462703_warehouse

In our experience with 3PL automation projects, interactions can be generalized into two master file exchanges and five transaction sets (also known as documents). The authors of the X12 EDI Standard clearly understood how to manage interactions with a 3PL – the documents most commonly used by 3PLs are very well-conceived and documented in the X12 EDI standard frequently used by 3PLs.

The second part of our series will continue next week, discussing master file exchanges – please join us and subscribe so you don't miss out!

Read part 2
Read part 3

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Data Masons is pleased to present our blog series, Giving Back. We are very proud of our team members who have chosen to volunteer and make a difference in their communities. Data Masons provides paid time off to any employee that wishes to give back to their communities and we proudly highlight the people and worthwhile charities to which they have dedicated their time.

Kristopher “KJ” Johnston is the Director of Cloud Services and Infrastructure for Data Masons and serves a critical role for Data Masons customers as the leader of our Cloud Services and technical team. KJ lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont and is a volunteer with several emergency response teams in his area. In fact, KJ is certified as a Wilderness EMT – an elite rating.

KJ (in the hat) during a recent training for wilderness search and rescue.


When asked how he ended up being a part of his local emergency efforts, KJ explained that he used to be a part time police officer before his city discontinued its police force. After that, he decided he wanted to continue giving back to the community as a first responder and he earned his certification as a Wilderness EMT. A participant in the Rescue, Inc. Adventure Race, a fundraiser event for emergency services in the Green Mountains that gives participants a taste of rescue operations.From there, he joined other emergency response organizations. KJ is now part of the scuba dive search and rescue team for the fire department, a volunteer EMT, a member of the technical rescue team for wilderness medical emergencies, a high and low angle rope rescuer, and involved with swift water rescue and recovery.

As you can tell, KJ loves giving back to his community as much as possible. For him, it’s about the camaraderie in these organizations, and knowing that when people are in the most difficult and terrible situations of their life, he can help get them to a place where they are safe and able to heal.

If you’re wondering whether getting involved in one or more similar organizations in your own area is the right move for you, KJ has some advice. “Give it a try,” he says. He knows it’s not for everybody, and it’s a big commitment and “a lot of work” but it is all worthwhile. “Come to some trainings, see if you gel with the team and if it’s something you’d be interested in. Rescuing someone in need from a life threatening situation is a truly rewarding experience.” KJ offers a final word of advice to potential rescuers, “Be prepared for the best darn ride of your life.”

All of us at Data Masons have great admiration for KJ and his commitment to community.  We thank him for sharing his story with our readers!

Be sure to subscribe to our blog and follow us on social media so you won’t miss our next post!

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Pictured: 
KJ (in the hat) during a recent training for wilderness search and rescue
A participant in the Rescue, Inc. Adventure Race, a fundraiser event for emergency services in the Green Mountains that gives participants a taste of rescue operations.

directions EMEA, Dynamics 365 BC, Dynamics NAV

From 29-31st October 2018, the annual Directions EMEA event in The Hague, Netherlands attracted over 2,200 attendees. This partner-only event represented 60 countries in Europe, Latin America, and APAC, and focused on Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Business Central. This is nearly half the partner community across 30% of the countries where Microsoft NAV, and soon Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Center, is and will soon be generally available.directionsemea_snip

Over 100 Microsoft staff were present and contributed to 3 keynotes, and many of the 150 breakout sessions which focused on best practices, common data services, and deep dive development workshops. The keynote speakers were Marko Perisic, GM Dynamics SMB; Toby Bowers, WW Business Applications and Industry; and Cecilia Flombaun, WW Business Applications Partner Lead. Some keynote takeaways were:

  • Large community. Microsoft Navision has a 31 year heritage with 220,000 customers and 3.3M users in 196 countries supported by 4,5000 .
  • Better user experience. D365 Business Central has better select, copy, paste, and search options, and systematically embedding functionality into Office 365. For example, users can export records from D365 Business Central to Excel, add more records in Excel, and update D365 with the new or changed records.
  • Synchronize "on prem" to the cloud. Microsoft D365 Business Central will be available on premise, and data can be synchronized to the cloud for uses to take advantage of mobility support, AI, and other features.
  • Roadmap. Releases twice a year with the next one having 100+ features, including expanding to new countries, simplifying code ("C/Side to AL") migrations, and others.
  • Replacing customizations with extensions. To migrate to D365 Business Central, partners should help clients replace custom code with extensions that can be used with D365. This will allow clients to stay up to date with Microsoft Cumulative Updates, which are released monthly.

There were many sessions presented by partners and skilled consultants. A particularly interesting session discussed the lessons learned from migrating customers on older NAV versions to D365 Business Central. Some key findings were:

  • Eliminate C/Side code by 2020. Many partners customized NAV2009 with client specific requirements. The community of consultants and developers have taken the challenge to replace C/Side code the modern AL programming language.
  • Converting customizations to extensions is challenging. Moving customizations to AL has challenges, but is a worthwhile effort to reclaim IP previously provided to clients. There are Microsoft tools to help, but these are not entirely flawless, requiring additional effort to get it right.
  • Three-step migration from NAV2009. To get to D365 Business Central, clients need to migrate from NAV2009 to NAV2013, then to NAV2015, and then to D365 Business Central. Again, there are Microsoft tools to help with the migration, but the process needs to be well managed and monitored for possible rework.

Clients and Partners working on these migrations should be looking at replacing customized processes with "off the shelf" and proven ISV solutions that can eliminate complexity, cost, and delays to completion. The ERP migration is complex enough, and likely to have unpredictable challenges. 

To minimize unknowns, customers should seek ISV solutions that provide predictability, speed to implement, and agility. Data Masons Vantage Point EDI achieves these items for EDI and XML integration with many proof points across the food, retail, manufacturing, and automotive industries. To find out more, click the button below to contact our General Manager for EMEA, Larry Velez.

Contact Larry Velez, General Manager, EMEA

Blockchain, edi, immutability

Data Masons is pleased to present our blog series on Blockchain and EDI. Blockchain is quickly becoming less of a buzzword and more of an inevitability in the B2B world as more companies utilize it in their business practices, including in EDI processes. In this post, we'll discuss immutability in Blockchain, and what impact that feature will have on EDI.

With Blockchain, immutability is basically the concept that once data is entered as a block onto the chain, it cannot be changed or altered. In simplest terms, that means no more data fixing. But that doesn’t mean that errors won’t occur. 

Crash Course: What Exactly Makes the Data Unchangeable?

When we say the data is “unchangeable,” it doesn’t mean that the data is set in stone and sealed, but rather, there is no way to change the data without it being shutterstock_715107325_blockchainlocksnoticed and having a significant impact on the entire chain.

The unchangeable nature of the Block is due to a function called hashes. Hashes are mathematical functions which turn the data into an output of characters which represents the data on the Block. The hash acts as the fingerprint for the data, and blocks are ordered according to the previous block’s hash. If a hash has been altered, it will break the chain and be easily discovered. If there is an error in the data entered, in order to preserve the integrity of the chain, the user will need to create a new block with the corrected data, rather than changing the already-entered information.

 

EDI, Business Transactions, and the Error-Prone Nature of the “Throw it Over the Wall” Approach

One big reason this will have a significant impact on the EDI world in general, is that by their nature, business transactions between companies and trading partners are prone to frustrations and errors.

Historically, business transactions which are now covered by EDI, such as purchase orders, invoices, and payments, were exchanged by mail, fax, phone, and computer. In these exchanges, documents were registered in ledgers and replicated in many different forms of storage- from file cabinets to digital media. Each party had their own copies of the transactions.

Think of this model as “throwing it over the wall,” because there’s no immediate feedback when transactions with errors are tendered. This is still the typical manner by which business is conducted today, and there are inherent challenges. If you’ve ever encountered disagreements between transactions, you know it’s a time-consuming headache to fix. For example, if you show an invoice as paid, but your trading partner claims it’s still open, you’ll need to do research, revision, and reconciliation, to name just a few steps.

But why do these errors occur in the first place? Why are transactions between trading partners more prone to them? If you’re working with EDI or your company’s business transactions, you probably already know the answer. Every trading partner has their own requirements, and the more humans are involved in these transactions, the more likely there are to be mistakes. EDI helps, but advances in technology, if they’re leveraged by EDI solutions, will eliminate some of the remaining pains.

If an EDI system utilizes Blockchain, “throwing it over the wall” will not only no longer be an option; it will be obsolete. With Smart Contracts, transactions will be automatically validated before they’re entered. There will be a clear ledger of the transaction that has been approved by multiple nodes, and which shows the history of every step in the transaction and business relationship.

 

Get Prepared for Blockchain

Blockchain technology is poised to make a large impact on how companies integrate their business interactions today via EDI and API’s. To learn more about how you can make sure your EDI system is ready for the challenges of Blockchain, download our brief or read the other posts in our series on Blockchain and EDI.

Download the Blockchain for EDI Brief

Also in This Series:

Blockchain for EDI: How Secure is It?