Electronic data interchange - EDI

Electronic Data Interchange application development
using the PL/B programming language





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Introduction

Benefits of Using EDI

Training, Support, Turn-Key Solutions

Custom Solutions

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INTRODUCTION

This document discusses Electronic Data Interchange application development using the PL/B programming language. This ANSI standard language is called a variety of names by different vendors who provide its compilers: Datapoint DATABUS, Subject Wills DB/C, Sunbelt SUNDBSYS, Infopoint PCBUS, Transportable Software TBL, CMS RAIDER, Netsoft UNIBUS, etc. PL/B is a superbly portable and efficient language (ANSI Standard X3.238-1994) which is supported around the world by many compiler and productivity tool companies for many hardware and operating system platforms.

Among other strengths as a business programming language, PL/B has excellent facilities for EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) application development. Infopro has developed a suite of applications for EDI which automatically access mail boxes at VANs (Value Added Networks), send and receive a variety of EDI format documents (Purchase Orders, Shipping Manifests, Freight Bills, Delivery Notifications, Invoices, Customs Documents, Contract Awards, etc.), and integrate this information with your current PL/B database. EDI is currently in use by over 34,000 corporations. It is used in many industries to facilitate ordering, purchasing, invoicing, warehousing, freight tracking, payment processing, health care administration, and supply scheduling (among many other applications).

Your company may already be using EDI, or may be considering using it. I hope you consider making use of Infopro services for EDI solutions. Please feel free to contact us to discuss your thoughts.

BENEFITS OF USING EDI

According to the Data Interchange Standards Association (DISA), the body of companies which support development of EDI standards, the benefits of EDI are numerous:

  • Reduction of paperwork and associated savings
    • One-time data entry
    • Reduced errors, improved error detection
    • On-line data storage
    • Faster management reporting
    • Automatic reconciliation
    • Reduced clerical workload and phone chatter
    • Higher productivity without increasing staff
  • More timely communications
    • Rapid exchange of business data
    • Elimination of mail charges, courier services
    • Reduced inventory safety stocks
    • Improved production cycle
  • Uniform communications with all trading partners
    • Customers
    • Suppliers
    • Carriers
    • Banks and financial institutions
    • Better market position relative to non-EDI competitors

TRAINING, SUPPORT, TURN-KEY SOLUTIONS

Analysis and Design

Infopro can work with you to analyze how EDI might benefit your firm and work with you to design and specify appropriate EDI systems for your firm to use in interacting with major customers, vendors, freight carriers, and other organizations. Infopro includes in the systems we design tracking of EDI benefits to assist in your continued evaluation of how much savings your firm realizes through use of EDI. Infopro designs typically provide multiple levels of interactively: you can specify the circumstances under which transactions will occur completely automatically (without operator intervention), or you can specify that transactions will be approved in batches with noted exceptions, or you can specify that certain classes of transactions are to be reviewed and approved individually. Infopro typically designs systems to provide multiple levels of reporting, from simple transaction logs, to various reports (automatically produced or produced upon demand), to E-mail notifications that certain activities have taken place or need to be reviewed.

Project Bid

Infopro is prepared to bid on your EDI implementation project. Even if you choose to implement your project in-house, or choose an alternative vendor to perform this work, the Infopro bid may still be valuable. Infopro bids are highly competitive and comprehensive fixed bids, including on-site installation, support, and an extended warranty period. Infopro bids are typically broken down by subprojects and tasks, so that you can evaluate trade-offs and cost/benefits of various project features. Infopro can price bids, at your request, to reflect a mixture of Infopro staff and your own staff performing the various implementation tasks under Infopro direction. You can use Infopro bids to assist in evaluation of in-house and alternate vendor bids, which may assist you in negotiating project costs with other vendors.

Evaluation: Infopro can assist you to analyze and evaluate alternative vendor bids for EDI projects. If Infopro assists in this evaluation, we would remove ourselves from consideration of being one of the alternative implementation vendors, due to potential conflict of interests. Infopro can assist in your evaluation of vendor capability to perform the EDI implementation, and can assist in determining if the vendor has adequately addressed your stated EDI requirements.

Implementation

Infopro would like the privilege to implement your EDI project. We can perform this work entirely with our staff or we can perform this work with a mixture of our staff and your staff. The latter approach trains and involves your staff more heavily and from an earlier stage than with an Infopro-only approach. Your choice naturally depends on what resources you have available and what your outsourcing philosophy is.

We can also assist in managing or act as advisors for an implementation project to be performed entirely by your own staff. The advantage of this approach, for companies who wish to perform all work in-house, is that Infopro has the necessary EDI experience and team leader talent to make sure that your project will be successful and stay on track.

Quality Assurance Testing

Infopro can assist testing of your EDI solutions. Infopro is concerned with pushing the EDI system up to and beyond its limits. We wish to assure that every feature of the software you get will perform properly in accordance with specifications under normal circumstances and also under duress. Many system which seem fine in daily operation, have problems when automated phone calls don't get answered properly (or get answered at the wrong baud rate or with changed hand-shake protocols), have problems when disk space fills, when indices are corrupted, when the same set of EDI records is imported more than once, when the same set of imported records is processed more than once, and so on. All aspects of a well designed system should be oriented toward maintaining data integrity. When a system breaks down, either due to capacity limitations or due to failures in hardware, software, or communications, problems should be noted and programmer/operator intervention should be requested automatically. It is OK, under abnormal circumstances, for EDI to fail in a variety of ways, but it must fail safely and with an appropriate documentation trail, so that need for corrective action is easily identified and taken.

Post Implementation Audit

Infopro can assist you in monitoring your new EDI operation during its first few weeks or months of operation, to assure continued successful operation and proper operation of safety features. As part of this audit, Infopro will analyze raw imported EDI files and track through each process of EDI conversion and database integration. This work will assure you that you are not missing transactions or failing to send appropriate acknowledgments in the normal operation of your system.

Training

For those companies who really wish to perform all the above services in-house, and without the assistance of experienced consultants, Infopro can train your staff in EDI solutions. We can teach them all about EDI, data transmission formats, how to read EDI transaction standards, how to develop database to EDI mappings, how to program for EDI solutions (in the PL/B language), how to communicated with various VANs, how to write communications scripts which can withstand stressful dial-up sessions, and how to generally go about implementing an EDI project.


CUSTOM SOLUTIONS

At the end of this page is a simplified picture of an EDI system Infopro recently implemented for a client in the Chicago area. Some of our systems are completely automated so that a PC can be left nearly unattended in the corner of a room automatically receiving and sending EDI transactions based on data entered elsewhere on a network. Some of our clients have EDI communications automatically performed at night, when phone rates are lowest, while other clients regularly receive and transmit throughout the entire work day.

Infopro has also written EDI VAN conversion programs, which take one mapping for a particular transaction set and change this into a different mapping for the same transaction set to be sent to an alternative VAN. This is useful, for example, if two large companies each have mail boxes with different VANs, but don't wish to talk to each others VAN. Infopro has written bridge programs for use between different VANs.

At Infopro, we like challenges and have a positive "can do" attitude. There's no cost to picking up the phone to discuss a potential EDI design issue with one of our consultants. Let us be your sounding board. Don't hold back on dreaming up the most cost effective EDI Solution for your company!

  




FLOWCHART

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Infopro, Inc.
2920 Norwalk Court
Aurora, IL 60502-1310
630-978-9231 (phone)
734-638-6139 (fax)
e-mail: info@sysmaker.com

Last revised 02/28/06
Copyright 2006




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