SPS Commerce

EDI for AccountMate

Has your customer or vendor asked you to use EDI for their orders?

EDI, Electronic Data Interchange, is the basis of business-to-business integration to rapidly and accurately exchange Sales Orders, Purchase Orders, SO/PO Order Acknowledgments, Advanced Shipping Notices, Invoices and Inventory Stocking Levels, among other information.

Once the purview of only large businesses for large orders, the relentless march of e-commerce has expedited the adoption of EDI—making it more necessary every day. Fortunately, it’s easily within reach of AccountMate/SQL clients as a proven and robust solution to accelerate business transactions and reduce manual processes.

To get started, our first question when a client says they’ve been asked to use EDI is, “Do you need Homegrown EDI or Real EDI?” We can handle either/both, but it’s an important distinction that has to be made at the beginning of the conversation…

1. Homegrown EDI

Homegrown EDI is when you’ll be passing files in a custom format your customer/vendor defines—typically as text/CSV or Excel files transferred as email attachments or through an FTP site on a scheduled basis.

This a situation we’ve addressed dozens of times, developing a custom import/export routine—leveraging AccountMate’s inherent flexibility!—specific to the details of the required file format and transfer method. So, if you need Homegrown EDI the second question is, “What are the file formats and transfer method?” And if we set this up as an automated/scheduled task, we can easily provide alerts to your staff via email.

The advantage of homegrown EDI is that there are typically no transaction fees once it’s set up. The disadvantage is the cost of the development as each interface is a different/custom solution.

Suggestion: If you’ll have only a handful of EDI partners and high transaction volume, homegrown EDI can be a money saver. But this approach doesn’t scale well to numerous trading partners. So, beyond that, best to leverage Real EDI…

2. Real EDI

Real EDI follows industry standard file formats with the transfer of files being through a VAN (Value Added Network, basically a glorified email system)—so this is basically plug-and-play.

Our preferred partner, with whom we’ve done more than a dozen implementations, is SPS Commerce. Their “Cloud EDI for AccountMate” product integrates with the industry’s largest network of retailers, manufacturers, distributors, third party warehouses and more. It’s subscription-based to keep costs low, and is available as an integrated solution for your high volume partners customers with the flexibility to manage lower volume customers on their web based solution. Read more on the SPS Commerce website.

So, if you need Real EDI the first question is, “What documents do you need?” To assist in that, here’s an overview of the most common ANSI/X12 documents and whether you’re sending or receiving each:

  1. Inventory Inquiry/Advice (846, outbound) – Your customer may want to be regularly notified of your inventory onhand levels so they can meet their sales demands—without committing to the actual purchase of your goods. This document provides that snapshot information to them.
  2. Purchase Order (850, inbound) – Your customer creates a PO, which you receive into your AccountMate as a Sales Order. This document includes line item details such as quantity, pricing, and required dates. Automating this speeds up the process of placing orders and avoids data entry errors.
  3. Functional Acknowledgement (997, outbound) – Sometimes your customer would like an immediate acknowledgement of receipt of the document, but this doesn’t mean you’ve accepted/posted their order—only that it’s been received and was error-free (item numbers matched, etc.).
  4. Purchase Order Acknowledgement (855, outbound) – This confirms receipt and acceptance of the customer’s order. It can also indicate any changes in pricing or quantity and provide expected shipment and delivery dates. Your customer then doesn’t have to contact you to confirm the order acceptance and details.
  5. Advanced Shipping Notice (856, outbound) – Notice to your customer that the order is shipping, including item and quantity information, tracking numbers and
    expected delivery date. Your customer can then alert their receiving department of when goods are expected.
  6. Invoice (810, outbound) – Your invoice to the customer, including item and quantity information, shipment details and payment terms. Both you and your customer have now saved the time, labor and expense of creating/mailing/entering a manual invoice for the transaction.
  7. Shipment and Billing Notice (857, outbound) – An alternative to sending an 856 and then an 810, your customer may prefer to receive a single document with the information of both.
  8. Payment/Order Remittance Advice (820, inbound) – Payment for orders processed via EDI is most often made via ACH or wire, so this is your customer providing details of which invoices are being paid and when that payment may be expected.

Certainly there are more documents that could be required, but the above covers more than 90% of the situations. And whatever your trading partner needs, NexLAN and SPS Commerce can leverage your AccountMate system to deliver benefits of reduced friction and more accurate transactions not only to your customer, but also to you!