EDI NEEDS SUPPORT FROM ENTIRE COMPANY

Byline: Annie Gowen

CHICAGO — Electronic data interchange, known as EDI, is a never-ending process that requires more than just new technology and specialized personnel.
“Executive support must be continuous and highly visible,” said Sallie Ewen, the director of EDI/Quick Response for the Brown Group Inc., the St. Louis footwear manufacturer. She led a session on “How to Begin Using EDI” at the IQ 1996 conference here last week on Quick Response.
Ewen, who helped implement EDI at Brown, the first footwear manufacturer to do so, told the group of about 200 retailers and manufacturers that implementing EDI is an ongoing process that requires a firm commitment from all staff members, from executives on down.
“EDI is never finished,” Ewen said. “EDI is not a destination. It’s a journey.”
The first and most important step to implementing EDI is securing executive support, Ewen said. Executives must understand EDI and its benefits, costs and how it affects operations. “Communicate, communicate, communicate,” Ewen said, noting there should be a forum for employees to express doubts and ask questions about the new system.
Once everyone is made aware of the new changes, appoint an EDI coordinator, preferably a full-time assignment, as well as EDI contacts in each department and a technical team, which determines such matters as what translation software will be used and how to integrate EDI with the current application system. A firm may have to add additional marking equipment and software to produce bar code labels and tickets.
Then, Ewen said, conduct a survey of trading partners to see which ones your company works with most frequently and which ones are the most knowledgeable of EDI. That will give a starting point.
Once EDI is up and running, Ewen said, don’t assume everything will come off hitch-free.
“You will live with EDI the rest of your life,” she said. “You need to anticipate problems because something will go wrong.” These include lost documents, duplications, corrupt data and continued employee reluctance.
That’s why executive commitment is so critical, Ewen said. “With organization-wide communications and continuous executive management commitment, EDI projects and programs can provide ongoing benefits to the overall organization,” Ewen said.
— Fairchild News Service

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