Just about every serious hunter or outdoorsman has a Model 110 Buck knife, has owned one, or wants one. Since it was introduced 50 years ago, the trusty lock-blade, folding hunting knife has become an outdoorsman’s favorite -- elegant in design and businesslike on the belt. But while it may be the best known product of Post Falls, Idaho-based Buck Knives, the Model 110 is far from its only one. The company has offered as many as 300 items and the current catalog features some 200 SKUs. It offers a dazzling assortment of high quality knives and related products, also accommodating custom orders and “one-offs.” Its distribution network is dazzling as well, ranging from specialty hunting shops to big outdoors retailers like REI, Gander Mountain, and Bass Pro Shops to broad-based retail giants like Wal-Mart and Costco. As of late 2011, Buck Knives was EDI-enabled with 33 trading partners and growing, including its top retail trading partners. To streamline and simplify electronic document exchange with these retail outlets it recently consolidated its electronic traffic from two EDI resources -- an external bridge software and a hosted EDI VAN service -- to a single solution that now handles all of its document exchange requirements: TrueCommerce EDI for Microsoft Dynamics® AX.
Blacksmith Hoyt Buck, crafted his first blade from a worn-out file in 1902. Still Buck family-owned, the company manufactures its wares both domestically and abroad, although it is re-shoring production of many products -- notably “everyday carries” with price sensitivity. Headquartered for many years in El Cajon, California, with manufacturing in Oklahoma, the company moved its administrative and domestic manufacturing to the current location 30 miles east of Spokane in 2005. It employs some 300 people in a 120,000 square foot facility where it currently produces more than one million knives per year. Additionally, hundreds of thousands are manufactured abroad. The company’s experience with electronic document exchange goes back at least 15 years, according to Information Technology and eCommerce Manager Jake Boomer, as retailers fought continuously shrinking margins by pushing for automated communications with their vendors. To comply, Buck Knives initially brought a SAAS EDI solution into its VAX/Maxim flat-file database and accounting environment for mapping and communicating electronic purchase orders, invoices, advance ship notices, change orders and any others their customers required. There was no interface to the VAX system, so the company wrote its own.
Inconvenient and Expensive
While this dual element EDI solution did what it was supposed to do, it was not ideal, Boomer says. Since the software was generic enough to work with many ERP solutions, it sacrificed performance that an ERP-specific solution could bring; moreover, it resided outside the business management platform, preventing direct access to needed data and preserving the inefficiencies inherent to multi-system configurations. Customer on-boarding and mapping modifications had to be performed by the bridge software personnel, resulting in ongoing maintenance expense. Mapping changes involved not only two people from Buck’s own I.T. group but also individual coordination with the providers of both the hosted VAN and the bridge software, as well as testing with the respective retailer customers. Besides custom service fees, the combination also involved expensive monthly communication charges for the use of the hosted solutions’ value-added network. When the company made the decision to upgrade its ERP software from the Axapta 3.0 software to Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 in early 2010, Boomer explored several alternatives. The first to be considered was the purchase of an integration utility that would pass information between the hosted VAN’s mailbox and the Dynamics 2009 software. But not only was developing and implementing such a ﬁ x far more complex than originally thought, Buck would still have an electronic document exchange system that resided outside the ERP software and retained all of the disadvantages that had already been experienced with such a configuration.
The upgrade to the Dynamics AX 2009 system was performed by Sunrise Technologies. Sunrise is a Microsoft National Partner with a Gold ERP competency. Sunrise focuses on Dynamics AX and within the manufacturing and distribution industries. While Boomers technology team performed much of the upgrade themselves, Sunrise supported them with a multi-phase process that included guiding the data and code upgrade; assessing the out-of-box installation, identifying needed modifications and performing them; testing and training; assuring compliance with business rules; monitoring the code migration and performing break-testing.
TrueCommerce EDI for Microsoft Dynamics® AX
TrueCommerce EDI for Microsoft Dynamics® AX is an automated electronic document interchange solution that has been developed from the ground up for the Microsoft Dynamics AX environment. It accepts inbound/outbound “With TrueCommerce EDI for Microsoft Dynamics® AX , we are easily saving 30% in EDI costs and overhead per year, which gets better as we add new partners. This is money that we can reallocate into our business. We are very happy with the EDI choice we made.”
“AX really is a dynamic environment,” Boomer says, “and TrueCommerce EDI for Microsoft Dynamics® AX is a part of it. It is a true integration. The code for the TrueCommerce software is actually within AX. The software works in real time; there is no more waiting for scheduled data moves. Everything the software needs to run is accessible in the AX tables... it removes the data silos and the associated complexity and that was a major reason we selected it.” Once Boomer had satisfied himself as to the technological ﬁ t between the new Dynamics AX ERP system and the TrueCommerce EDI for Microsoft Dynamics® AX solution, he also looked at some associated factors.
The TrueCommerce software now processes more than 3,000 transactions per month via exception management to their retailer partners. “Our customers send in documents containing one or many orders, with shipping instructions for single and multiple sites,” Boomer says. “We break down each order to the individual level, and each shippee gets an individual ASN.”
Operationally, Buck Knives is achieving everything it sought in upgrading its ERP and EDI solutions and it is realizing significant monetary savings in the process. “With TrueCommerce EDI for Microsoft Dynamics® AX, we are easily saving 30 percent in EDI costs and overhead per year, which gets better as we add new partners. This is money that we can reallocate into our business. We are very happy with the EDI choice we made,” says Boomer.
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