If you sell to major retailers and ship your product to their warehouses, as opposed to DSD (Direct to Store Delivery), you may be asked to transact with that retailer using EDI. Similarly, if you sell to major food service distributors such as Sysco or GFS, you may similarly be asked to use EDI.
EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange and it is an electronic method many larger companies use to send PO’s to you and to receive and process invoices from you, their suppliers. It allows two parties with different computer systems to nonetheless exchange information electronically, typically through the use of a VAN, or Value Added Network,.
A VAN can serve two purposes. One is the act as a mailbox service, or repository where you leave documents for your customers and they leave documents for you; a place where you both have access to pick up and deposit documents at your convenience. The second service a VAN can provide is to act as a document translator, where they actually open your ‘mail’, decode the document and either email the information to you and/or offer an online portal that you can collect that information as well as input other information. For example, you might use their portal to enter invoice details for your customers where the VAN’s translator will create the electronic version of your invoice and place it in your customers mailbox. Similarly, the VAN’s translator program can receive an order for you from your customer, decode it and send you that information in an email.
If you have a Minotaur system, you will only need the VAN mailbox service, not the online program decoder/translator because Minotaur can do the decoding and document creation for your. Your Minotaur program can receive and interpret standard EDI documents like PO’s directly and also generate EDI documents such as invoices already mapped to your customers’ requirements. Minotaur comes EDI ready with all the EDI menu options so if your customers ask, you can begin using EDI with Minotaur quite quickly.
Every EDI document has a number. For example, an invoice is an 810 and a PO is an 850. As each retailer has their own computer system for inventory and accounting, each retailer similarly has a unique file format of what fields of information and in what order they want those fields to be sent, so that their computer system can read the file seamlessly. That is why Minotaur needs to map the EDI documents to the specifications of each retailer you deal with for the type of product you are selling to that retailer. Ask your Minotaur Project Manager for a quote on EDI document mapping charges for the particular customer and documents they are requesting.
There are several competing approved VAN providers you can choose to sign up with. If you are going to be doing EDI with Costco, Loblaw, Canadian Tire or FGL (Forzani Group Limited–Sportchek), you will need to REGISTER with a company called SPS Commerce, because they are the licensed testing agents for those retailers.
However, you do NOT have to use the EDI VAN mailbox services of SPS Commerce, although that is an option. You may choose to get competitive pricing from other VAN providers such as Tangentia or Commport (there are others still) and then decide which service is best for you.
Regardless of which EDI VAN provider you choose, if you are starting EDI with Costco, Loblaw, Canadian Tire or FGL, you will be subject to an SPS Commerce testing fee of around $500-600 Canadian for each retailer you set up. SPS will send you sample PO files to read (if your EDI customer will be sending you a PO) and SPS will request sample files back from you (such as an Invoice), to test that they work and do not give any errors when loaded. Currently, none of the other Canadian retailers are charging testing fees although they may ask you to send them test documents.
You can generate these test documents from your Minotaur test system so that your live system is unaffected until you go live with EDI with that customer. For some products going to Loblaw warehouses, you may be asked for an additional EDI document called an ASN (Advanced Shipping Notice) combined with an MH10 label, which is a serialized barcode label you apply to each skid you ship them. The ASN document will detail the items and lot numbers of product on each serialized skid being shipped to Loblaw. Minotaur can produce the ASN document and how we will advise that you collect the detailed information about what is on each skid will depend on whether you are running the Minotaur handheld warehouse management system or entering transactions through a keyboard. Again, talk to your Project Manager at Minotaur if you are being asked for an ASN/MH10 combination for Loblaw or any of your customers.
Finally, it is valuable to note that EDI is not just for transacting with customers. Some Minotaur customers use it with suppliers such as third party warehouses or to send information between their own operating companies. EDI offers a standard method of file sharing between two companies. It can save you or your suppliers time by removing the need to manually enter details into a computer system, as those details can be read in automatically from files. Finally, Minotaur’s EDI program can help prevent errors, as it will check the ship to, items and prices against your Minotaur data and let you know if any of those are different, before you ship out the order.