edi is so scary!!! BOO!

It was a dark and stormy night…  The wind howled through the skeletal branches of the trees…  ghosts, goblins and other monsters scampered along the street…  the full moon shone brightly, yet all the streets seemed dim and darkened and you were wary about what might bump into you in the night…

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  OK, so it’s warm, a bit breezy and mostly sunny.  At least it is in most of Southern California.  But it seemed just wrong to start off a blog on Halloween with something so … so … cheerful.

I was thinking, on this warm and sunny October day – that Halloween is the PERFECT version of the supply chain.  Honestly, think about it…  And think about how many different supply chains may be involved…!

But the basic one – “TRICK OR TREAT” – the art of hitting up the neighborhood – is a perfect example of a simple – yet WILDLY effective – supply chain.

The breakdown:

*             you put on some clothes (a costume),

*             you walk down the street,

*             you ring a doorbell and yell “TRICK OR TREAT!” ,

*             and the person gives you some candy (or other great treat)…!

How much simpler and easier is that supply chain?!?  Nothing to do but get dressed up on some costume – whether a simple sheet with some eye-holes – boo!  I’m a ghost! – or something more … frightening – like a vampire, or a witch – or even more elaborate – donning a fully body suit of hair and becoming a werewolf.  Simple.  Easy.  Effective.

Then, of course, there are a number of other supply chains involved, as well.  There’s the candy that you get from each house – somebody had to buy that at some store…  And that store had to buy it from some candy maker.  And they had to buy the ingredients to make the wonderful confection from someplace.  There’s the costume you wear – that store had to buy it…  and the rest is just like the above.

But Halloween is a perfect example of what a supply chain SHOULD be – simple – easy – effective.  Not a lot of fuss and bother to contend with.  Sure, you can get elaborately fancy and create a foam-rubber body suit that turns you into Godzilla (or some other monster) or you can do the easy simple “sheet-over-the-head” trick and be a ghost.  You can make your own “home grown” solution – pulling parts and bits from the closets and drawers – or you can buy the cheap, moderate or expensive solution from the dealer down the road.

So, thinking about it that way – do you see the similarities between Halloween Trick-or-treating and your supply chain…?  Which did you choose – simple or … elaborate?

But, unlike Halloween, the supply chain needs to be in place and working every single day.  Halloween just comes once a year.  But, Halloween can also have some … difficulties … in that supply chain.  There’s the house without candy… or where they just ran out…  Or there’s the “healthy house” that hands out toothbrushes or boxes of raisins (oh, yeah, THEY’RE really popular!)…  There’s your problems with the supply chain – out of stock of what you’re ordering – or not giving you the product you really want and order. 

Then there are the … wardrobe malfunctions (thank you Janet and Justin!) … that puts an end to your night’s joys of candy and treats.  And those can also manifest themselves in your supply chain – maybe your communications fail… or your translation adds odd-ball characters… or the data is … corrupted…  There are a number of ways where your supply chain can malfunction and all … hell … breaks loose.

So, simple or complex; smooth and easy or fraught with horror, peril and malfunctions; Halloween may just be the best example of the supply chain outside of the supply chain.

So, to all you goblins, ghouls, bats and witches, I wish you a safe – insane – Halloween.

Oh, yeah.  “Unpleasant dreams!” (many thanks to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark for that!)

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

Unemployed? Don’t move here…

I just read this article – well – a pair of articles – over on MSN – about the 25 WORST cities for finding a job and the 25 BEST cities for finding a job.  Truly interesting stuff; however the methods used to create the article are – at best – flawed.  The flaw is that they only use the unemployment rates, as compiled and published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics – a federal agency that is responsible for researching and compiling labor economics and statistics…

The list of the bad cities includes quite a few cities located in California.  But if you were to look at the list – and if you’re not from California – you’ve probably NEVER heard of many (if ANY) of those cities.  Here’s the list:

1.    El Centro, Calif.       
2.    Yuma, Ariz.               
3.    Flint, Mich.               
4.    Merced, Calif.
5.    Yuba City, Calif.      
6.    Modesto, Calif.      
7.    Visalia, Calif.            
8.    Monroe, Mich.
9.    Palm Coast, Fla.      
10.  Stockton, Calif.         
11.  Fresno, Calif.             
12.  Bakersfield, Calif.
13.  Hanford, Calif.          
14.  Redding, Calif.          
15.  Muskegon, Mich.    
16.  Jackson, Mich.
17.  Rocky Mount, N.C.
18.  Saginaw, Mich.         
19.  Madera, Calif.           
20.  Detroit
21.  Elkhart, Ind.               
22.  Sebastian, Fla.          
23.  Kokomo, Ind.            
24.  Rockford, Ill.
25.  Niles, Mich.

11 of them are from California.  But, of those 11 – only one is NOT located in the Central Valley area of California.  And the biggest (and almost only!) jobs in most of those cities are related to farming and agriculture.  And some of them are downright tiny cities.  And they’re surrounded by miles and miles and miles of … well … nothing. 

Most of the cities listed that are in the mid-western areas of the US – like Indiana, Michigan, Illinois – are areas that have industries tied deeply to automotive industries and – an even more beleaguered segment – RV manufacturing.

Let’s face it – political statements aside – the economy sucks all over…!

Now the 25 “good cities” many tend to be … well, mid-west centered, too.

1.   Sioux Falls, S.D.           
2.   Idaho Falls, Idaho       
3.   Rapid City, S.D.            
4.   Bismarck, N.D.
5.   Houma, La.                    
6.   Morgantown, W.Va. 
7.   Logan, Utah                  
8.   Fargo, N.D.
9.   Casper, Wyo.               
10. Billings, Mont.           
11. Lafayette, La.             
12. Ames, Iowa
13. Midland, Texas 
14. Iowa City, Iowa         
15. Lincoln, Neb.              
16. Great Falls, Mont.
17. Charlestown, W.Va.
18. Des Moines, Iowa   
19. Portsmouth, N.H.    
20. Missoula, Mont.
21. Salt Lake City              
22. Provo, Utah                
23. Sioux City, Iowa        
24. Odessa, Texas
25. Pocatello, Idaho

Sure, there are a few standouts in the North East and the South, but many of them are solidly Mid-West cities.  Of course, they’re also cities that, if you research them more, you’ll find they’re pretty stable cities with no great industrial claims.

Truly, outside of a religion, what does Salt Lake City hold a claim to – industry wise …?  And Casper, Wyoming and Billings, Montana – what’s going on there?  Besides being near major National Recreation areas, what industry calls those cities home?  And, as for Texas, Midland and Odessa are right next to each other (geographically speaking) and so the “gains” in one will be similar to the gains in the other.  But again, what’s their industrial base…?  Where are those job gains…?

But even then, the growth isn’t anything … huge.  Not anything like the high unemployment numbers for the California and Michigan cities.

But, again, the basic study – the reasons behind the articles – is flawed.  It gives a decidedly myopic view of things… And an exceptionally dire one, at that!

Why?  Well, it’s because they’re only looking at one single point of data – the unemployment rate.  That’s it.  Nothing about the industry that supports the area, the number of residents that do not work anyway (i.e. retirees, stay at home parents, whatever).  They don’t look at the kinds of jobs in the area – from flipping burgers at Burger King, Carl’s Jr. or McDonalds to legal secretaries, doctors, nurses and other types of “skilled labor”…

Take a look at St. Louis, for example.  They’ve got a lot of industries there – from auto manufacturing to hospitals to finance…  They’re all over.  But what does Ames, Iowa offer in the way of industry…?  What kind of jobs are even available in Ames…?  Do you think that there is a lot of call in Ames for an EDI manager…?  Or some other kind of IT position…?

That same flaw – the single source of data and the single point of data being used – can also be a major flaw in our EDI system and what we do with those documents.   What good is an EDI system that only processes a single document for a single department for a single trading partner…?  How does that improve your supply chain or your business…?

Opening up your focus – whether by the data you want to trade or by the “who” you want to trade with – can make your EDI world that much better.  That much more … well … impactful and worthwhile… leaving your EDI program just focused on one thing does not make it very useful information.

It’s like the articles I reference above – how valid is that information to you if you want to move to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and – while there is low unemployment and some growth in their job market – there is not a job for you to take…?  If you’ve achieved your MSCSE certificate, but there are no jobs for people with your abilities and qualifications, of what value is the fact that Sioux City has low unemployment..?

Or – on the flip side – you’re moving to Bakersfield or Fresno to take care of an ailing family member – but you’ve already got a job lined up – in your field of expertise – so the high rate of unemployment doesn’t matter to you.

Job futures – and EDI – need to be … far ranging and “big picture” – taking into account a lot of smaller details.  It can’t just be focused on one little fact or figure.

There’s that big retailer – WhoM shall remain nameless  – that is always the Target of the wrath and ire of many an EDI “guy”.  Those that deal with that big retailer (or the other one) know that they seem to be “our way or the highway” kind of mentality.  Do it our way or we’re not doing business with you.  It’s a very limited eye view of EDI.  It doesn’t allow for any deviation or options.  It’s this or nothing.  It’s one sides and just one point of reference.  It’s very limiting.

Now, in some ways, that limited versatility may be good – in that there’s not a lot of “extra stuff” to worry about.  Just like the one point of reference in the jobless rates in those cities – not a lot to worry about.  There aren’t many (any?) jobs, so don’t go there.

But isn’t it better when you have more to work on than just one number; or one point of view or one way of thinking…?  Where’s the value then?

Author: Craig Dunham – EDI Coordinator

Read more about Craig here: http://editalk.com/contributors/

arrr, matey. prepare to be boarded…!

Ahoy, Me swarthy mateys and hearty wenches…  Avast and bear to smartly and prepare to be boarded.

Earlier today, I was talking with one of our EDITalk founders (John B) and somehow, I got stuck into “pirate speak”…  Did you know that there is actually an “INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY“…?  There is..!  So, arr, Me hearties and Me beauties, let’s search for some buried booty and find our fortunes and leave our lives to the fickle finger of fate…  So get your first mate into the crow’s nest and set sail for the South Seas to find our treasure trove of EDI booty!  Shiver Me timbers and set sail!

But wow… how about we start the “Talk Like an EDI Geek” day…?  Or the “Speak EDI-ese” day..?  Now how well would THAT go over…?  About as well as the grog coming from the bung hole…! 

What..?  You don’t know what a bung-hole is…?  Well, no, it’s not THAT…  On a ship, it used to be that stuff – food, drink, supplies – were stored in wooden casks or barrels.  The “cork” – or stopper – in the barrel was called a BUNG and then it went into a hole – called the BUNG HOLE.  I know it sounds worse, but it’s not.

Aye, Me hearties…  Get yer mind from the bilge gutter!

But  back to “EDI Guru” day.  Imagine what it would be like if you didnt’ have to explain EDI to people.  You know, give them the “basics” and tell them what it all means.  Imagine if you didn’t have to describe what it is we do – day in and day out – to those that don’t know…  no having to “dumb it down” to the level of a newbie user…  no having to break it to the level of a 2nd grader…

Ah, that would be nice, eh..?

And to have a day when EDI was … well … sexy.  Not boring, dull and plain.  And not confusing and overly technical and complicated.  A day of fun and frivolity and festive fanciful shenanigans.

Imagine how nice is would be to not have to explain what an 850 is; what the 856 does; how to use the 810 or the 832 or even the benefits of the 860 or the 820…  Imagine no posessions.. It’s easy if you try…  Sorry… Now the Beatles are fighting with the vast Pirate hoard for the booty of knowlege in Me noggin’…!  But the treasure and beauty of the EDI booty could be well understood by the EDI-novice.  No more having to walk the plank of EDI.

But – wow – think of it.  Simplifying the EDI process – and the entire SUPPLY CHAIN in the process.  Making it easy to “sell” EDI to the higher up muckety-mucks that pay the bills.  No justification of ROI or any of that.  Just simple understanding.

Of course, the next day, we’d be back to explaining what it is we do and what it is that EDI can do for our businesses – our supply chain.  We’d be back to being Poindexter – in the geeky get-up, complete with the broken-and-taped-together-glasses (think “Revenge of the Nerds“), giving details and data of what the 850 (and all the other documents we use!) can and will do for us. 

*sigh.

Probably easier to get people to drop their land-lubber status, grab a Jolly Roger and be a pirate for a day.

Arr, mateys, pass Me a tankard of grog and prepare to pillage and plunder with Cap’n Craig Redbeard on the great ship, the EDI Pearl, scourge of the seven seas!

Author: Cap’n Craig “Redbeard” Dunham – EDI Coordinator, Pirate Ship Captain & Grog Inspector
Read more about Craig here: http://editalk.com/contributors/

EDI documents & KISS

I was reading The Inovis Blog – yes, I do read other things! – but Meg Suggs (Inovis) talked about how McDonalds (over in Europe!) is “going green” with their fleet of delivery trucks. I commented (of course!) on how it would be great if the US and our automakers could be as forward thinking about the acceptance of alternative fuels and energy sources (such as bio-diesel).

My own car is a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Chrysler sells the PT Cruiser over in Europe, and offered (at least at one point) electric versions of the PT, as well as a CRD powered PT Cruiser. CRD is the acronym for COMMON RAIL DIESEL and it actually is a very viable diesel motor – with great performance and low emissions – not anything like the diesels we all may remember from the 80s…. Jeep even offers the CRD engine in their “Liberty” truck-ette in the US. But I digress from My original thought and point.

Reading that post (at Inovis) and My comment on same made Me think of how much better and easier (!) EDI could be if more hubs and suppliers – and even EDI providers – were to be more open and accepting to other ways of thinking.. How much more we could all get done.

As a hub (i.e. a retailer that starts the EDI process), I have great and tremendous power over My suppliers.. Geez, now “He-Man: Master of the Universe” is running around My brain with “by the power of Grayskull… I HAVE THE POWER!!!!” as he turns from meek and mild Prince “what’s-his-name” into He-Man – Master of the Universe.. and yes, I’m digressing again. But still, as the retailer, I do “have the power” to control the way that EDI works. I’m the one that specifies what information is important to Me and what information I’m going to send and how I’m going to send it and you can either accept it or not. But if not, then you’re probably going to be dropped off of our “active vendor” rolls.

But then it makes Me think – even more – about how that power can be used – or abused – depending on how willing I am (as the hub) to force the issues. We’ve all heard the horror stories of this hub or that supplier and how they make EDI painful..

In our product mix, we have some of the big-big heavy hitters and also some small little mom-n-pop kinds of suppliers.. If you read My other blog about “How Do You EDI” – I mention about a supplier that provides us with one product, but it’s the best damn version of that product on the market, you understand what I mean about mon-n-pop suppliers. But still.. I have to be considerate of all of My vendors and suppliers – of all of My trading partners. I have to be flexible in what I will and will not send, and in what I will and will not accept in a return document.

We buy a lot from one of the biggest names in Camping Goods that you can know – they do it all – from coolers to lanterns to sleeping bags to those folding chairs and then even more.. When we first implemented our EDI ASN, I was asked by their EDI mapper if they could send additional information in the ASN – information that our spec didn’t call for; hell it didn’t even mention it. Like the PID segment. The reason? because he sends that segment to other hubs/retailers and was looking to keep as few maps around as possible. This would be a classic example of the KISS philosophy I mentioned previously. And it’s something I’m quite OK with.

It’s the same thing that many of My trading partners have to deal with when they receive My 850 PO – in that I send along information that they may never use in their own system. For example, in the PO1 segment, I send along our SKU (important for the return ASN and for pre-ticketing), but I also send the product UPC, the vendor style number, a generic item description, case pack information, item sizes, etc.. Some of the vendors fill the order completely on the UPC. Others use their style number. Others use the size and the style.. So there are different needs out there.

But the point is – we only use one document map for our outbound PO and for the inbound ASN. And the same will hold true for our inbound 810 Invoice (once completed). As EDI trading partners, we’ve come to an agreement of what will work best and we’re working together and thinking together with a common goal – transmitting information back and forth without major headaches. We’ve both made changes on each side of the EDI equation to help out the other partner to implement the data. We’ve accepted alternatives to our own documents and changed what we needed to change in order to use those alternative documents. Much like we could (as a people and as a country) make changes to accommodate those alternative fuels..

There are, as I said, a couple of the big “heavy hitters” in the supply chain that hold to the credo of “my way or the highway” type of thinking. You – if you want to trade documents with them – must comply to their way of thinking. There is NO deviation. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. We are BORG.. oh, wait.. more nonsense.. But still. Many of you may have had to have dealt with these hubs and suppliers – the EDI “trading partners” that will not accept anything but total compliance with their specs. No deviation from their ways of doing business and doing EDI. You cannot mix styles on an order. You cannot send extra data. You must send via AS2. And on and on and on and ..

These heavy hitters are the stumbling blocks and the hurdles to making this all easy and painless. They’re the ones that don’t want to accept an alternative way of thinking. They don’t want to make accommodations to a different way of thinking. They’re the villains of this piece, much like some of the automakers and oil companies are the villains in the alternative energy ways of thinking. They only want what they know and they only want the way they do it and there will be no deviation. There will be no alternatives. It’s Pink Floyd and “The Wall“.. It’s “Us or Them“..

In the cavern of arcane and sometimes useless (and other times useful – like in a great game of Trivial Pursuit!), another thought is bouncing around off of the lobes and valleys and bumps of My brain – “Can’t we all just get along?”

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