How Just-In-Time Inventory, EDI, and RPA Keep Your Business at Its Most Efficient

  • Automating Your Inventory : How Just-In-Time Inventory, EDI, and RPA Keep Your Business at Its Most Efficient

When it comes to your company’s supply chain, one of the most common weak links is inventory management. There are very few businesses that handle their inventory management well. Typically, retail businesses face problems scaling up their inventory management systems as they grow.

As your business grows, efficient inventory practices become more and more worth investing in. Retail companies with poor inventory management can suffer from stock issues, slowed turnover times, and needing to order excess inventory to prevent running out of stock. Slow delivery and stock issues are a sure way to reduce customer satisfaction, so keeping these issues at a minimum is important.

How can retail companies improve their stock management and inventory processes? For most businesses, the answer is automation. Most inventory management issues stem from human error, inefficient practices, and incomplete item information. Automation resolves all these issues. It is intrinsically efficient and requires complete item information, and eliminates human error.

So, how can your business get started with inventory automation? The process isn’t as difficult as you might think. Just-in-Time Inventory (JIT), Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are a few strategies that you can utilize onto your supply chain to be well on the way to an optimized system.

What Is Just-in-Time (JIT) Inventory?

JIT inventory is a way to decrease waste and increase the efficiency of your supply chain. With JIT, your supply chain only receives goods as they become needed.

Pros of JIT?

JIT keeps your business at maximum efficiency. By having goods on hand only when they’re needed, you can keep your supply chain operating smoothly without needing to worry about long-term storage of stock.

Maintaining JIT inventory reduces the amount of waste your supply chain produces from leftover, unused goods. It also keeps the investment into your supply low, as you don’t need to stock more goods than you need.

Cons of JIT

While JIT keeps your business on top of its efficiency when supply is readily available, it can cause your business to suffer greatly from issues farther down the line of the supply chain.

Since you don’t keep a stockpile of the goods your supply chain uses, if they suddenly become scarce or expensive, your business might unexpectedly run out of stock. You might also end up needing to buy overpriced stock.

What Is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)?

In general, Electronic Data Interchange is simply the technical term for two computers communicating with each other. In the context of the supply chain, EDI is a way to get a full digital picture of your electronic transaction exchanges with your customers, as well as your inventory.

Pros of EDI

Many supply chain issues, such as inventory shortages and surpluses, happen because of a lack of inventory visibility. EDI allows you to keep track of all your inventory in one centralized location, making it easy to track and prevent inventory errors.

With EDI, it’s also much easier to manage more complex inventory processes, such as multichannel sales. The more complicated the process, the more likely it is for human error to occur.

Having a guarantee that all of the information about your inventory is accurate allows you to make supply decisions with the big picture in mind. Overall, EDI improves almost all aspects of the inventory management process.

Cons of EDI

EDI can be hard to adjust for your supply chain to work around, especially if it is a legacy EDI system that is in place. This is especially the case for rapidly growing businesses, which don’t usually have particularly well-optimized supply chains.

If your inventory isn’t well-suited to EDI, it can take some work to get full value out of the EDI system. You may need to overhaul some of your inventory processes altogether.

What Is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

RPA is a way to increase the efficiency of your inventory management by replacing human operators for various digital systems. With an RPA system, the computer essentially uses itself by means of a virtual operator, called an RPA robot.

RPA robots have a wide array of functionalities, and are able to completely replace human users for many applications. They can perform tasks such as moving and collecting data from various sources, as well as process data by performing calculations.

Pros of RPA

RPA can allow for quite a lot of inventory management automation, sometimes up to 90%. In general, processes that can be automated should be, as humans are almost always slower than an RPA robot. RPA robots can drastically increase the efficiency of your inventory management processes.

Like EDI, RPA removes the human element from many processes. In particular, RPA robots can handle data entry, data processing, and other repetitive tasks easily, with a 0% rate of error. This gives them a sizable advantage over humans, who are unable to focus on these tasks for as long.

RPA systems can also keep running overnight, giving them yet another advantage over human operators. Overall, RPA is almost guaranteed to provide a large boost to your business’s supply chain efficiency.

Cons of RPA

Like EDI, a proper RPA system is not trivial to implement. Rolling out an RPA project into your business’s inventory management or production environments actually has a good chance of failing at first. After some troubleshooting, you will likely start getting full value out of the RPA system.

Tying It All Together

Automation is a great way to increase efficiency and eliminate errors within your inventory management process. It can’t do the job on its own, though: if you want to optimize your inventory management, you should use a combination of JIT, EDI, and RPA.

How JIT, EDI, and RPA Complement Each Other

On their own, these three methods of optimizing your inventory are sure to increase your efficiency significantly. When put together, though, they are more than the sum of their parts.

The biggest weakness of JIT is that it’s prone to human error. Improper data entry can result in an unexpected stock outage of your product. EDI and RPA prevent this by removing the capacity for human error in the majority of the inventory management operation.

On the other hand, EDI and RPA can suffer from bottlenecks. It doesn’t matter how efficient your data processing is if your business is bogged down by extra costs relating to storage or other inefficiencies. JIT helps alleviate this bottleneck by increasing the efficiency of your business outside of data processing.

Can I Have JIT or EDI Without RPA?

While JIT, EDI, and RPA are tools that are best used together, they can be used individually to great effect. You should make sure you’re on the lookout for the potential issues with using these tools.

So as long as you build your inventory management process around the tools you’re using—you should be able to work around JIT, EDI, and RPA’s various weaknesses. Overall though, we recommend trying to implement all three inventory management tools, as they work best in tandem.

An Investment in JIT Is an Investment in Efficiency

If your business has been growing and you’re having trouble handling demand for your products, the solution may not be to expand and spend more. Oftentimes, it’s much more budget-friendly and effective to invest in ways to improve your efficiency than expand your flawed, existing system.

When it comes to improving the efficiency of your supply chain, the best way is with automation. JIT, EDI, and RPA are all easy-to-implement forms of automation that are designed to provide you with a quick return on investment. Once you have these systems in place, you’ll find that your inventory management model is much more scalable.

If you’re interested in learning more about JIT, EDI, or RPA, feel free to contact us today to find out how these tools can help your business be the best it can be.

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Tangentia is a Platinum Partner of IBM and well as partners with Automation Anywhere, UI Path, Blue Prism, Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, Amazon and leading enterprise software vendors. We work with customers globally with offices in Canada and India to implement their RPA strategies using an agile methodology.
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Integrating Your EDI Data Into Your ERP Systems: What Are Your Options?

  • Integrating Your EDI Data Into Your ERP Systems: What Are Your Options?

    By Karen Briones

Everyone’s heard about Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems by now. But seamlessly integrating EDI data into an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is one area where many companies struggle. It’s important that these two systems communicate flawlessly to minimize processing times, eliminate errors, and avoid compliance issues.

Many companies rely on EDI systems that they struggle to maintain as they start to transition into the era of cloud technology. Most of them are legacy EDI systems that have been patched along over the decades, and trying to make them compatible with modern ERP systems is often a challenge.

So, how can you ensure that your EDI data is compatible with your ERP system? Let’s start by assessing the types of problems that most companies face when trying to integrate their EDI data with their ERP.

The Most Common EDI Data Integration Problems

Let’s face it—incorporating your EDI data into your ERP system isn’t an easy task. Here are a few of the most common problems you’ll encounter:

  • Poorly-built integrations that aren’t standardized. The entire premise of EDI is built around the idea of standardized file formats. Your organization may have developed a series of internal processes and policies over the years. Each layer of added difficulty only complicates the integration process.
  • Handing the project off to an inexperienced team. Every aspect of your integration needs to be managed carefully as a simple error could potentially lead to a halt of the rest of the downstream processes, and worst, compliance issues. Don’t make the mistake of handing the project off to an inexperienced team. The data you send and receive is important to your business, and it’s vital that your vendors and suppliers have access to accurate and compliant data to minimize disruptions to your business processes.
  • Relying too heavily on manual processes. Accountability and control are important aspects of EDI—but relying on manual processes can complicate the integration process. It is best practice to automate these processes to ensure that the data that you are integrating is accurate and reliable from end-to-end.
  • Deploying too many back-end applications. It’s not uncommon for businesses to use various CRM’s, ERP’s, and other applications to simplify their back-end processes. However, integrating your EDI data into multiple applications can increase the likelihood of costly errors being made.

Every organization is unique, and the challenges you face may be different. Still, your main focus should always be on maintaining the integrity and accessibility of the data that is essential to your business and your customers.

EDI Data and ERP Integration: Your Options

Several options exist when it comes to integrating your EDI data into an ERP system. The most popular options include:

Use a Third-Party EDI Integration Plugin

Some companies use a Third-Party EDI Integration Plugin that acts as a bridge between their EDI and ERP systems. While this may prove successful for your organization, the cost associated with this option is typically high.

Work with a Third Party EDI Service Provider

Third party EDI service providers not only ensure your EDI compliance with your trading partners’ EDI requirements, but they also typically offer ready-to-use integration modules for most ERPs. Many companies rely on Third Party EDI Service Providers to fully manage their overall EDI infrastructure, freeing them from costly in-house management and maintenance of these systems.

Utilize Web Services

The more modern ERP, WMS and eCommerce platforms have started to embrace web services/API integration to allow their applications to seamlessly communicate with other applications. EDI data can be incorporated into your ERP by utilizing APIs.

Implement Flat Files

Flat files are known as text database files. They are the most basic form of EDI data available. This method uses simple text files called flat-files (or CSV) to ensure data is compatible with the majority of ERP systems. Other EDI systems may use the XML format. These two file formats are the global standard in EDI and are highly-integratable with other ERP solutions.

Need Help Choosing the Right Integration Option for Your Company?

Integrating your EDI data into an ERP system is a major process that every organization that handles huge amounts of data should consider. Tangentia specializes in fully integrated EDI solutions, and can help your company successfully build the bridge between your EDI, ERP, WMS, eCommerce and other business applications.

Tangentia has decades of experience working with EDI systems, and we understand exactly what it takes to build an automated system that is flexible, compliant, and functional while being cost-effective.

Get in touch with a member of the Tangentia team today to see how we can automate your EDI data flow between your existing business applications.

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Tangentia is a Platinum Partner of IBM and well as partners with Automation Anywhere, UI Path, Blue Prism, Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, Amazon and leading enterprise software vendors. We work with customers globally with offices in Canada and India to implement their RPA strategies using an agile methodology.
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Tangentia + Dynamics 365 Business Central – Cloud ERP made easy

  • Tangentia + Dynamics 365 Business Central
    Cloud ERP made easy

Tangentia + Dynamics 365 Business Central – Cloud ERP made easy

The latest trends in the marketplace have shown that companies have begun to be more and more open to keep their data on the cloud. This is fast becoming true with their ERP systems. For Microsoft, it is not just a strategic decision to therefore re-brand their ‘on premise systems’ but a means of keeping up with the competition. Customers these days are not just looking for an ERP system that handles the finance and operations of the company but also embeds ecommerce solutions. This allows for a one stop shop cloud based solution that companies can exponentially benefit from.

Keeping the above in mind Microsoft has introduced ‘Dynamics 365 Business Central’ (formerly known as Microsoft Dynamics Navision) which is available on both “Premise” and on “Cloud.” Business Central offers organizations a single, end to end solution for managing finances, operations, sales and customer service and a solid opportunity to easily upgrade from entry-level accounting software and legacy systems.

Business Central is customizable and brings the full power of Dynamics NAV to the cloud. One of its most telling features – it provides businesses with tools that they can use to analyze their cash flow by analyzing historic data to make predictions for future periods. The cash flow forecast feature is made all the more dynamic as it can utilize the Azure Machine Learning to model various scenarios and provide groundbreaking insights into what to expect for the future. Azure Machine Learning allows the business to extend the time horizon for cash flow forecasts. It has the following models to calculate forecasts:

  • ARIMA (Auto Regressive Integrated Moving Average)
  • ETS (Exponential Smoothing State Space)
  • STL (Seasonal Decomposition of Time Series by Loess)
  • TBATS (Exponential Smoothing State Space with Box-Cox transformation, ARMA errors, Trend and Seasonal components)

What it does differently is that it applies advanced statistical methods to the historical data to generate data in the future and include that data when calculating the forecast. When we predict receivables or payables, we use the due date as a date field and not the document date or posting date, so we don’t need to define and apply a payment term to the predicted results.

Azure ML is free in Business Central; you just need to turn it on. If you have two years of data, you can expect to forecast values accurately for up to four months. Business Central has introduced a ‘threshold’ factor that can be adjusted in the Cash Flow Forecast setup. The field is called “Variance %” and allow you to specify range of deviation, plus or minus, that you’ll accept in forecast.

The Tangentia Advantage

Tangentia EDI Engine

Tangentia has been at the forefront developing custom integration solutions that has previously connected the client’s Microsoft Navision ERP system to their Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), ecommerce and Warehouse Management Systems. (WMS)
The Tangentia Navision Engine (TNE) has supported MS NAV version 4.0 all the way to MS Dynamics NAV 2018. As of May 2019, Tangentia Navision Engine also seamlessly integrates and connects your EDI trading partners with the Business Central Cloud ERP. TNE has the following features:

  • Single user interface for all your EDI, WMS and ecommerce needs
  • Guaranteed EDI connectivity to 2000+ retailers worldwide
  • Supports ANSI X12, EDIFACT, RosettaNet, cXML, Tradacoms, ebXML etc.
  • Lifetime EDI Compliance – no additional cost for trading partner mapping changes or label modification
  • One-time flat EDI integration fee utilized across all trading partners
  • Highly customizable to meet business processes that might vary from company to company

Tangentia RPA and AI

RPA is making a real impact in enterprise space and empowering knowledge worker by helping them focus on the more meaningful and value-added side of their work and offloading more mundane and repetitive tasks to an RPA powered robot. There is an enterprise workforce revolution underway led by RPA and AI/Cognitive technologies.
There is a plethora of solutions providers in this space, each with its own specialty. However, there are three main vendors that come to mind. They are – Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and UiPath in alphabetical order. Among these, UiPath is probably the fastest growing since it has recently received funding from big Silicon Valley Venture Capital firms in series C and D rounds.
Gartner predicts that by 2022 worldwide RPA spending will total $2.4B with an expected CAGR upwards of 30% in the next five years.
Here are some of the trends:

  • Digital Transformation: Traditional businesses are faced with competition from the likes of Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, Google, Microsoft and Facebook to name a few and are forced to change their business models to adapt to the new digital reality.
  • The rise of the Omni channel: Consumers are increasingly preferring to do their shopping digitally and interact with merchants with minimum touchpoints in a seamless manner across all channels.
  • Availability of Actionable Data: Digital businesses are able to collect data and actionable insights about their customers in real time and adjust to the market demand accordingly. For example, Uber rates go up if there is a high demand in an area for its rides on account of some event. Similarly, Airbnb is able to hike its listing rates based on the demand in an area.
  • Scalability: It’s much easier to scale up if you are a digital business. It took much less time for Airbnb and Uber to overtake their traditional counterparts in terms of market size and market cap.
  • Flexibility: Digital business is more efficient, responsive to customer needs and able to cross-sell.

Tangentia provides end to end implementation services around the three main automation solutions – Automation Anywhere, UiPath and Blue Prism. Some of the benefits of choosing Tangentia are:

  • A strong commitment to client success over our own.
  • A rich history of past experience in implementing RPA solutions.
  • Knowledgeable resources with certifications in RPA solutions.
  • Strong domain expertise in specialized verticals e.g. BFSI, Healthcare, Telecom, Insurance etc.
  • A strong partner ecosystem that brings the best of breed solution offering.
  • A delivery model that is global and based on Agile Methodology and best practices.
  • A metrics-based approach to ROI.
  • Good past client references

Identifying and working with a right partner is the most important and crucial step to ensuring a successful RPA journey.

Tangentia Procure-to-Pay

  With Tangentia’s EDI, Automation, and Ecommerce services, we can provide a complete streamlined Procure-to-Pay process for the Global enterprise. The Procure-to-Pay (P2P) is an end-to-end process starting with requisitioning goods and services and ending with making payments for them.

The 7 Steps Procure-to-Pay process involves:

  • Raising the Purchase Order
  • Vendor confirmation of Purchase Order
  • Advanced Shipment Notice
  • Receipt of Goods
  • Submitting Documents to Finance
  • Vendor sending Invoice to Customer
  • Final Payment to Supplier

This apparently simple process can be complex due to legacy systems, and errors from manual entries, leading to unnecessary costs. Implementing an Procure-to-Pay cycle can provide an opportunity to bring efficiency to the process and save costs.

Tangentia Order-to-Cash

With Tangentia’s EDI, Automation, and Ecommerce services, we can provide a complete streamlined Order-to-Cash process for the Global enterprise. Order-to-Cash (OTC or O2C) is the top-level business process for receiving and processing customer orders.

The order to cash process is simple and can be illustrated with the following steps:

  • Customer sends a purchase order
  • Vendor creates a sales order
  • Vendor ships and delivers goods
  • Vendor sends invoice to customer
  • Customer pays the vendor

Order-to-Cash systems affect all areas of a business and are critical to operational success.

In a standard system, orders are received via different sales channels, such as phone, emails, fax, online channels or through sales persons. This input complexity added with other manual entries, makes the process error-prone and the system inefficient. Implementing an Order-to-Cash cycle can provide an opportunity to bring efficiency to the process and save costs.

With Tangentia’s EDI, Automation, and Ecommerce services, we can provide a complete streamlined Order-to-Cash process for the Global enterprise.

About the Author

The author, Akash Singh is the Head of Project Management Operations(PMO) at Tangentia. He oversees projects around EDI/ Ecommerce/ RPA and AI from a delivery standpoint ensuring client satisfaction and success.

Tangentia is an expert in implementing Digital Transformation solutions leveraging technologies like RPA, Artificial Intelligence, EDI and Ecommerce.

Tangentia implements solutions around Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and you can learn more here.

To learn more about Tangentia EDI solutions Click Here

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Six reasons to use Tangentia EDI for Microsoft Dynamics NAV integration

  • Microsoft Dynamics NAV integrationTangentia EDI

Six reasons to use Tangentia EDI for Microsoft Dynamics NAV integration

Founded in 2003 in Toronto, Tangentia has grown rapidly to become the leader in Global Boutique technology solutions. Through a ‘Think Global, Act Local” strategy that is implemented via offices in Toronto, Calgary, New York, Goa and Bengaluru, Tangentia has built an impressive roster of 1000+ customers. Rounding up our growth story, Tangentia Inc. has made it to the Profit 500 List of Fastest Growing Companies in Canada for the last 6 years in a row and Tangentia America LLC is now an INC 5000 company.

Tangentia EDI is the oldest of the six divisions of Tangentia; the others being Tangentia Digital, Tangentia Automation, Tangentia Cloud, Tangentia Security, and Tangentia Consulting.

Why should businesses integrate their EDI data with their ERP?

Large enterprises and SMBs that supply to major retailers such as Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Loblaws and Hudson’s Bay are mandated to utilize EDI as a means to exchange business transactions. This enables efficient and secure electronic exchange of business data between them.

To respond to this mandate, each supplier maintains an EDI system that they use to electronically communicate with their enterprise-level customers. Additionally, each organization also maintains their own ERP/Accounting System to manage their business processes and information.

With the huge amount of data that is going back and forth from different sources, it has become a necessity for every business to consider integration between their business applications.

1)        Integration automates manual tasks: Enables focus on higher-value tasks rather than data entry.

2)        Integration increases shipping & invoice accuracy: Real-time sync from ERP to EDI and vice versa enables accurate order fulfillment.

3)        Integration allows quicker turnaround: Speeds up order processing, providing a competitive edge in today’s fast-moving world.

EDI integration has been a complex, time-consuming and resource-intensive process for customers, large and small. Tangentia EDI, through its cloud-based, SaaS offerings such as Tangentia Gateway, Tangentia Grid, and EZ Border Solutions, makes the entire EDI integration process seamless.

Tangentia EDI’s Navision Engine integrates directly with Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and connects businesses with trading hubs in the Retail, Automotive, Logistics, and Industrial sectors.

Six reasons to use Tangentia EDI for Microsoft Dynamics NAV integration:

1)       Stability: Backed by the global Tangentia Consulting & Technology Organization

2)       Credibility: 75+ Microsoft Dynamics NAV implementations worldwide

3)       Flexibility: Integrations to 50+ ERP/WMS/eCommerce systems

4)       Reliability: 1000+ EDI customers globally

5)       Scalability: Connect to more than 2000+ trading hubs globally

6)       No EDI chargebacks: Guaranteed EDI compliance to trading partner specifications

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