October Newsletter  
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Web-based EDI Signals Revolution for Retailers

Two years ago, when Wal-Mart, the world’s retail giant, required all of its suppliers to use EDI, suppliers across the country made a collective sigh. After all, what happens at Wal-Mart usually signals what will happen for the entire retail industry.

Today, it’s hard to see what all the fuss was about.

“The change at Wal-Mart underscores the way the Internet …[is] overhauling the retail-distribution system,” reported the Wall Street Journal last year, “making transactions cheaper and faster for both retailers and their suppliers. With razor-thin profit margins that recently have been pressured further by deflationary prices and rising costs…industries find saving even a few hours a day and a few thousand dollars a month important to their bottom lines.”

After they become EDI compliant, suppliers suddenly have more time to focus on business (see Letters to the CEO). And they save money by not having to re-key data, handle paper, and fax invoices.

Web-based services like DIcentral’s are also having a huge impact on the EDI world. Traditional software companies that require suppliers to buy specialized software and hardware are finding themselves facing stiff competition from agile firms that provide EDI over the Web at prices far below the older firms’.

DIcentral is certainly feeling that growth. We’re hiring more sales and technical staff, and we’re adding more office space.

We believe we have the most sophisticated, easy-to-use EDI solution on the planet. That seems like a mighty big boast for a relatively small company. But then we don’t plan on being a relatively small company for much longer.

Thuy Mai
CEO
DIcentral

Your INBOX: Your business at your fingertips

Think of your DIcentral mailbox as your virtual business office – the place where you receive purchase orders, send invoices, print shipping labels, and perform tasks required by your trading partners.

From anywhere in the world from any computer with an Internet connection, you can log in at www.dicentral.com which takes you to your Inbox where all documents received from your trading partners reside. Using the tabs at the top of the screen, you can move directly to Outbox (to see documents you’ve sent), to Send (to send documents), to Tree View (to view your documents in hierarchical view), and to Log out.

Your Inbox is loaded with features.

For starters, when you receive a new purchase order in your DIcentral Inbox, you receive an email notification at your normal email address. Log into your Inbox and locate your new order in the list.

  • To view and print your new order, click on the order's Doc ID number. An easily readable and printable view of that order displays.
  • You can either open the document in ASCII or X12 format. Or click on the SAVE ASCII button on the bottom bar to save documents to your local drive or network drive for importing into your accounting software or Microsoft Excel.
  • Click on the PRINT HTML button to display and print multiple POs at a time.
  • The BACKORDER button displays the "Backorder/Modify PO" window. Use this tool to adjust quantities on a new PO or to place items on backorder. Preserving the original PO, an additional modified version is created for the items to be shipped, plus an additional backorder PO. All three POs with the same PO number will be placed into your outbox. Using "Backorder/Modify PO" makes it easy to keep track of backordered items and to have PO changes carry over automatically into the 856 Advance Ship Notice and 810 Invoice.

Click here to see the demo

 

Your inbox has lots of other features. You can search through your documents by type of document, trading partner, and document ID. You can apply filters to your search. You’re notified if a document is new. And you can jump through pages at the click of your mouse.

 

 

ASN Turnaround

The 856 Advance Ship Notice (ASN) is used to notify your customer how you will pack and ship their order. It lists the contents of a shipment, carrier information, and the shipping cartons. The 856 provides flexibility for you to describe the contents and configuration of a shipment at various levels of detail.

To create an ASN from a purchase order in your inbox, click the link "Ship Notice/Manifest" under the Turn Around column. When you click "856 Ship Notice" the Packing Options window will appear, displaying many different packing configurations.

First select a packing configuration from the choices. Choices include packing everything in a single carton, packing each ordered line item into its own carton, and others.

Pic & Pak is the most robust packing option, allowing you to mix and match PO line items and quantities on a per carton basis and between cartons. After selecting this option, you must decide how many cartons you want to use in your shipment. Each carton in your shipment will be presented in a table, and each carton's table listing all products ordered in the PO.

Under the "Include?" column, simply check off which line items you want to include in each carton. If an item is to be left out of that carton, leave its checkbox unchecked. Under the "Pack Qty" column you can adjust quantities of the items in each box. For example, if 13 items were ordered, you could pack two boxes with 4 items in each box, or 8 items in one box and 5 in the other. Make your choices for each item in all of the boxes.

After pressing "continue" on the Packing Options window, the ASN form will display. Shipment and carrier information is displayed in the header area at top, while details of the packing configuration are laid out in table cells at the bottom.

Most of the information on the form will be filled in automatically already, but you may have to fill in a few remaining required fields by hand. Our automatic data validation process will double-check your data entry, and if you attempt to complete the form with a data error or by leaving out a required field, the form will show you in red what needs to be corrected.

To complete the ASN process, press either the Send button or the Drafts button on the form toolbar at top. Pressing Send will immediately submit the document to your trading partner and save a copy to your outbox. Pressing Drafts will not submit the document to your trading partner but will save a draft copy to your outbox which you can edit or send later at your leisure.

Bundle To Ship Notice

One of the powerful functions of DIcentral is Bundle to Ship Notice that creates an ASN for many Puchase Orders. In your Inbox, select many POs that you want to create ASN then click on the "Bundle to Ship Notice" button on the bottom bar and the process to create ASN is similar.

Invoice Turnaround

The 810 Invoice is used to bill your customer for the products you've shipped to them. It lists the line items of the quantities shipped, various shipment and order information, and totals which are generated automatically.

To create an invoice from a purchase order in your inbox, click the link "Invoice" under the Turn Around column.

The invoice form will display. Identifying information is displayed in the header area at top, details of the items shipped are laid out in table cells, and totals are at the bottom.

Most of the information on the form will be filled in automatically already, but you may have to fill in a few remaining required fields by hand. Our automatic data validation process will double-check your data entry, and if you attempt to complete the form with a data error or by leaving out a required field, the form will show you in red what needs to be corrected.

To complete the invoice process, press either the Send button or the Drafts button on the form toolbar at top. Pressing Send will immediately submit the document to your trading partner and save a copy to your outbox. Pressing Drafts will not submit the document to your trading partner but will save a draft copy to your outbox which you can edit or send later at your leisure.

Outbox and Labels

When you Send or Draft a document, a copy is saved to your outbox. The outbox lists all outgoing documents to all of your trading partners. Various tasks can be performed using these completed documents.

The outbox looks similar to your inbox, but has different columns sorting the document list.

A line item describes each outgoing document, including its document type, recipient company name, Document ID, transmission status, and creation date. The Edit link at the end of each line item will reopen the document's form for you to make changes before re-sending or re-drafting.

Each Advance Ship Notice in your outbox will have links under the Turn Around column. Clicking these links will display the Label or Packing Slip options.

Continue to create a UCC128 Shipping Labelor Packing Slip for each carton in that ASN .

Mailbox Options

Blank Document Templates

You have the ability to create a document from scratch using a blank form. This is useful for previously paper documents that not sent through EDI system. From your mailbox, select the Send tab from the top of the page.

To send By Electronic Form, select a document from the list of available template links (below). When you select a link, a blank document form will display, which you can fill out and submit to your trading partner.

To send By File Upload , select a document type from the list of options. Then click on the browse button to chose an existing file on your local computer that you wish to send out and click the Send button.

Mailbox Tree View

You can access the Tree View from the Tree View tab at the top of your mailbox page. The tree view is similar to the traditional Windows Explorer interface, with directories that can be expanded or closed by clicking the small plus sign beside the directory name.

In the example above, the Tree View directories are expanded to display particular documents that have been received from one trading partner (JCPenney). The Tree View shows everything that the default Standard View does and categorize the documents by trading partner, type, status.

User Configuration

From the User Configuration directory in the Tree View, you can adjust various settings such as your password and email addresses for receiving notifications of incoming orders.

Report Configuration

From the Report directory, you can create reports that can be exported to Microsoft Excel for display and printout, and automatic emailed reports on a weekly or monthly basis.

After configuring your reporting format, you can create the report automatically in Microsoft Excel.

Technical Support Makes EDI Compliance Easy

Vu_nguyenImagine you own a small company that supplies a huge retail chain.

An email from the retailer’s accounting department informs you that in order to keep doing business with the retailer all future invoices and shipping notices must be handled electronically.

“You have two months to become EDI compliant,” says the email.

For many small business owners, that requirement signals visions of consultants, expensive software and hardware, and late nights learning confusing programs. Cut to DIcentral’s corporate headquarters south of Houston.

Wearing a headset and sitting before two computer monitors, DIcentral technical support representative Vu Nguyen (pronounced voo win) calmly guides a small business owner through the EDI setup process.

“There are lots of details that have to be right,” says Nguyen, a software engineer trained at Louisiana State. “But we guide our customers through each step, and we do all this without the customer having to buy expensive hardware or software, and we supply the computer expertise.”

Nguyen sets up new DIcentral customers by first identifying the hub (the big retailer) the supplier will connect to.

“In most cases, we have already worked with the retailer, and we know their business rules,” says Nguyen. “But with new hubs we have to learn the company’s guidelines and specifications. We have to communicate with the retailer’s VAN (value added network).”

Next, Nguyen runs test data between the supplier and the retailer to ensure clean transmission of billing and shipment information.

Generally, the process takes no more than two weeks.

“I enjoy the challenge,” says Vu. “Some hubs require third party testing, and that means lots of coordination with other EDI vendors. Most of all, I like the customer interaction. I learn something new each day.”

Vu, who grew up in Baton Rogue with four brothers and two sisters, is the only member of her family to work in computer science.

“I got interested in computers when I was in high school,” she says.

Nguyen says EDI has a bright future.

“EDI eliminates lots of man hours handling paper,” she says. “Now businesses can send invoices and PO’s and shipping information faster with excellent accuracy.”

Letters to the CEO

Dear Mr. Mai:

We are writing to let you know how impressed we are with your staff at DIcentral. They are friendly and always willing to help.

We want especially to mention one individual – Ellie Rogers. Ellie has given us 100 percent plus in assisting us in the EDI set up with Federated Stores. A big thanks to her for getting us on track with Federated.

We would gladly recommend DIcentral.

Sincerely,

Sharon Sweet
Controller
Job FootwearSalem
New Hampshire

“If it weren’t for DIcentral, we would still be trying to get EDI compliant with Federated,” says Sharon Sweet. “I just finished printing some labels using your Web-based software. It’s so easy to use, even I can do it! We’ve reduced all the paperwork and faxes we used to do. So now I can spend more of my time getting new business.”

And business is growing, says Sweet.

Job Footwear’s casual comfort shoes are carried by Macy’s and many other retailers. Nordstrom’s is scheduled to carry the line soon.

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