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Replace Email, Telephone and Fax Ordering with Excel

It can be cumbersome if you have low-tech customers that send orders to your warehouse by email, telephone or fax. Data entry into your WMS is time consuming and it’s easy to make re-keying errors. An alternative is to ask your customers to send their orders in an Excel spreadsheet. How does it work?

We will create an Excel workbook with a customized order worksheet to match the requirements of your WMS. At a minimum, the columns in the spreadsheet will include customer number, ship to name and address, item number and quantity. Other columns will be added as needed. To make data entry easier for your customers, a second worksheet will list all their products in your warehouse. On the order worksheet, the customer chooses a product from a dropdown list which auto fills most of columns on the order.

Now that orders are in a standard Excel format, we can integrate those orders with your WMS. The customer saves the Excel file and sends it as an attachment to an email address such as excel_orders@yourwarehouse.com. Our Avalon Agent runs on your network and it will regularly poll the email account looking for those Excel attachments. One by one each, each spreadsheet from a different customer is imported into your WMS and you will receive an email notification after each upload.

The more customers you can encourage to use Excel for ordering. the more efficient you become. Some customers will resist, especially if they only place one or two orders per day. Another option is to use the Excel workbook inside your office. As you receive orders by email, telephone and fax throughout the day, you enter them directly into the spreadsheet. Once or twice a day, all the orders from all customers are uploaded into your WMS.

Contact us if you would like to receive more information.

EDI for a Flat Monthly Fee. How is it possible?

Here’s a common scenario for a company that has four EDI trading partners exchanging 1,500 EDI transactions per month. Ask any EDI outsourcing service provider the following question: “What trading partner setup fees do you charge and exactly how much is EDI going to cost us every month?”, then listen while they dance around the answer. They can’t give you a straight answer because their pricing model is confusing on purpose. If you ask me the same question, I will tell you there are zero trading partner setup fees plus I will tell you exactly how much you will pay each month.

At Integral Group we’re leading the market with subscription pricing for EDI. That means no trading partner setup fees, no mapping fees, no transaction fees, and no VAN fees. Not every EDI service provider can do it this way but we can – and here’s why.

Unlike the larger EDI service providers we’re small and efficient They tend to be slow moving and let internal politics get in the way of providing a good customer experience. Plus, they are not about to give up a lucrative revenue stream from trading partner setup fees, transaction fees, VAN fees, mapping fees and more. While the marketplace has changed, they just don’t have the will to change for your benefit.

We’re able to make common sense business decisions like offering EDI for a flat monthly fee for the benefit of our customers. Mapping fees are the biggest EDI expense companies face and we don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” every time and charge excessive fees. Transaction and VAN fees have become a low priced commodity and they are not necessary either. We bundle all our EDI services into a single monthly fee that is easy for customers to budget and understand.

Our service agreements are month-to-month and a customer can cancel with 30 days notice. There are no surprises when you receive an invoice from Integral Group. With great service and great pricing, our customers are happy and we do everything we can to keep them happy.

See for yourself and get an instant quote.

Omni Channel Part 5: The Technology Burden for 3PLs

This is the final article in this series on Omni Channel.

The technology burden lies with 3PLs to accommodate the different ordering methods their customers prefer to use. EDI was created 30 years ago to bring a level of standardization to data formats in B2B exchanges. It has lived up to expectations for some, but not everyone (see EDI: A standard that’s not really standard). There are other data formats like CSV and XML, and it’s up to the 3PL to accommodate those formats too. Now that eCommerce is prominent for B2C exchanges, there is new technology for 3PLs to support in the form of shopping carts.

The problem with shopping carts is that they don’t use EDI, nor do they have a standard of their own. One shopping cart will format orders in a completely different manner than another cart. A 3PL is going to have to support accepting orders from many different shopping carts, usually through APIs. Then, orders must be mapped from the shopping cart into your WMS. It’s the EDI nightmare all over again.

Compared to EDI, shopping cart software is still relatively new. EDI has become a commodity and there are many competitive offerings in the marketplace for a 3PL to shop around and get the best price. Shopping carts on the other hand have many competitors in the marketplace jockeying for position. This means you pay a premium for shopping cart IT expertise until such time the industry has matured. That’s the way new technology always works. You pay more for the privilege until it becomes a commodity.

As a 3PL service provider you have to keep asking yourself, are you in the warehousing and distribution business or in the IT business? (see The ideal time to change your EDI system) While the burden falls on the 3PL to accommodate different technology in an omni channel environment, it doesn’t mean a 3PL has to pay through the nose for an IT department to get things done. When the burden is too much, it’s time to make a business decision whether to outsource order management or keep it in-house.

The biggest advantage for keeping order management in-house is that the 3PL has direct control over the IT department. The biggest advantage for outsourcing is that IT costs are less when paying someone else to do the job. It’s better to keep the focus and energy on running a successful 3PL business and partnering with a 3rd party to handle the IT aspects instead.

Naturally, I’m in favour of outsourcing order management because this is our specially at Integral Group.

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Integral Group - Your EDI Superheroes®

500 Hood Road, Suite 330
Markham, Ontario L3R 9Z3