Posted by Henry Payne - 10 July 2018
Last updated April 2020
Many logistics teams spend their days tracking purchase orders, still uncertain of when goods will arrive because of unreliable information and systems. When visibility and reliable communication is lacking from your supplier, you don’t know when things are going to happen and this is not conducive to good business outcomes.
You know that your customers need firm dates and time frames around their deliverables. But the only way to get this information is if you can get accurate and timely data from your suppliers - this is the push and pull of the supply chain. Frustration around a lack of transparency and not always being able to guarantee outcomes for customers can be the reality for a number of businesses who want to do better but feel hamstrung by this reliance on erratic suppliers (who may also be relying on other suppliers, and so the chain goes on).
It's about performance for your business not complex and confusing technology
Having full visibility and timeframes of shipments isn’t some utopia or false promise, this capability exists now with EDI and API integration. EDI technology has been used since the 80s, commonly adopted in shipping to track the movement of every container across the world. API’s are newer technology, but the business concepts are identical.
If you’re looking at proven ways to improve business processes and get them to a world-class standard, EDI/API integration is a compelling choice with its robust and adaptable automation and integration. It ensures reliability and is tech you can count on. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of XML, EDIFACT and X12 - as a fully managed EDI provider and API integration specialist, that’s our job, and the job of any other fully managed provider. All you need to know is broadly how it helps improve your business processes and customer outcomes.
Do I need to be super technical to get this process started?
Your challenge should not be technical (that’s our job) if working with a capable integration provider your role should be about simply contacting your supplier and connecting them with that provider. At Crossfire, which is part of Sandfield, we work directly with your trading partner, piecing their information together in any which way they can provide it e.g. spreadsheets, emails, PDF documents or well-formed EDI messages. Then the Crossfire team converts that into a format that is compatible to your system, giving you complete visibility of your supply chain.
To deliver the best service, you want an experienced provider. At Crossfire, we have been working with a range of industries, trading partners and platforms for a number of years. One business needed us to collate information from 72 suppliers across Europe to form a picture of all the required components needed to complete the assembly of the final product. By using Crossfire EDI, the business improved their processes by:
- Knowing expected arrival dates of goods from suppliers
- Accurately forecasting the delivery dates to customers
- Setting, achieving, and analysing KPI’s more accurately
- Being agile - identifying any issues earlier and being able to troubleshoot or keep their customer in the loop e.g. goods held by customs
- Gaining competitive advantage, winning new business by making their supply chain and timeframes visible to customers
Depending on your objectives, these are the types of world-class business benefits you can expect when using a fully managed provider.
How do you begin?
Identify the top three areas of your supply chain where you absolutely need visibility. Talk to those relevant suppliers about their capability to share information and then a trusted EDI and API Integration provider about how to connect the two. Any provider worth their salt will want to understand your business processes fully to map out the best approach to gaining efficiencies, ensuring transactions run as effectively as possible.
A really simple integration might process an Excel document into your tracking system. A more advanced integration would provide full system to system information sharing with real-time updates of goods.
Like any chain, your supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Your integration with your trading partners is one of those links that can be strengthened with the right provider in place. Crossfire works directly with your suppliers to make the integration as minimally technically taxing for you as possible. Customers can leave it to us to always deliver, this is a practical case study from the iconic craft beer company, Honest Brew, on exactly how they evolved their supply chain integration to grow their business (and make things like their craft beer advent calendar possible!).
The right integration partner can really take your business to a new level and world-class standard because everything is done for you. From networking equipment, operating systems and servers to licensing and maintenance contracts, a managed EDI/API model takes care of all details, large and small. Knowing your integration partner is doing all of these things well, frees you up to focus on growing rather than maintaining your business, getting an edge on competitors who are likely still waiting on that update from their suppliers ...
Henry Payne leads the Crossfire team of tech and business experts. His depth of experience has been built over the past 13 years with the company, working with customers across the globe; from medium-sized businesses to publicly-listed companies with billions of revenue.
When not integrating systems, Henry can be found spending time with his family and a range of outdoor pursuits including sea fishing, snow skiing and cycling.
Managed EDI Services
At Sandfield, we provide a fully managed service for cloud EDI and API with our Crossfire offering. We manage everything including the setup, maintenance and monitoring of your EDI and API. Crossfire can be integrated with any system through API’s or message transfer, eliminating manual data entry so you have more time to focus on business performance.