B2B Bottlenecks - getting e-docs flowing

With many of New Zealand’s leading companies developing electronic document exchange “communities” with trading partners it won’t be long before you’ll be expected to send and receive things like purchase orders and invoices electronically too...

 

While all roads ultimately lead to an electronic utopia where data flows seamlessly within and beyond organisations, there are still roadworks underway and important bridges being built between New Zealand's leading organisations.

In the ideal business world, orders are keyed in once, setting in motion an electronic chain of events generating the correct instructions for suppliers, distributors and customers so goods are delivered in a timely fashion and shelves and warehouses are restocked accordingly.


But with so much proprietary technology around and the pressure coming on from large organisations to have their suppliers and customers deal with internal systems in a specific format, there's a risk of being stranded in the e-commerce cross-fire. So much so that many companies are finding third party message translation "gateways" take some of the burden from the tangled webs that often prevent business engaging in e-commerce.

Two models maturing

The business models have matured in the past two years and fall into two camps: in-house installed systems and third-party message broking services. 

Those installing internal systems can for example have the server processing XML-based documents based on the rules required by a trading partner to ensure orders, invoices, shipping and other documents are translated seamlessly on the fly according to the partner's requirements.

With the right solution in place faxes can also be converted into emails, emails into database formats or proprietary forms into XML or other easily readable data interchange standards.

Such system providers include Microsoft, SLIK, Transoft and Sonic Software. Microsoft's BizTalk, for example, can handle the job of translating incoming documents into a format that is legible to your back-office systems and can also convert your outgoing files so they're acceptable to proprietary systems. This is achieved by setting up the necessary rules or translation maps for dealing with that partner's application and then automating that process. 

Some of the bigger companies in New Zealand are using these solutions to create private e-commerce "communities" with their trading partners. 

Foodstuffs for example uses BizTalk to redevelop its internal systems to ensure suppliers can do everything the same way.  The system, piloted in Auckland during 2002 handles purchase orders, advance shipping notes and invoices from suppliers.  The results so far are greater velocity through the supply chain and a major reduction in errors over supply issues.

Paykel is another example. It's one of New Zealand's largest engineering suppliers runs a similar system hosted by Olympic Software and based on Microsoft Great Plains and BizTalk technology.  It allows trading partners on either side of it on the supply chain to interact with it's legacy ERP system in a variety of electronic formats depending on their e-capability. 

Companies that are more advanced can post EDI messages direct to Paykel or work through portals such as e://volution where the XML format is used to move documents around using software developed by Transzoft.

Instead of having to change multiple systems to maintain customer data FujiXerox New Zealand now deploys a message broking server to create a single repository and point of entry for handling customer orders. It overlaid a Sonic Software's SonicMQ and SonicMX message broking servers which replicate data, where necessary, throughout 14 offices around the country, thus reducing overheads, ensuring data integrity and generally speeding up data transfer. SonicMQ ensures guaranteed and accurate delivery of customer data across all systems whilst SonicXQ provides content based routing and XML translation.

Brokers sorting B2B crossfire

For those without the budget or the internal resources to run in-house systems, there are a number of 3rd party message broking gateways that will take your system outputs, send them to your trading partners in the format they require and visa versa. 

Local providers of this service include Electronic Commerce Network (ECN), BNZ EDIS, Tranzsoft, Decode and InfoXchange (see the chart that follows this article).  ECN and BNZ EDIS are two of the pioneers in this area with ECN handling between 20,000 and 30,000 messages most days.  Each has more than 150 organisations engaged and using their services. Just like the telephone network in the early days, these type of networks become increasingly attractive to join as they grow and more of your trading partners become engaged.

3M is a good example of a company benefiting from a third party message gateway.  It uses ECN's third party hub to efficiently process sales orders and invoices electronically for its eight divisions across the 8,000 products it stocks.  In this case, ECN interfaces directly with the company's AS/400-based ERP system. The move to a third party message broker improved customer service and freed up staff who were once involved in re-keying incoming data.

The ECN type of service appeals to companies that have trouble integrating their orders into an ERP or back-end system, or don't have either. Users simply log on and pick up orders, send an invoice or receive a purchase order acknowledgement.

SellAgence had the use of a third party service forced upon it by client requirements.  The agents for Gillette products in New Zealand settled on a third party message exchange to reduce pressure in its dealings with retail chains, including Foodstuffs and Farmers. It deployed Decode, the document exchange bureau offered by e-commerce specialist Conduit.

Conduit Decode is also built on Microsoft's BizTalk and XML, with an optional web interface for clients and trading partners who want translation and support without full internal automated file management.  It's used by SellAgence as a service for now but could easily be brought in-house if they wish. 

With its new Oracle ERP system, SellAgence is adding shipping notices and invoicing to the forms being translated, and is now encouraging other customers into e-commerce relationships. SellAgence simply points its customers to Conduit or Conduit points its systems to them and away they go.   
   
Whichever way you look at it, business-to-business e-commerce is rapidly progressing locally and it's only a matter of time before nearly every organisation in New Zealand will be participating to some degree or another.

January 2003
By Keith Newman

Key points:

  • Exchanging documents electronically is becoming the norm amongst medium and larger organisations
  • Software and "gateway" services can assist direct integration with your systems
  • Order processing costs are being reduced by up to 90% 
  • Errors and exceptions are significantly reduced, in many cases by over 92%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further Reading:


Visit the Supply Chain eCommerce Research Pavilion


Comparative Table - Services

The following table outlines some of New Zealands leading providers.  It indicates the solution offered by the provider, the type of organisation who should consider their solution and the pricing structure available. 

Solution/Company: Tranzsoft hosted gateway and licenced software, Tranzsoft Group Ltd ECN - The Electronic Commerce Network BNZ EDIS

 

Solution introduction: Tranzsoft licences and operates enabling software and services to allow electronic trading and the exchange of documents electronically across the Internet and other delivery networks and protocols. This includes the ability to transact across disparate computer systems and file types. ECN eTrade is an "any to any" integration broker allowing customers connecting to the service to send/receive messages to their trading partners in any format, with ECN translating and routing those messages as necessary. ECN webTrade facilitates the above via a web browser. EDIS facilitates translation and transfer of supply chain communications for all key international message formats as well as integration into major accounting and ERP systems. Partners with Geac, TelstraClear, D&B and PWC who perform free scoping.
Reference Users: Corporate Express NZ Ltd, Auckland District Health Board,
NZ Police, CC McPhail Ltd
3M
MarleyHealth Support Ltd (HSL)Wickliffe
Fletcher Aluminium
The Interlock Group 
James Hardie
Metropolitan Glass
L'Oreal
Old Fashioned Foods
What type / size organization should consider your solution: As Tranzsoft is scalable and hosted, the software is cost efficient for any size of user and makes it affordable for smaller companies to trade electronically with large companies, to provide a quick return on investment for both trading partners ECN has solutions to suit businesses of all sizes.Larger companies using sophisticated ERP or legacy systems can participate through direct integration, while smaller companies can participate via web-based services, via email, or even (receive only) via fax. As a completely hosted solution requiring no up-front investment in hardware or software, BNZ EDIS should be considered by any size organization.
Installed Software Solution: Yes No No
Hosted 3rd party message broking solution Yes Yes Yes
Indicative pricing structure(*readers should consult the provider directly for specific pricing) Options available include:
1) Hosted 3rd party solution from $100 per monthOR
2) Software Licence from $1500 per monthOR
3) Customised packages for any situation on request.
Costs associated with use of our services typically fall into three areas: Implementation costs - using our or application vendor resources. Service set-up can be as low as $500.  Subject to volume and service plans which start at $95/month plus transaction charges. The software is free 

Transactions up to 50 lines per order cost $1.40 plus GST and this can be split any way between the counterparties.

Order acknowledgements and product information are free

Contact Details: Rod Hall
Tranzsoft Group Ltd
09 359 9320
Rod Hall
Andrew Carmody ECN
0800 463 632
Andrew Carmody
 
John Brabazon
BNZEDIS
09-571 4200
John Brabazon

 

Comparative Table - Solutions

Solution/Company: Tranzsoft hosted gateway and licenced software, Tranzsoft Group Ltd Microsoft BizTalk 2002
 

 

SonicSoftware SonicMQ and SonicXQ - provided by Team Progress
Solution introduction: Tranzsoft licences and operates enabling software and services to allow electronic trading and the exchange of documents electronically across the Internet and other delivery networks and protocols. This includes the ability to transact across disparate computer systems and file types. BizTalk Server 2002 is a document and data translation, transfer and integration server. It provides organizations with the server, tools, adapters, and vertical accelerators needed to integrate and automate their business. SonicMQ is a robust and secure guaranteed messaging server with extended connectivity features - including J2EE Application Servers.  SonicXQ combines messaging with content-based business process flow routing and data transformation.
Reference Users: Corporate Express NZ Ltd, Auckland District Health Board,
NZ Police, CC McPhail Ltd
Southern Cross,
Software Images, InfoXchange,
Foodstuffs,
NRMA
Fuji Xerox
VodafoneRichmond Ltd
CommerceOne
Royal Sun Alliance Insurance
What type / size organization should consider your solution: As Tranzsoft is scalable and hosted, the software is cost efficient for any size of user and makes it affordable for smaller companies to trade electronically with large companies, to provide a quick return on investment for both trading partners Microsoft provides Biztalk versions for Enterprise solutions down to SME's. SonicMQ/XQ enables system architects and application developers to harness a reliable messaging platform for the creation of high performance standards-based distributed applications that guarantee the secure delivery of business-critical data.
Installed Software Solution: Yes Yes Yes
Hosted 3rd party message broking solution Yes Yes No
Indicative pricing structure(*readers should consult the provider directly for specific pricing) Options available include:
1) Hosted 3rd party solution from $100 per monthOR
2) Software Licence from $1500 per monthOR
3) Customised packages for any situation on request.
Recommended Retail Price starting from $1999 NZD per CPU (cost per user)

 

$12,120 per cpu license with a 20% annual maintenance charge for technical support and software upgrades.

Licensing applies to server / broker usage only -client users do not require licenses.
Contact Details: Rod Hall
Tranzsoft Group Ltd
09 359 9320
Rod Hall
Tony Ward
Microsoft New Zealand
09 356 6872
Tony Ward
Toni Lusk
Team Progress Ltd
09 623 6550
Toni Lusk 

 

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