Industry Updates

EDI a Lost Art - But Learnable

Written by Ken Kinlock
Published on Monday, 11 February 2013
classroomEDI a lost art, high turnover, nobody still understands it and needs training, requirements change. companies don’t invest in training anymore. Training is even more important now.

 

Skills of an EDI specialist are more in analysis of business documents and understanding of the business issues. This is far more important than knowledge of a particular piece of software. An EDI specialist can quickly learn a new tool as required. I am talking more about training for an in-place specialist in order to improve their skills. I am thinking of such topics as EDI best practices, implementing non-core EDI transactions, using POS 852 Data to improve planning, automating PO Change in the workflow process.


EDI best practices improve performance, increase productivity, cash flow, and maximize profits. They identify and drive out errors, streamline, and correct behavior to improve the flow of merchandise.

Non-core EDI transactions are those not related directly to the line of business of the company. For instance, ordering parts for manufacturing would be a core EDI transaction, while paying a telephone bill would be a non-core EDI transaction. But remember, paying that phone bill electronically still produces a savings that goes to the bottom line.

Both using POS 852 Data to improve planning and automating PO Change in the workflow process have tremendous potential for cost savings, but they might be something an EDI specialist has never dealt with before WITHOUT PROPER TRAINING.

EDI is a much bigger discipline than simply knowing a software suite. The EDI Specialist can learn to use software rather quickly, but can an EDI specialist learn to identify what EDI REF-01 qualifier code would best fit the company and industry standard for a shipping unit of widgets (Box, case, carton, each, pallet, etc.)? Would the EDI specialist be able to pick the best document format for cross industry supply chain documents (i.e a grocery store purchasing truckloads of copy paper from a pulp and paper mill)?

Only experience will give a person skill of understanding the business documents and issue relating to them within a given industry. Then, for example, automotive industry has unique EDI challenges which are completely different than, let's say, the apparel and footwear industry.

In the infancy of EDI, there were no qualified EDI specialists. They were “home grown” from legacy systems programmers or clerks from procurement, marketing, etc. Companies, vendors and associations organized training courses.

Recruiters are used to “black and white” qualifications that make their role easier. Companies use the same recruiters that do their hiring for technical jobs. Good people are recruited, but they need additional training. No, I am definitely not advocating any sort of EDI certification; but a certain degree of business “prowess” must show through.

Overseeing an EDI department used to be simple. Buy software, negotiate a VAN connection. The hiring of a manager and setting up an EDI department could be under the CIO or not, but the technical implementation was clearly in the realm of the CIO. Partner hookups and standards conventions were really business issues; but if the department was under the CIO, they were budget issues. If job requirements call for training in “business issues” rather than technical issues, can it be justified? Time for business leaders to push (pay?) for this training.


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