EDI for Small to Mid-Sized Markets
Client server-based applications and hardware can be obtained today for what you would have paid for small “mini-computer” 10 years ago. The difference is that the same dollars are paying with now gets you a machine that has mainframe computing capability in a PC-sized box. PC’s are now economical enough that their price approaches the same cost per user as a dumb terminal did attached to that same mini-computer.
The same type of improvements are found in the area of communications. It is now commonplace for computer users in retail stores to access computers many hundreds of miles away. Now, the terminal or PC on a desk in a steel plant may actually be using data from several computers, each in a different location.
Advances in networking and client-server environments have encouraged the realization that while information is surely one of the most valuable assets of any business, information that is strategically shared within and between companies becomes a most powerful asset.
The need for greater speed and flexibility has led to an overhaul in the way the documents are being used. Instead of merely sending documents to trading partners, EDI is now used to replace electronic documents as well.
Consider this example: enhanced relationships between trading partners has in many companies replaced purchase orders with production schedules and inventory balances. Rather than have purchasing agents review raw material requirements and place purchase orders, purchase orders can be placed automatically based on predetermined inventory levels. In many cases, companies have begun to make their inventory levels or production schedules available to their suppliers via EDI, allowing the supplier to adjust their own production schedules to respond quickly to their customer’s needs. In addition, with bar coding and point-of-sale data collection, replenishment of retail inventory or shipment of finished products can now be triggered by information collected right at the cash register.
To remain competitive in today’s global economy, businesses are being forced to re-evaluate the way they do business with their customers and their vendors. The focus of these relationships has moved relentlessly towards greater speed through shorter transaction cycles – and true partnerships.
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