From the Desk of EDI & ERP Expert: Glenn McPeak
The integration of disparate best of breed WMS solutions to ERP platforms is an increasingly common trend in the emerging enterprise market space. In many cases the decision to mesh these critical technologies is driven by economics and project scope, however, the most common reason is simple – the WMS system is working well, but the ERP platform needs replaced.
In those cases, integration poses a major challenge and a project risk, especially when no native integration exists and it must be architected. While the optimal WMS to ERP integration is seamless real-time communication, in many cases it’ s not a viable option due to technology limitations or simply because it’s not worth the expense of building a real-time interface.
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However, the opportunity to avoid these challenges exists if the EDI provider can utilize the same integration approach used for public warehouse (third-party logistics or 3PL’s). This integration model is mature and relatively standardized in the 3PL industry. These process flows, including the EDI X.12 document description, are as follows:
- Warehouse Shipping Order - Used to enable the depositor (ERP system) to advise a warehouse (WMS System) to make a shipment, confirm a shipment, or modify or cancel a previously transmitted shipping order, make a shipment, confirm a shipment, or modify or cancel a previously transmitted shipping order.
- Warehouse Stock Transfer Shipment Advice - Used by the warehouse to advise the depositor that shipment was made. Also used to reconcile order quantities with shipment quantities.
- Warehouse Stock Transfer Shipment Advice - Used by a depositor or an agent of the depositor to advise the recipient that a transfer shipment has been made. Also provides a receiving location with detailed information concerning product being shipped to that location.
- Warehouse Stock Transfer Receipt Advice - Used by a receiving location to advise a depositor or an agent of the depositor that a transfer shipment has been received. Also provides the depositor or the depositor's agent with detailed information concerning product that has been received.
- Warehouse Inventory Adjustment Advice - Used to inform a warehouse/depositor of a quantity or status change to inventory records. Also provides detailed information concerning the internal adjustments which occur between a warehouse and a depositor.
- Inventory Product Synchronization (Item Maintenance) – Pushed by the ERP to the WMS that includes item dimensions and weights, which is essential for WMS and Transportation Management System (TMS) functionality).
- Inventory Inquiry – This document is commonly used to communicate inventory status and quantity information from a seller to a customer. This information can be used to compare and reconcile inventory levels between the ERP and WMS systems.
In summary, integrating WMS systems is a little different than 3PL’s as far as process flow and information needs go, but it’s possible to reduce the challenges utilizing existing integration patterns and specifications that are tried and proven in the world of EDI. The format of the data itself is secondary to the concept – flat files, XML files and virtually any data format can deliver the same result – X.12 EDI flows simply provide an established template that has considered virtually all data requirements.
Understanding this concept will allow organizations to integrate disparate WMS and ERP systems utilizing existing EDI design models, which is a proven way to reduce design time, project risk and cost when integrating EDI to WMS solutions without native integration.
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