Data talk: “Smart form” technology eases EDI/ERP order information transfer, validation

ADX says its CommerceMail solution is based on .PDF “smart” form technology that enables transaction document data to flow seamlessly into a company’s ERP system, eliminating data entry errors and costly data validation and error correction.

By Frank O Smith, senior contributing editor ( March 23, 2009

Leveraging a company’s enterprise systems to make smarter decisions and be more responsive to challenges in trying economic times simply makes good sense.

It’s all in the data.

“The best way to survive in this economy is to make better decisions, but to do that you need better data,” says Cal Lehman, senior VP of strategy for Advanced Data Exchange (ADX), an electronic services provider that helps clients build tighter, better integrated supply chains. “Companies have spent millions on their ERP systems only to end up manually entering sales information and orders.”

According to Lehman, it’s estimated there is one data entry error for are every 1,000 keystrokes. “That’s a lot of errors, and it costs a lot to validate data and correct them,” he says.

Many suppliers use EDI in their trading communities; and some have augmented that with customer portals to improve electronic transfer of the information directly into their ERP systems. “But there’s always that portion of your customer base that represents the‘long tail,’ ” Lehman says, and for cost reasons or lack of internal resources will continue to phone or fax orders—requiring someone to manually key information.

ADX has a solution for that in CommerceMail, which is based on .PDF “smart” form technology. It enables suppliers to email technology-challenged customers a purchase order or other transaction document, “putting the burden of data validation on them,” says Lehman. Submitting smart order forms enables the data to flow seamlessly into a company’s ERP system, thereby eliminating data entry errors and costly data validation and error correction.

Do it Best Corp ., a hardware and lumber supply cooperative serving 4,100 independently owned hardware and home improvement retailers around the world, will use CommerceMail to bring the last vestiges of its “long tail” supplier member base into the age of electronic commerce.

“Any time you go electronic, it improves efficiencies and accuracies,” says Jim Crilly, EDI coordinator analyst for the Ft. Wayne, Ind.-based supplier. “About 98 percent of our suppliers are linked with us through EDI. Our goal is to get to 100 percent, handling everything—purchase orders, invoices, and advance shipment notices. It will make us more efficient and cost-effective. And it will enable us to easily forward the information electronically out to our supply chain.”

Mike Barley, Do it Best EDI manager, concurs. “We see CommerceMail as a way to help smaller vendors that may not have the ability or the finances to support EDI, to provide them the benefit of electronic communications,” says Barley.