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CASE STUDY: IMPROVING ERP AND EDI INTEGRATION, STRAUSS PAPER COMPANY

OVERVIEW

Strauss Paper Company, a wholesale distributor of janitorial supplies and equipment to the New York Tri-State area for more than 80 years, strives to differentiate its business through leading-edge technology that helps ensure strong customer relationships.

Strauss understands the potential cost and time savings that electronic document interchange (EDI) offers over paper invoices, so they were enthusiastic to try a homegrown EDI solution from their existing ERP partner.

In practice, however, this initial EDI implementation became more of a burden than a benefit. According to Vice President of Information Technology John Costanzo, even though the IT staff spent extra time learning the EDI functionality, they still needed their ERP partner’s support for each new setup. Because of the effort involved, Strauss found themselves deemphasizing their EDI capability to new customers.

The process was both slow and costly. On top of the regular system fees, Strauss was responsible for the operational and maintenance costs of the in-house server that hosted the solution.

According to Costanzo, the insufficient EDI system was even affecting other business objectives. Strauss desired to move to a new distribution group, but the current group was handling the POs for some of their largest vendors. Switching groups would mean shifting an unsustainable amount of PO processing over to Strauss.

When Strauss learned that their ERP partner was preparing to end support for the system, they went in search of EDI specialists to improve the situation.

SOLUTION

In looking for a new EDI partnership, Strauss had two criteria. For one, they wanted a company with demonstrated EDI expertise. Also, they were interested in outsourcing the responsibilities for hosting the solution. UniLink met both requirements and more.

UniLink started by obtaining the data formats for each vendor and customer and converting them to work with the UniLink EDI solution. The Strauss IT team was freed up to focus on their own business needs while UniLink completed the entire process, which took only a couple of months.

Strauss is currently set up to exchange these forms with customers and vendors:

Inbound

  • 810 Vendor Invoices
  • 850 Orders
  • 855 Order Acknowledgements
  • 856 Advanced Ship Notices to Vendors

Outbound

  • 810 Customer Invoices
  • 850 Vendor POs
  • 855 Order Acknowledgements
  • 856 Advanced Ship Notices to Vendors
  • 867 Vendor Rebates

The online UniLink Customer Portal makes it easy to track each transmitted document. If a trading partner asks about a missing file, Strauss can simply use the Portal to pull up the details and trace the source of the issue. For pressing problems, UniLink support is available and responsive to quickly provide a resolution.

Strauss also asked UniLink for help in implementing an innovative concept for emailing vendor POs. Although Strauss could pull raw ERP data into an email, the unformatted results were not suitable to share with vendors. Other options such as using an outdated fax-to-email program or purchasing a costly new imaging system were also unacceptable. Working closely with UniLink, Strauss set up a new workflow to send the raw data to UniLink, automatically translate it into a human-readable form, and then send that version through the Strauss email system to the vendor. Now, every emailed PO meets the professional standards Strauss Paper expects for partner communications.

RESULTS

Strauss Paper Company achieved a fast and easy migration from a cumbersome, expensive, and high-maintenance EDI system to a UniLink solution that has reduced effort and expenses significantly. Strauss is now able to turn around EDI engagements in a fraction of the time, resources, and cost of the old approach.

Outsourcing the hosting and management of EDI has enabled Costanzo and the IT team to focus on their core business. With complete confidence in UniLink, Strauss no longer downplays their EDI capabilities to new trading partners. Instead, they promote EDI as a strength and a competitive advantage. 

Now that EDI transactions are much more integral to the way Strauss connects with customers and vendors—making them less reliant on paper, faxes, and email—it has allowed them to streamline their Purchasing, Accounting, and Pricing operations to become increasingly efficient.

From a broader business perspective, Strauss was also able to pursue better opportunities by moving to a new distribution group. Automating a large percentage of the company’s document handling has also freed up more technical and operational resources so they can prioritize customer-facing opportunities and other strategic objectives.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Strauss Paper is planning improvements to their inbound invoice workflow for accounting. Currently, they print and scan their human-readable invoices into an imaging system. To increase efficiency, they are discussing ways for UniLink to remove the manual steps while still preserving readability.

In addition, knowing that UniLink has been proactive in ensuring seamless compatibility with Infor CloudSuite ERP has Strauss excited for the future. For Costanzo, it is very promising that UniLink is being thoroughly incorporated into the Infor roadmap. It’s assurance that Strauss is well positioned with EDI for the long term and will avoid repeating the difficulties of their previous EDI experience.