“I’m Too Sexy for … EDI?”

With all due respect to Right Said Fred, I’ll take a bit of their song and use it…

But, let’s face it – EDI isn’t sexy. It’s not glamorous… We’re not going to get many invites to black-tie-and-beaded-gown-red-carpet-fancy events. There are no EDI “Oscars” or “Emmys” or “Tony Awards” or anything like that. There’s just data. And details. Lots and lots of details.

And they do say that “the devil is in the details”…

And do I know a thing or two about details! I’ve often been told that I sometimes put in TOO much detail. When I was taking some creative writing courses in college, one teacher was always fascinated and enthralled by the amount of details I’d provide in a story and another always warned Me about too much detail – to let the reader create the image in their mind, of their experiences. If you’ve read much of My work on EDI Talk (or My latest blog over at Inovis), you’ll know I do tend to go into some details – and, yes, sometimes get a bit off track with them…

Now, where were we…?

OH! Yes. Details. And not the men’s fashion magazine!

Truly, however, it is just those details and our attention to them that can make or break our EDI career. How well we provide those details to our trading partners in our outbound documents and how concise we can make our EDI Document specs, the better documents we can receive from our trading partners in return.

In a lot of ways – whether related to our work, our homes, our personal relationships, our cars, whatever – if we do not pay attention to the details, we can lose track of something that can – and usually and probably will – create havoc a bit later on. Take the driver on their cell phone… They’re so into that conversation, that they seem to neglect the details involved in driving… So they don’t stay in their lane; they run that red light or stop sign; they sideswipe some car on the road or cause some other kind of accident.

True, it doesn’t happen all the time. But the opportunity is there for disaster. That recipe has at least an ingredient or two and just needs a few more to be complete.

The daily newspaper and the evening news always have stories of issues or disasters or problems – and oft times you can see that if somebody had just paid attention to a detail or two, the situation may never have gotten out of control. Remember the bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007? How about the plane exploding just after take-off in Madrid in 2008? These disasters – and may others – may have been prevented if somebody had just paid attention to the details.

Years ago, I was taking a Carribbean Cruise. 10 wonderful days aboard the SS Rotterdaam, in the Holland America fleet. I was living in Northern California at the time and had to fly to Fort Lauderdale to meet the cruise. And, of course, the travel agent couldn’t seem to find space on a non-stop flight and so I had to swap planes in Dallas-Fort Worth. At the time, DFW Airport had 2 sets of runways – one for all Eastbound flights and one for all Westbound flights.

So, here I am, all snug in My 727 as it’s zooming down the runway and beginning to lift off. Now, if you’ve ever flown on a 727, it’s an experience, as they tend to build up all of their speed on the ground and – seemingly – LEAP into the air, with a quick and very angled climb. Only then, after they’re so many feet into the air, do they begin to level off. Back to My flight, the nose was lifting and you knew it was just a second or two before the back wheels would lift and we’d be in the air…

Just a milli-second before the rear wheels left the ground, a warning light flashed on the dash and the pilot put us back down, stopped us and turned us around and headed back towards the terminal. He told us, as we were heading back, about the light and how he wanted to get it checked out so to be sure it was nothing.

An hour later, we all find out that the bulb socket is what caused the problem and it wasn’t related to the systems it covered. Never did know what system it covered… But a new socket was installed and the light bulb replaced.

Of course, now that we’re an hour later, there’s a stormfront moving in from the west and the Eastbound runway is backed-up with other planes on their way out. Luckily, our pilot talked to a tower controller and got permission to fly out Westbound – where there was far less traffic – and turn around and head east. We were up and flying again in minutes, rather than sitting on the tarmac, waiting in line to take off.

That pilot was paying attention to the details. Because of his attention to details, we were only marginally late in arriving in Florida, but we also all arrived safe and sound. Never knew if the warning lamp COULD have been a big issue and could have resulted in a disaster. But because of a detail oriented pilot, disaster was averted.

Hmmm… where was I…? RIGHT! DETAILS…! DISASTER…! Aversion therapy…

WHAT?

But truly, it’s those details that keep us going. By getting the right information to our vendors and suppliers and customers, we can avert disaster. Or, in the very least, we can avert some problems and issues that could arise later on.

One of the things I’ve always mentioned – in blogs and comments here and on other sites – is how wonderful EDI is at helping to curb errors and mistakes. You don’t get keying errors from an AP clerk or a Customer Service clerk that types in the wrong information and your order for 100 widgets becomes 1000 widgets. Or the invoice for $568.00 becomes 5680…  You miss the errors where somebody wasn’t paying attention to the details and “Oops!” – an error happens.  Hopefully somebody catches that error, but…

And what about the details of our translation specs..?  They matter a lot too.  It makes much more sense if we put an “order quantity” (from the PO1 segment of an X12-850 Purchase Order) into the correct field in our ERP, rather than just put it any ol’ place.  It matters that we pull the total dollar value of the invoice – the amount we’re looking to get paid for the productds or services we’ve rendered – from our accounting application and put that in the TDS segment of the Invoice (or similar, based upon the standard you’re using!) so that when the customer gets the invoice, they pay us the right amount.

Those details matter. Those details can be the difference between “No problemo!” (Terminator 3) and “Houston, we’ve got a problem!” (Apollo 13). 

Those details make it so we have the right information in our systems and can do the right thing with that information; from filling an order to creating that order; paying an invoice to setting up items to be ordered to be put on that invoice.  Details are truly important cogs on the gear wheels we use in every day life.

Details are not sexy. 

Details are plain, dull and ordinary. 

But details matter; details get the job done.

Author: Craig Dunham – EDI Coordinator
Read more about Craig here: http://editalk.com/contributors/

comparing apples to … fruit salad …?

I can’t believe it’s been almost a WHOLE MONTH since I last posted a blog and My thoughts…  geez.  But, anyway, I was reading – gee, shocker! – another website (actually, My daily mailing of questions posed on the EDI-L group over on Yahoo!) – and the following question was posed:

“I’m working through a client situation where multiple internal SKUs correspond to a single customer item number. Before I get on my high horse and insist that they always ship a complete customer item in a single shipment I thought that I’d ask if it is possible to send a valid ASN or Invoice in this case.

To be specific:

Client offers internal item numbers P0001a, P0001b and P0001c for sale as A0001. It is murphy inevitable that the shipping department will eventually ship P0001a, P0001b and P0001c in separate shipments (on separate days). Is it even possible to:

send an ASN that 1/3 of unit A0001 shipped on June 16, 2008

or

send an Invoice that 1/2 of the cost of unit A0001 is now due for that 1/3 A0001″

Now, here’s the thing to consider – how was it ordered…?  If the trading partner sent a PO for 100 of P0001a, 100 of P0001b and 100 of P0001c, then you need to ship 100 of each item.  If the trading partner wants all of them to ship together – then you need to follow the partner’s shipping instructions or requirements. 

And the same can be said for invoicing, as well.  Don’t invoice a partial shipment of a partial product.  Chances are quite good that you won’t be paid until the full shipment of the entire order (especially if it’s a COMPONENT set – more on that below!).  There are some fine lines here that can and may be crossed, but BOTH sides of this TRADING PARTNER RELATIONSHIP need to communicate about what is going on and what is expected.

One of the answers given over on the EDI-L group was about the possibility of ASSORTMENTS and CASE PACKING issues that are relatively common in the apparel industry.  In some cases, it may be called a “MUSICAL PACK” in which you have a single style of something – a shirt, a shoe, shorts, underwear, whatever – in assorted sizes in a single case.  For example, you’d have a case-pack of 24 and that 24 would be broken down by size, all the same style and color:

  • 5 Small
  • 7 Medium
  • 7 Large
  • 5 X-Large

That musical pack (or here’s the concept of assortment) could be broken down by color, instead of size – so that you’re ordering t-shirts, and they’re also packed in cases of 24, but all of a single size, but multiple colors – either pre-set selections or not:

  • 3 Black
  • 3 White
  • 5 Blue
  • 5 Red
  • 4 Green
  • 4 Yellow

Of course, that case could just be “here’s 24 shirts in colors” and whatever the order picker pulls from the shelf is what’s in the box – and it could be ANY quantity of colors – from 23 black and 1 yellow to 12 of a color and … well, you get the idea.

But it all comes back to shipping and invoicing what the trading partner has ordered or requested.  It still all goes back to the relationship (there’s that word again!) you have with the trading partner and what solutions have been worked out to take care of situations like this – either before they happen or on the fly as they occur.

One of the things I mentioned above was the concept of a COMPONENT set.  This CAN happen a LOT in retail – depending on the product line.  For example, in the sporting goods world, it’s quite common to have a weight set – barbells, dumbells, weight plates and so on – be packaged in 3 or 4 boxes.  But it’s a single COMPONENT that the sporting goods retailer sells.  In apparel, you could have a warm-up set (jogging pants & sweatshirt) or even a 3 piece men’s suit (slacks, vest, jacket) and when you order them up from the factory in ________, you order 100 slacks, 100 vests and 100 jackets and you combine them into 100 complete suits.  When you sell these to your trading partner, you sell them as a complete suit.  But someplace along the line (in your own systems, probably) you’ve converted those 3 seperate and unique – although related – items into a single item – a single SKU or UPC or Item Number.

That’s what we do when we’re ordering those previously mentioned weight sets.

Let’s assume that ACME Weights and Bars is selling a 100 pound weight set.  There are 4 five pound plates, 4 ten pound plates and 2 twenty pound plates.  Plus then you have the long and short bars that you hang the weights from and then you have the locking ring or collar that holds them on the bars.  And you package all of this in 4 boxes – 1 box for the collars, 1 for the long bar, 1 for the two short bars and 1 more box for the 10 plates.  Chances are, however, that the collars and the bars are probably universal and you would use them for nearly all of your weight sets – whether 100 lbs, 150 lbs, 200 lbs or whatever.  So you probably don’t limit the item name/number to just be with the 100 lbs set.

Anyway, now Willy’s World of Weights orders ten of your 100 lb sets.  And when they order them, they have to order 10 of item A (100 lb plates), 10 of item B (bars long), 10 of item C (collars) and 10 of item D (bars short).  But when Willy’s World of Weights SELLS those sets, they sell them all under one item number or SKU.  It’s now up to Willy’s World of Weights to convert those 4 different items into 1 item for sale.

That’s what we do when we order weight sets – we order them by four unique SKUs and Item Numbers (which are also 4 unique UPCs).  The vendor ships them – hopefully all at once (more on that below) – and we receive them.  Then we assemble them (virtually) by transferring all of the ordered and received stock of Items A, B, C and D into our single SKU 100 LB Weight set.

Now, one of the other questions or concepts posed by our poster is the concept that it is “inevitable that the shipping department will eventually ship P0001a, P0001b and P0001c in separate shipments (on separate days). ”  This, however, falls on the fault of the vendor.  It then becomes the issue of the vendor (supplier) to be sure to quickly and accurately – and with GREAT COMMUNICATIONS – alert the trading partner to this dilemma.

In the retail world, it’s not such a huge issue if you have parts of a component set ship and have back-orders for the other parts; you just hold on to parts A, B and D until part C arrives and then you can sell them. 

Where this can and WILL cause problems, however, is in the manufacturing sector.  Take a look at the coat or jacket you wore today (or just have hanging around your desk, office or cubicle.  There are probably a few different kinds of material involved – there’s the outer shell (say 100% cotton) and then there is the inner shell or lining (nylon or polyester) and then there may be cuffs and collars (50% cotton, 50% Lycra) and then maybe even more in a liner/filling (50% cotton, 50% polyester).  And then there are the plastic buttons or metal zippers and the possible sewn on decorations….  and then there are the labels and the … again, you’re getting the idea? 

Well, let’s say that Cozy Coat Mfg is making that line of jacket.  And they’re ordering all of the supplies to make that jacket from FM Fabrics and Materials Inc.  Of course, common sense suggests that Cozy Coats isn’t ordering the materials in the just-in-time way of thinking – that they’re going to make 1000 jackets an order the materials – just in time – to put those 1000 jackets into production.  No, chances are they’re going to have mounds of the filling, boxes of buttons, bolts of the fabrics and … z … z … what’s a container that starts with z…?  Anyway, they’re going to have much of it around and in stock to produce what they need.

But still, if they’re ordering enough materials and parts to make their finished product, they’re keeping most of it on hand at any given time to not have any production delays that will result in their Summer 2008 line of jackets getting out late and not being in the stores until November of 2008 – thereby missing the concept of seasons…

But back to partial shipments – and the poster’s question – the answer to his question would be an almost absolute NO – but with some qualifications and possibilities of a “yes”.  It all comes back to communicating the problems – beforehand or as they occur – with your tading partner and coming to an agreement or compromise that benefits both parties.

And watch out for those 20 pound weight plates – they’re killers on the toes!

Author: Craig Dunham – EDI Coordinator
Read more about Craig here: http://editalk.com/contributors/