Managed Services, EDI

Simply put, Managed EDI Services is the pain relief for your EDI headaches.

Many companies and IT departments view EDI as a necessary evil of doing business today which is regrettable. The truth is that when an EDI program is implemented and managed properly, the benefits can be transformational to the enterprise. Removing human involvement in mundane business transaction flows will increase transaction processing velocity and help eliminate errors - saving both time and money. Improving your organizations responsiveness while reducing errors fosters better relationships with business partners.  At the same time, increasing your company’s business efficiency and reduced costs will increase profitability.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Well, just like anything that sounds too good to be true, there are several factors that come into play when looking at what it takes to keep EDI running smoothly, such as:

 

  • People that understand EDI in your business
  • People that understand EDI best practices
  • People that understand how to effectively communicate with your EDI trading partners
  • People that know how to manage trading partner compliance
  • People that have time to react to EDI alerts and the knowledge to be able to address themmanagedservices

That’s a lot of EDI stuff that needs to be covered, and since EDI is not usually a core competency of most businesses that utilize EDI, and most tend not to hire dedicated staff to handle this work, this stuff can become EDI headaches. This is where Managed EDI Services comes in.

Managed EDI Services is the management of your EDI operations by an experienced third-party provider. They simplify EDI for you by providing EDI specialist teams that understand your specific business processes and manage the day-to-day so that you can focus on running your business.

The day-to-day operational tasks that are handled by Managed EDI Services teams are:

  • Proactive monitoring of your environment
  • Responding to and resolving of all EDI alerts and addressing their root causes
  • Communicating with your trading partners on EDI related topics
  • Communicating effectively with your business stakeholders
  • Applying EDI best practices
  • Managing compliance to partner specifications

The Managed EDI Services (MES) team’s primary role is to ensure that your EDI runs smoothly. Since they understand your key business processes and are automatically alerted to all events that might impede your business flow, they can proactively act to resolve any situations that arise. They also address the root cause to avoid repeated issues in the future.

Communication with every stakeholder in your supply chain is key to the running of a smooth EDI operation, the MES teams actively work with both your internal business stakeholders and your trading partners to understand and report back so that does happen. They are also able to bring the company-wide experience to your environment by looking for opportunities to implement best practice and strengthen overall operations. The MES team is an integral part of your team.

At the business level, the major benefits of employing Managed EDI Services are:

  • Reduced overheads
  • Reduced penalties
  • Continuous coverage
  • Time to focus

Having a team of specialists working for you provides continuous coverage for your EDI functions. No scrambling to find coverage when your internal staff take vacation or are out sick, no more worrying about someone with all the EDI knowledge leaving.

Managed EDI Services boils down to a service offering that makes EDI simple for you by providing you with the piece of mind that your EDI activities are being handled and that you and your staff can stay focused on running your core business.

Data Masons has been providing integrated EDI services for over two decades. To speak with a specialist about how our experts can augment your EDI team, contact us today!

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EDI, Amazon, Seller Central, Vendor Central, Fulfillment by Amazon

It can be difficult to decide how to trade with Amazon, but understanding the differences between the options can enable organizations to best leverage the advantages of working with this leading eCommerce enterpriseIn this blog we’ll explain the differences between being a vendor and a seller, along with the fulfillment options available for both.  We also inform the reader as to how Data Masons can help companies fully automate their business processes with Amazon from order to invoice, regardless of the option selected. 
Vendor Central 
In this scenario, Amazon acts as a retailer, buying stock in bulk from a vendor and storing this stock in their distribution centers. The end customer then buys the stock from Amazon and the order is fulfilled by Amazon, so the end customer is Amazon’s customer. This means the communication with the customer is controlled by Amazon, and Amazon also collects margin on every sale. shutterstock_625771727

How Does Data Masons Help? 
Data Masons can integrate the entire Order to Cash cycle with Vendor Central via Amazon’s strict EDI requirements which can be fully managed by Data Masons on your organization’s behalf Data Masons can service interactions with Amazon in any country in which Amazon operates.  Data Masons seamlessly enables EDI with Vendor Central for all available Amazon Vendor Central interactions, resulting in lower operating costs for vendors that utilize Amazon’s portal solution.  

 

Seller Central 
When participating in Seller Central program, the supplier (seller) sells directly to their customers on the Amazon website. Amazon acts as a marketplace and it takes a subscription rather than margin on every sale. The seller controls the communication with the customer and can therefore build a customer profile, which can in-turn help with repeat business through targeted marketing. 

Seller Central also gives the seller more flexibility when changing settings such as delivery service levels, pricing and stock levels. This flexibility can be especially useful on promotional days like Black Friday, enabling a seller to quickly react to market conditions. For example:  

  • a competitor is selling the same products as your company at a discount you need to match on Amazon 
  • your warehouse is having issues, so you need to extend the delivery promise 
  • you want to alter the stock levels available on Amazon depending on how well all your selling channels are performing versus the stock levels you have available  

How Does Data Masons Help? 
Data Masons has a “ready to implement” solution that manages various RESTful API interfaces that are utilized with Seller Central. Data Masons can work with our clients to determine which ones are relevant to their use case to maximize selling potential and flexibility on Amazon. Orders are retrieved from Amazon automatically and then interfaced to existing ERP infrastructure.   The overall result is that distribution through Seller Central can be performed in an efficient, secure and reliable fashion. 

 

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) 
Fulfillment by Amazon is the third way that a company can utilize Amazon’s platform and services.  In this model, Amazon’s responsibilities include warehousing, shipping and even selling a company’s products but, unlike Vendor Central, Amazon does not purchase the goods from the seller and receive margin.  Instead, Amazon charges warehousing, selling and fulfillment fees Fees vary based on whether the goods are sold by Amazon or through other channels or eCommerce sites.  In detailed terms this is how FBA works. 

  • When FBA is utilized, the seller transfers goods to Amazon’s fulfillment centers and retains legal ownership of the goods. Amazon promotes the goods, receives orders, ships the goods and settles the payments that are remitted to the seller. At the same time, orders can be taken by the seller through other means and transmitted to Amazon for fulfilment but no billing is involved by Amazon.  In this scenario Amazon behaves like a public warehouse (aka Third Party Logistics Provider 3PL or Logistics Service Provider LSP). 
  • If both FBA and a company’s own distribution network are being used, the FBA API interfaces will only be run for the orders to be shipped via the FBA workstream.  

How Can Data Masons Help? 
Data Masons can fully integrate with Amazon FBA APIs and your Microsoft ERP directly or any ERP system that support EDI transactions such as X12, EDIFACT and even custom file formats. Data Masons can help companies utilize the optimal Amazon model for their business and become more competitive overall. 

To learn more about how Data Masons can provide seamless integration with your ERP for Amazon and other key trading partners, download our white paper, EDI Made Simple.

Executive Brief: EDI Made Simple: A New Approach

Careers, Team

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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Careers, Team

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 Johnston 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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Careers, Team

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!

Many of our customers have overcome challenges and found success with our EDI solution, which can take the headache out of 3PL and other business processes. Read our white paper to learn more.

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EDI, Amazon

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.

Read part 3

To read more about integrating EDI messaging for logistics, download our data sheet.

Download the Data Sheet

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.

Read part 2
Read part 3

Data Masons has helped many companies integrate EDI messaging with 3PL. To learn more about how to streamline your warehousing, download our data sheet.

Download the Data Sheet

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.