May 2011 | Commentary | 3PL Line

Take a Stand: Try a Platform Approach to Data Exchange

Tags: Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

Rob Howard is CEO, Ensenda, 415-277-2000.

Today’s fast-paced market compels companies to streamline operations and create a business model that provides customers faster, better, and smarter service. In particular, companies involved in last-mile logistics services need to make the most of their data assets to power real-time data transformation and exchange from core systems to customers and partners.

These real-time data exchanges drive efficient, on-time deliveries. But along these chains lies a Tower of Babel of diverse data formats and business-to-business (B2B) data exchange protocols.

Establishing effective electronic connections with trading partners and customers can present formidable technical challenges. Traditionally, companies handled B2B data exchange by writing custom code that enabled trading partner information, for example, to be transformed into a format that worked with their internal or outsourced logistics system. Companies had to repeat this costly, time-consuming process of coding and testing to add new features or connect to new trading partners. Software development time and costs add up, slowing the pace of business and weakening competitiveness.

A platform approach to B2B data exchange removes the biggest roadblock to quickly onboarding new trading partners. By automating the data transformation and exchange process, companies can shrink customer and carrier onboarding time from three months to as few as two days.

Other benefits of a platform approach to B2B data exchange include:

  •  Partner with whomever you want. A data exchange platform can enable an organization to exchange and transform data in any format from any source, and deliver it in a usable form to any target— all in real time. You can accept orders and status reports arriving in any B2B data exchange protocol, and issue order status requests just as readily.
  • Save time and effort, and reduce risk. Toss out error-prone, labor-intensive custom code to minimize development time, effort, and risk. A platform approach can cut development time by 80 percent, software maintenance costs by 90 percent, and Service Level Agreement escalations by 95 percent.
  • Enhance business continuity. In a conventional B2B data exchange environment, business can slow when a partner makes a change to its data format, structures, or sources, because you have to re-code and re-test your data exchange software to accommodate the change. A platform, on the other hand, lets you quickly react to any changes through simple point-and-click development.
  • Keep pace with evolving standards and technology advances. Industry standards and B2B technologies continue to evolve. A data exchange platform with automated data transformation capabilities makes it relatively easy to adjust to standards and technology changes, so you keep your options open and don’t risk falling behind the curve.

The logistics sector needs to embrace this kind of flexibility and efficiency across its electronic data exchange environments. Doing so will drain away costs and help ensure a flexible and efficient flow of goods, from first mile to last mile and all points between.

When you look to partner or engage with a third-party provider of logistics services, investigate its B2B data exchange capabilities. A successful supply chain needs the strongest, fastest, most flexible data linkages possible.