Modernizing EDI: The bottom line impact for 3PLs and Logistics

5min read

Caption

Case Study

Supply Chain Brain held an open discussion with Erik Kiser, CEO and founder of Orderful along with Jim Bruckert, EDI Integration Team Lead at KBX Logistics and Dave Broering, President of Integrated Solutions at NFI Industries on the impacts achieved from modernizing their EDI Infrastructure. Watch the webinar or read below to get insights on the challenges with traditional EDI, how modern EDI platforms are different, their decision making processes in selecting a modern EDI and the benefits they have achieved by its implementation.

Bob Bowman, Editor in Chief of Supply Chain Brain

Hi, everybody. I’m Bob Bowman, editor in chief of Supply Chain Brain. I want to welcome you to this webinar presentation on Modernizing EDI: The bottom line impact for 3PLs and Logistics presented by Orderful. One quick note there will be a question and answer session at the end of this presentation. Audience members are encouraged to submit your questions at any time during the presentation by clicking on that Q&A icon at the bottom of your screen.

Now, Electronic Data Interchange is the plumbing of today’s supply chain. EDI is used by 3PLs and other logistics providers to exchange orders, load tenders, acknowledgments, location updates and many other business transactions. But EDI solutions have been costly, slow, error prone and in need of a lot of human intervention. To be competitive today, companies need to be agile. They must be able to onboard new customers and partners quickly, exchange information accurately and have visibility and control of their data. So today we’re gonna talk about modernizing your EDI infrastructure, and the long lasting benefits it brings as you continue to scale your business.

With that, I want to introduce our speakers for today. Erik Kiser is the founder and CEO at Orderful, the cloud API platform for EDI powered supply chains. Prior to Orderful, Erik built custom EDI environments as a consultant, he went on to form his own EDI consulting firm. This hands-on experience led Erik to create Orderful, simplifying the way that companies integrate and trade data. Dave Broering is President of Integrated Logistics at NFI Industries. Dave has over two decades of experience in the non-asset based logistics space. Throughout that time, he has developed expertise in creating fast, growing and efficient operations focused on customer service and execution. Dave leads the brokerage, intermodal, global freight forwarding and 4PL services at NFI. One of the largest privately held 3PLs in the US. And Jim Bruckert is EDI Integration Team Lead at KBX Technology Solutions. Jim has more than 25 years of experience in the transportation and logistics industry, including the past 18 working with new B2B partner integrations and the last three years in his current position. Jim’s team was responsible for integrating new truckload, LTL, railroad, marine and air carriers, as well as truckload shippers to his logistics platform. So with that, I want to pass it along to Erik Kiser for his presentation. Erik, take it away.

Erik Kiser, Orderful founder and CEO

Thanks, Bob. It’s nice to be here with all of you today. I’ll give you a quick overview of Orderful. Orderful is the modern EDI platform. We built our company on modern API principles. I learned from my experience building custom EDI environments for 15 years, that there’s a better way to solve the problem. Orderful is a network of connected enterprises. In a very short amount of time, we’ve been able to onboard about 3,000 different companies onto our network. And what that means is every time one of our customers connects to our API or our platform, they’re onboarding their supply chain onto Orderful. And every time we add one of these new logos to our network, all of their requirements and communication channels are reusable. So every time we add a new customer or a new trading partner to the Orderful platform, all of that becomes part of our network. And everyone wins. Everyone can reuse all those connections.

The three benefits of our platform and where we really deliver value to our customers is that we simplify EDI integrations. We reduce onboarding time and costs. And we’re a bridge for enterprises to adopt modern API principles. Today, we’ve got Dave Broering, who is the Vice President of Non-Asset at NFI. NFI is the third largest 3PL in North America. And then Jim Bruckert, who runs EDI at Koch Industries. These are two large enterprises that have taken bets on Orderful to become their core EDI platform, trading the lifeblood of their business. In a very short amount of time, we’ve been able to build trust with large enterprises, to trade all their critical and sensitive data on our platform.

How this works at Orderful is that companies connect once to our platform via modern API. And that API landscape is wide, more than just transacting EDI. A lot of enterprises and companies that are using our platform have access to pull down information that’s important to their business, so they can show it in their system of record. That’s where the product really shines, in this ability to integrate with us once via these different transaction types, but also get a lot of valuable information back into your system of record. Once a company is integrated to our API, we automatically validate, convert, and communicate that data to their supply chain network. So that API call then automatically gets turned into an EDI transaction. And that enables our customers to really focus on what they’re good at, which is building an integration. And what we’re really good at is converting, validating and communicating that data with their supply chain network. It doesn’t matter if the trading partner is a distributor, 3PL, carrier, retailer, or manufacturer, it can be any company that’s trading EDI. What we do as a software platform that is self-service is we will automatically convert, validate, and communicate that data with our supply chain. Again, the benefits of that are that we simplify this integration because there’s one point to touch. The core benefit and why I built the company is to help reduce onboarding time, because that was a huge pain that I saw as a consultant. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that. All of our customers are forward thinking, what they get is a modern approach to a very archaic 60 year old problem.

So why is EDI painful? If you guys are here, you’ve probably dealt with EDI or worked with it a bit, so I’m going to keep this short. Over the last 60 years, companies have made the best decisions possible for them to integrate with their supply chains. And typically what that looks like is working with a third party like a managed service or building your own EDI integrations in-house. And what that entails is that companies have a system of record. In this use case it could be TMS for a lot of logistics folks. It could be an ERP, for more of the retail use case. What happens is you’re taking data out of your system, building custom maps, and adding translation data to those maps to meet the trading partner requirements. And you’re also setting up your own communication channels, based on what those trading partners require. And the challenge with this is that every trading partner has their own unique requirements. And this is with a lot of good decisions made. But what happens over time is that you end up with a very complicated and complex environment to manage with maybe hundreds or thousands of custom maps on different servers for communication. And the result of that is a lot of overhead, both with technical assets, and then also human resources.

The reason why EDI is difficult and what I see is the core problem in the market is it takes a long time to go live with new partners. And this time equals money. And the challenge is that you build this integration, typically you have to coordinate with your trading partners on their own. So you maybe reach out to a trading partner and get the requirements, understand what those are. Then the next step is that companies are building their own maps, they’re setting up their communication channels. And to date, before Orderful, the only way to really validate your data with your partners is to send them the transaction over email once you’re ready to do an integrated test.

Now technically speaking, this isn’t that complicated, right? Doing this one time per trading partner, maybe each transaction type, isn’t that challenging, but really where the challenge comes in, is in the relationship between an enterprise and their trading partner. And the challenge there is that you’re sending them data that’s not validated against their requirements. You’re emailing them this data, what they’re doing is they’re emailing you back validation responses. And this is where a lot of the back and forth and the waste of time starts to come in with EDI. This is where a lot of the cost is consumed. Because what’s happening is you’ve built this transaction, you send them the data, and they validate it. And you may have to go back and adjust your custom code or map to solve the problem. You send them another transaction, maybe they send you back more validation responses, and so on, and so forth. And this process of integrated testing with partners can take weeks to months to accomplish.

So typically what we see in the EDI industry is that it takes about 12 weeks to go live with a new partner. Experiencing this pain as a developer myself, in the trenches, I was really unsatisfied with this experience and realized that there had to be a better way to solve the problem. Twelve weeks takes a lot of time. Every day that goes by we’re losing out on opportunity costs, we’re losing out on revenue, we’re also losing out on the opportunity to provide a customer with a great experience. As a developer, I recognized this wasn’t ideal. And that was my impetus to start Orderful. And Orderful is EDI done right.

What we do at Orderful is that we look at the problem differently. We built a network that hosts all of the trading partner requirements in our platform. And so what that means is when a developer connects to our API, they get access to a few features that would really benefit their ability to integrate with their trading partners. We provide a canonical schema where companies can connect once per transaction type, instead of spending time building hundreds of thousands of maps. You connect once for API per transaction type. We offer a feature called integration assistance that consolidates all those requirements into one JSON schema. We also offer a rules engine to move the job away from a technical developer, but more towards a business analyst that can self-service and solve problems in our UI. And we have access to this larger network of all the published guidelines and requirements in our platform. What really is unique and what is our secret sauce is instead of just blindly sending data to training partners, and asking them to validate data for you, Orderful will validate your data against your partner guidelines in real-time. What that does is, we can provide guarantees that your data is going to be accepted by our partner before you begin an integrated test. There’s no blind testing here. And so the value in that is when you post a transaction to our platform using the API, you can get in real-time, all the validation responses of that payload against the trading partners requirement. And what that does is it reduces the amount of headache and the amount of time it takes to actually start testing and going live with these partners. Because your team knows exactly how to solve the problems and what problems to solve in real-time.

So as a developer, I’m always looking to speed up my job. I want to get these things done quickly. Orderful provides a real-time experience to solve problems and understand how to correctly build these transactions using our self-service platform. So the benefit is once you’ve created these valid transactions, and you’ve actually passed the trading partner guideline in our platform, instead of it taking 12 weeks, which is traditional for EDI, our customers are going live in nine days or less. Dave and Jim will talk about that a bit. But a core benefit of Orderful is that we are reducing the amount of time it takes and effort it takes to go live with new partners. We’ve been able to successfully do this in a really short amount of time.

The vision of the company is to take it from this current nine day benchmark, to nine hours, to nine minutes and then nine seconds. We want to turn this experience of trading partner onboarding and testing into an experience like flipping a light switch. Alright, with that, Bob, back over to you.

Bob Bowman 

Yeah, thanks very much, Erik. At this point, we’ve got a couple of poll questions for the audience. And to do that, let’s bring in our other two speakers, Dave Broering, again, President of Integrated Logistics at NFI Industries, and Jim Bruckert, EDI Integration Team Lead at KBX Technology Solutions.

Here’s the first question for the audience. We’d like you to choose from among the following options, what are the biggest challenges you have with EDI today? I guess you can select all that apply. It’s not just one, building the initial integration to the trading partner, integrated testing with your trading partner, compliance and chargebacks, or/and managing production data and live transactions. So again, just check as many of those as apply to you. I’m gonna give the audience just a few seconds to kind of make up your minds and fill out the checklist and then we will see what you folks are thinking in this area.

Okay, I assume everybody is busy voting right now. Let’s see what the poll results say. Again, the audience is telling us what are the biggest challenges that they have with EDI today. 73% said building the initial integration to the trading partner, 73% also said integrated testing with your trading partner, 46% said managing production data and live transactions, and 16% cited chart compliance and chargebacks. Okay, thank you for that audience.

We have a second question now for you. Again, we have a choice here and I think this is just selecting one of the following options. How long does it take you to onboard new EDI trading partners today? Less than one week, one to four weeks, five to 12 weeks or greater than three months. So again, one of those four please, which is closest to your own experience in the length of time it takes to onboard new EDI partners? We will get a glimpse of your level of pain. I imagine that a number of people are feeling that even today, which is why we’re here today to help you alleviate that.

Okay, here we go. Well, I guess I’m not surprised to see that 0% say less than one week, the top choice of 60% of our audience today says five to 12 weeks, 23% say greater than three months, ouch. And 16% say one to four weeks. Thank you audience for your candor on that.

So at that point, let’s move into the panel discussion portion of our presentation here. And I’m going to ask all of our panelists to participate. But let me start out by just citing the fact that Erik, you have described many of the challenges of EDI so far. I am wondering what challenges were your organization facing? And which of these were you trying to solve? So I’m going to turn that over to you Erik and then you can determine whether our other panelists might want to chime in on that as well.

Erik Kiser 

Yeah, I think it’s probably better to hear from Jim and Dave. What were the challenges that you guys faced before using Orderful? And how do we solve those problems?

Jim Bruckert, EDI Integration Team Lead, KBX Technology Solutions

Yeah, I can start by giving some background on what we were facing. I think we were kind of where everyone else fell on that curve in terms of about six to eight weeks it was taking for us to do an onboard. And in digging into that process that we had developed through time, we realized there were 95 different handoffs that took place between us, mapper, and the trading partner, and there were a lot of opportunities to speed up and simplify the process. In addition to the fact that we were doing all of these interactions mostly over email, you know, to have a system that we would be able to send things through, and it would be able to kick out the validation and really cut down on the dwell time of all of the emails that go back and forth. And one thing that came out of it for us was, where we used to have to employ a mapper/developer to do all of our maps and custom mapping, a lot of our setup and communications, we were able to consolidate the work that that individual was doing with business analysts in our group. So we have a few business analysts that’ll tackle doing some of the setups, and if it’s a shipper, creating whatever business rules and validating to make sure that we can get the transactions through.

Erik Kiser 

Yeah, Jim, just to further that. I remember going through that 95 steps. What did we reduce it down to? How many steps are there now to onboard a new carrier?

Jim  Brukert

Yeah, now there’s 32 steps, I think, at last count. And really, where we see Orderful going with some of the feature releases coming in the future, I don’t see why we can’t bring that down to maybe 15 to 20 steps. It’s really brought the cycle time of an onboarding just by reducing the handoffs down to around four weeks. So it’s a big change for us.

Bob Bowman

Yeah, yeah. Dave, do you have a perspective on that?

Dave Broering  President, Integrated Logistics NFI

Yes, absolutely. So for us, there was some change in the middle of really driving our going out to the market to look for a new partner for this. So we were going from a third party hosted TMS who was doing all of our EDI development for us. And anywhere from a four to 12 week onboarding time, depending on how the trading partner responded. And contrary to what Jim does, we’re really focused on the shipper side of the equation, we’re onboarding, inbound EDI versus outbound tendering to carriers, that’s coming next. But we were going to an internally built TMS. So we were looking at the need to have to build out an EDI development and management team. We had some of that practice internally and it wasn’t that we didn’t have competence in them, but we really just didn’t want to do it. And we also really needed something a lot more simplified and wanted a really streamlined, canonical pipe connecting us to our provider, but didn’t really like what the the broader market offered from a VAN perspective old, sort of standard, very breakable, very little transparency, still requires a lot of technical expertise on our side. And we were referred to Orderful by another technology partner, and realized that it literally checked every box we were looking for in terms of flexibility, moving that onboarding and integration work out to the partner providing us with that canonized connection across those individuals. And we needed to move 50 trading partners with three to five transaction sets per, so we’re talking about 200 to 250 changes over the course of two to three years. And we’re three years into this now, I think two and a half years into this and it’s been everything we expected it to be including our record, which is an onboard of a shipper in less than three days.

Bob Bowman 

Wow, VAN, value added network, by the way. Okay, so we’ve established it takes a long time to onboard new customers with EDI, the common challenge. Therefore, many organizations would tend to focus on the biggest customers first, which would leave smaller customers or partners left out in the cold or delayed. Was this the case for your teams as well, guys, and what were some of the challenges you faced when it came to onboarding these new customers who needed to trade EDI prior to your modernization efforts? Erik, you want to direct that question to the appropriate answer?

Erik Kiser

I’m pretty close to the Koch Industries experience so maybe Jim can talk about it. But I know that typically in EDI the 80/20 principle applies. Twenty percent of your partners are trading 80% of the volume. And so I believe at Koch we tackled it that way, but I’ll let Jim discuss that.

Jim  Bruckert

Yeah. So one of the differentiators for us is the size of the customer, the loads per week doesn’t necessarily matter in terms of which ones we put in, or maybe which ones we put in first. We might have a tendency to start with the bigger customers first if there’s a backlog list of ones to do, just because we know the value that’s going to bring. But we work really closely with our business counterparts to understand what the value that being on EDI is going to bring to them. And to make sure that they understand what they’re going to get out of having that EDI integration.

Erik Kiser 

And Jim, just to further it. There’s a lot of carriers that are sophisticated and then there’s a few that just don’t have technical capabilities to match what you need. What’s been your experience getting both the really technically-forward companies on and those companies that needed that a bit more hand-holding.

Jim Bruckert

One of the nice things about working with the Orderful platform has been that, for our relationship with carriers, specifically, we can send a tender out to them, and then everything that we require back is an inbound message to us. So that really kicks off the process. And they can work at their own pace to complete their integrations. By logging into the Orderful platform, they can see whether their messages were successful, or whether they were not. If they were not valid, per our guidelines, they can see the reasons why and work to correct that. Some of the bigger customers that are the bigger carriers that we worked with, that didn’t want to put all their eggs in just maybe one test case to go through end to end, they logged into the platform and did quite a bit of testing on their own, at their own pace. They did their own scenarios to make sure that everything was good for when we did the transition over for them.

Erik Kiser

Jim brings up a good point. There’s two sides of the EDI relationship. There’s a leader, a company that sets the requirements. And there’s a follower, the company that adheres. In most of Jim’s EDI enablement, they’re the leader. And so in Orderful they’re able to invite their followers on and they have a self-service experience. Orderful is the only platform in the market that has a self-service onboarding experience for followers. And Dave’s scenario, he’s mostly a follower trading with shippers. So his company’s adhering to these leader requirements. So when Dave talks about a three-day go live, it is because we already had the leader on our network, they already had access to all the requirements and can immediately start testing with that leader without actually talking to them. That’s a core value, what we’re trying to do is reduce the amount of back and forth between two organizations a lot.

Bob Bowman

I wonder if we could drill down just a little bit more in terms of contrasting your previous onboarding processes and challenges with the way that onboarding new trading partners works today after modernization efforts? Clearly, we’ve discussed how you need fewer connections, it’s definitely more efficient. But what other kinds of efficiencies have you guys found comparing the old way to the modern new way?

Jim Bruckert

One of the big things for us has been whether the trading partner, the carrier that we’re working with, is able to send through over a test communication channel or not, they’ve been able to upload files if they’re choosing to upload files, so that takes some of the email back and forth, and you get the advantage of having that information stored. So if things don’t go right after you go live, you’ve got your test examples that you can go back to, to see what they were testing. And, determine whether they are missing a segment. Oh they had been sending during testing. Why aren’t they sending it in production? So for us, being able to keep track of the test case and being able to see the test messages themselves that they were sending has been very important for us. And it’s not in an email in somebody’s personal mailbox, in a folder somewhere, that if we wanted to go back and look at it, it’s going to be a difficult challenge to do that. Especially if the person is out of the office.

Bob Bowman 

Yeah. Dave, can you give us a before and after comparison?

Dave Broering 

Yeah, Jim’s nailing it on the head, communication and transparency are the things that Orderful brings at a very high level. And instead of begging for forgiveness with your trading partners, and telling them that it’s probably gonna take us a little bit of time and making some excuses potentially, now, what we’re telling them is, hey, keep up, come on, let’s go, we’re ready to go, they’re ready to go. You’re not gonna have to wait two weeks for an onboarding email, you’re gonna need to get an email tomorrow, we’re gonna be asking you to test next week, we’re highly skilled at this. And we’re literally having to bring the trading partners along with us. Whereas before, we were begging for forgiveness, and trying to play middleman between our previous TMS provider, and our trading partners. And that’s been a huge seat change for us. And we’re obviously taking more control, because we have our own TMS. And some of that is just there. It’s also a detail on the granularity and the ability to go from that big, fat, canonized pipe that’s coming in and articulate down a level of data better. And to do it by using the engine that Orderful creates by doing those business process mappings and doing it with an unsophisticated, you know, non technical employee.

The person we brought into this, we trained him on EDI by working with Orderful. And he has now become an EDI expert, but only by right of using the product, not by right of having the experience in the industry previously. And that’s just allowed us a lot of flexibility, a lot of business understanding, and every once a while you get, how did you do that? And that’s when you know you’re working with a tool that really makes a difference, is when your shipper asks you, how did you get that done that fast? You know, you’ve officially made a difference, and an impression that adds value for our relationship.

Bob Bowman 

Well, that leads to a good question here, because all the internal efficiencies in the world are great. But they’re not the point. The point is just how you actually relate to your customers and how this tool helps you in that way. So the question is how has EDI modernization changed your overall relationships with your customers and partners? Are you able to provide better service, onboard customers faster, offer new services, just enlighten us as to the efficiencies and benefits that you’ve realized for your customers and your partners.

Jim Bruckert 

And I’d say from a KBX standpoint, one of the benefits that we have, is the more that we can automate, and the more that is done within the Orderful platform in the process, the less we have to rely on people to actually do the work. So if we win a customer award, and say they have 50 carriers that need to be brought on really quickly. In a traditional EDI setup, or if you’re working with a managed service or even if you’re doing EDI in-house, you’re not going to get anything else done if that’s all that they’re working on. But we definitely have the ability to service customers quicker in getting carriers onboarded and in going. So that’s definitely been a benefit for us.

Dave Broering 

From my perspective, I would say a couple of things. One, just that wow factor of being really seemingly highly skilled at the integration. Not everybody does that well in the 3PL space. Two, you know when things break a lot faster. So EDI is still brittle. Our trading partners still do make mistakes, things do still happen. And not every service stands up and holds water all day, every day, we know a lot faster when that’s happening than we did previously where you might you might go 12 hours not knowing through a traditional value added network that had broken down and getting to that faster when it could be hundreds of shipments stuck in limbo. That’s a big problem. And I think the third thing is just the ability to articulate your value proposition. And the low total cost of ownership, meaning some of our shippers are asking us to engage in onboard ahead of an award at the beginning of a business relationship, where that would have been nearly impossible for us in a previous relationship, both costly and timewise, we’d never have gotten it done. And today, Orderful is an affordable platform. It allows us that scalability and turning a trading partner on is not complicated, so long as they don’t have some special requirements in their X12s or something like that. And it allows us to onboard proactively in a way that’s really promoted business development. We have a couple of business cases where we went ahead and proactively onboarded, and we ended up getting business as a result, whereas if we’d have been resistant, we might not have gotten it. So I think those are big values that we’ve seen from an external perspective

Erik Kiser 

Can I interject?

Bob Bowman

Sure.

Erik Kiser

One thing that I’ve never asked these guys as leaders, and I’m interested in the answer is, how has Orderful helped you manage your teams and hold people accountable?

Dave Broering 

I’ll start, Jim, you’ve been taking the brunt of this since the beginning. You know, for us, we really challenge our teams on being efficient. And  the market continues to get more and more competitive every single year. Data is more transparent, things move faster, we have to be more integrated, we have to get more transactions through with the same number of people every year, and EDI is at the center of that. And as more shippers adopt a down the scale, right, as the medium sized shipper starts to adopt TMS as they become more ordinary for business that offers more opportunity for integration. And so we’re really challenging them to bring us opportunities to integrate and drive that efficiency to help our throughput, which makes us more competitive overall. So that’s the biggest one. The second one is just understanding how it works. Knowing what it means to move this data back and forth between our customers, and what it means to be held accountable to on-time delivery on-time, pick up some of these things that you are communicating back in a relatively real-time sense. That’s something that changes very much when you go to an integrator relationship from a paper relationship.

>Bob Bowman 

Okay, cool. Thank you very much. Well, let’s talk about resources. And I think you just touched upon that a little bit. But prior to modernization efforts, how were EDI efforts resourced? I mean, how many people did it take to service your customers? And what kind of skills did they require? Like what are your teams look like now, by contrast, and what kind of skills are required today?

Jim Bruckert

I can take that one first. A big part of our setup was having this mapper/developer. And I wouldn’t say it would take X number of developers, we only had one developer, and everything kind of funneled through that person. One of the things that we’ve been able to do with Orderful, and I think I’ve said this before, is that we’ve been able to take that funnel point and that choke point out of the process by giving access to our business analysts and to our carriers to set up their own communication channels. Also in working with Orderful, they’ve been very responsive and get guidelines updated for people that we’re following that aren’t setup in the network. It’s really been a benefit for us.

Bob Bowman 

Okay, thank you very much for that. Erik, you mentioned at the beginning, that one of the goals is to connect once to Orderful and access pre-connected trading partners. And tell us a little bit more about how this works, and then maybe bring in Dave and Jim to tell us how this provides an advantage for you and your customers and partners, to just have that one-time connection.

Erik Kiser 

So I’ll just tell Jim’s story. I think he underplayed it a bit. They were building a new TMS at Koch Industries that created this new organization called KBX Technologies. And before Orderful, they were using an EDI service Georgia Pacific, there were outsourced teams doing this work for them. And the benefit of our platform is that, as Jim mentioned, they have one developer that’s now handling, I think, 500 different trading partner connections. So one developer that’s built one integration per transaction type, that works over 500 different trading partners. Traditionally, that would be maybe three different integrations per trading partner. So you’re looking at maybe 1,500 different integrations. What we’ve been able to do is really simplify the integration experience for Jim and Dave, as well, by providing an API that allows the developer to connect once per transaction type, and then trade with all their partners through that connection.

Second, you know, every trading partner can have their own unique requirements or something can come up and they need something custom. In our platform in the UI, we offer a rules engine, and this is where Jim is talking about business analysts. We have a rules engine that operates exactly like Excel. So if you know Excel, you can use the Orderful rules engine, and what you can do is you can transform your payloads to match the requirements per partner. So you can easily write a rule to solve a problem. You can move data around, you can move segments around, you can delete data. All of that is a feature that’s right in our UI. And the benefit of that, is that Jim or Dave don’t have to go back to their engineers to talk to them about changing the integration to Orderful, that pipe is built. All of the customization can happen as self-service in our platform. It’s very unique in the market, a lot of the managed service, and third party providers do that work behind the scenes and it becomes a black box. With Orderful, we bring that right to the front of the experience, so the user can solve those problems in self-service, and get all that work done in minutes, and not have to wait for a support ticket to be filled out for those translation problems to be solved.

Bob Bowman 

Dave, and or Jim, how does that translate into the real world for you guys?

Dave Broering 

Well, I think, as Erik said, on Jim’s behalf, that they’ve got 500 trading partners through one individual. When we were building this out, and we thought about the idea of doing this ourselves, we knew that transferring over 200 to 250 integrations or connections, was gonna lead to three to five people, especially early, and potentially having to use some consultants to get us to stability and then a regular. We still have one person that’s managing this for us today. And Pete’s pretty strung out. Pete’s doing a lot of work, it’s a lot to handle. But a lot of that’s just because shippers are snowflakes, and they all have their own individual connections. And not to simplify it, but the carrier connections are a little bit more standard, a little bit more row, there’s a little less flexibility there. And it saved us a ton of time and money, in the sense of trying to find these resources, because the other thing is they’re not just a dime a dozen out there finding an EDI developer or somebody with that background. It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. So we’ve been able to do this in a way that’s allowed us to do it the way we like to do it, which is we would love to develop people, we love to train people into careers, we love to find development paths for them. And this has really helped us create a career for Pete. And now he’s bringing on some people that he’s going to help to transition this stuff to as we level up. And that gives us a lot of opportunities around the board.

Bob Bowman 

Okay, I want to get to audience questions. We’re almost there. We’re almost out of time on the panel. But I do want to ask just one final question. I guess I’m asking for a pretty quick answer, even though you could take an hour answering it. And that is the lessons learned, advice you can give others who are looking to modernize their EDI solution based on your own real world experience. What to plan for, what to avoid, evaluation criteria to include or exclude? Who wants to jump on that one really quick?

Jim Bruckert 

I can talk about it. The way that we approached it, from early on, realizing that there were some inefficiencies in the process, and we were dealing with technology that’s decades old, systems that we’ve had in place for 15 years. For us, it was an exercise of going out to our people within the business, our other developers and our other product teams to understand what really was important to us, that we want to build in a new integration tool. And going out and soliciting the seven or eight vendors in the marketplace and seeing what some of their answers were, having them go through and do demos, I think was very helpful for us to be able to visualize it and start planning how we were going to use the new technology. So for us, it was really about doing that evaluation thoroughly. We had a small group put together and a decision making framework that we put together that really set us up for where we are today and in our relationship with Orderful.

Bob Bowman 

Okay. Well, I do want to get to the audience’s questions. We have a very lively audience in today’s presentation with some excellent questions. So I’d like to get to them right now, if at all possible. So this person is talking about the requirement for the Orderful platform, is it connections to leaders are already in place and have been developed? Is this correct? And thus will it be possible for followers to communicate via JSON API, that is JavaScript object notification, we are really in the weeds now, to Orderful in a simpler way. Erik, can you tackle that one?

Erik Kiser 

Yes. So the leader requirements get published in our network. And the followers, you can choose if you want to integrate over API or X12. So in Jim’s case, he’s a leader. He’s connected to our API, and a lot of his followers are connected via X12. I think he has maybe one follower that chose to use our API. And in Dave’s case, he’s a follower. He’s connected to our API, and all of his leaders are trading X12 data. So we cover both sides of that equation here.

Bob Bowman 

Okay, cool. This questioner is talking about one of the challenges that they’re experiencing and it is quite common they’re experiencing and mapping. This person says, as the partners work on different ERP systems and technology platforms, which leads to various data models, therefore, during integrations is often seen the right data is missing, or not available to process for which specific customizations need to be done within the middleware system for each partner, that makes it challenging to maintain one generic mapping. Erik, can you address that?

Erik Kiser 

Yeah, so every leader has their own unique requirements. So if you’re trading with three different shippers, and you’re integrating a 204, with all three of those shippers, they’re all going to have different requirements. What Orderful does, is we consolidate all of those requirements into one experience. So what you get is this feature called integration assistance, where you can choose the trading partners that you want to consolidate against, build your canonical payload, and then you integrate once to that payload, and then Orderful will map the data appropriately to the trading partners on your behalf. Not all that happens automatically.

Bob Bowman 

Okay, thanks for that. This next question, I think, could probably go to all three of you. I’ll start with Erik, and then ask Jim and Dave to chime in. What size of trading partner best fits in your model? For example, a large trading partner who does a couple million dollars worth of business annually, does it consider large trading partners in your business model?

Erik Kiser 

Yeah, for sure. In the logistics space, especially with Jim and Dave, they’re trading millions of transactions a month. I believe Koch is at about 8 million transactions a month. And they have both large and small trading partners. That experience of onboarding is the same. It doesn’t matter who the trading partner is, the experience is always the same on our platform. But one trading partner, of course, may send a lot more transactions than another. Same goes with David. Do you guys have anything to add?

Jim Bruckert

No, I think you hit the nail on the head. And for us, a trading partner is a trading partner. I know there’s some risk with higher volumes and things like that, but the experience I think, is really the same. Whether it’s a large carrier, whether it’s a small carrier, whether it’s a large shipper or small shipper.

Dave Broering 

The only other thing I would add is just that the affordability of the platform actually allows for a lower total cost of ownership, and thereby really lowers the bar on who we consider viable options for integration. And the ease of that management helps us do so. So in the past, we might not have onboarded a shipper that did X number of loads a month or X number of transactions a week. And today, we really aren’t seeing where below a really small number, that it doesn’t make sense. So it’s just more scratching on paper to add up to a net win for us than they were in a traditional former sense.

Bob Bowman 

Okay, thanks for that. This questioner is asking if you could provide a little more detail on how the API or application programming interface works in cutting down testing time, with real-time testing, as opposed to the traditional way of emailing files back and forth for testing. They’re saying, is it mainly just the sending of the file directly to the Orderful platform that provides validation? Is that what saves time? Also, how does the validation work from Orderful, in regards to transmitting or alerting trading partners of any errors?

Erik Kiser 

Great question. What we do is you can experience the validation results, via the API response, so you can pull back into Orderful and get all those validation responses right in your middleware. However, you’re doing that, you can also log into our platform and see exactly what’s happening. So you can log into Orderful, see the transaction and visualize the validation response. So all of that is real-time. And then the really nice thing is, instead of having to go back and change your integration or middleware, you can actually solve those problems in our UI with the rules engine.

Bob Bowman 

Okay, thanks. Always a question about how various applications play nice with each other or not this questioner is saying how does Orderful interact with or fit into the workflow of a WMS, a warehouse management system?

Erik Kiser 

Yeah, so whether it’s ERP, a WMS, a TMS, or a homegrown system, we don’t discriminate. Orderful is an API product that you can integrate with any system. And in the WMS environment, those customers are trading more traditional inventory movement transactions, like the 940, 945, 944 and the 943. More about picking and packing and the movement of goods. But typically that integration is between an ERP and WMS, you’ve got two different ERPs involved in that anyway.

Bob Bowman 

Okay, this questioner is saying, the biggest delay I face today is the time it takes a trading partner or a retailer to provide us with test data or files to begin integration. Does Orderful eliminate the need for such data or files to start a project?

Erik Kiser 

Yes, to start a project, you can pull down our schema based on the requirements of the partner, and you can integrate to that. And once you post a transaction, you can then get validation against that transaction in real-time. If you’re starting a project with an inbound file, we can also generate those files very easily based on that requirement. So we have the ability to send you example payloads that will match the schema requirements of your partner. When you start a project with us, we pre-load your environment with all of your trading partners, and their requirements. We can also pre-load it with those example transactions and we do that at the start.

Bob Bowman 

This might be for Jim and Dave, what challenges, if any, did your partners or customers face and moving to the new system?

Jim Bruckert

I think, early on we had some difficulty in them navigating around or understanding what they needed to do to complete the testing. But that being said, Erik and his group have been great at reaching out and soliciting feedback from our carriers to see what some of the barriers they had, or what some of the confusion points were, that they could come back and eventually build into feature changes, or guided instructions that showed them how to do what they need to do to complete the process. Anywhere we can get feedback and it’s taken and used to the point where we’re improving the experience for our trading partner, it’s definitely going to be a benefit to us.

Bob Bowman 

Yeah. Okay.

Dave Broering

I don’t have a lot. I gotta be honest with you. It’s been pretty painless. But again, we’re the receiver. So it’s a very different scenario. Erik made the comment earlier, it typically is a relatively well-oiled machine that we’re working with that knows EDI really well. We’re a little bit more sophisticated in that perspective. And as a result, typically, it’s just a matter of communicating that this is our integration partner, you will hear from them, not from us. As long as that’s been done, we’re off to the races.

Bob Bowman 

All right. You mentioned the ability to troubleshoot and fix issues easily. What does that mean, and how does it work?

Jim  Bruckert

One of the main things from my standpoint, being one of the people that occasionally will jump in and do some of that troubleshooting, is just the ability to flip between the X12 and the JSON schema to see what types of errors are being caused with the validation. If it’s invalid, what are the valid values that the carrier should be sending? It’s things like that, it’s a lot easier to understand those values. And utilizing Orderful’s rules engine, probably more so from a shipper standpoint, but we’ve also shown some of the carriers how to log in and make small adjustments if there are things that are coming through that are causing invalid errors. They’ve been able to correct them that way as well.

Bob Bowman 

Okay, great. We are indeed just about out of time. We have time for just one final question. And that is the following, what are the benefits to your organization of moving to a modern EDI platform? I’m going to ask Jim and Dave each to chime in on this one. Maybe Jim, will you start?

im Bruckert

Yeah, I can get a start here. So there’s really three things that I can think of: visibility is number one, and that’s visibility in terms of the errors. Better transactions are going through and being able to provide notifications, being able to provide visibility to the transactions themselves. Even the rules that transform the data are easy to understand. And that, to us, is all led to not having to employ mappers in order to do the work. The elasticity within the cloud infrastructure is another thing, you know, it’ll be able to handle volumes. We shouldn’t have to worry about carriers deciding to send us 12 months of their data, the cloud infrastructure will be able to expand and deal with that type of thing. And then thirdly, it’s the support that we get from Orderful and Erik. You know, from the beginning, they’ve been very engaged, they’ve been great to work with, they did demos for us early on, and really jumped through all the hoops that we had to, in order to start the relationship up.

Bob Bowman 

Okay, Dave?

Dave Broering 

Yeah, the confidence, plain and simple. It’s just confidence. And it’s confidence in the ability to integrate, it’s confidence in our ability to execute. It’s confidence in our ability to be able to transact in a way that our shipper wants to transact with us. And it’s confidence in our ability to scale our business. And we wouldn’t have those things if we were in our previous scenario. And this used to be a black hole and a dangerous place that we would try to avoid at all costs. And now we run after it. Because we know that it’s a strength of ours. And as a growing business, we need that confidence in this to drive us forward. And we know that Orderful is that platform to help us do that.

Bob Bowman 

Wow, we have pumped new life into EDI. There may be a day where we won’t need it anymore. But in the meantime, it’s here and it’s modernized. So this is a great discussion about how Orderful has achieved that and how a couple of users have realized real benefits as a result. So thank you so much, you guys, for that excellent presentation. Hey, audience, you can speak to an EDI expert at Orderful by accessing that URL you see right there in front of you on the screen. I’m sure you’re going to want to know more and those audience members whose questions did not get addressed today because of time considerations, I’m sure that our great speakers would be only too happy to answer them offline. So Erik Kiser, Jim Bruckert and Dave Broering, thank you so much for your fantastic presentation. Thank you audience for your participation too, your great questions as well. Everybody, stay well. Have a great day.

newsletter

Prefooter medium illustration
03Connect

Join us on the journey to change the way the world trades EDI

Talk to an EDI Expert today

Join us on the journey to change the way the world trades EDI

Schedule a Demo

Schedule a Demo

BOOK A DEMO