December 14, 2023
Lee Mrkonjic

The holiday season is a stress test for EDI systems — how’s yours holding up?

Dive into the vital role of EDI compliance during the holiday shopping rush, and learn how to address pitfalls for smoother operations in the new year.

From those first October POs to final last-minute December shipments, the Q4 shopping season is a frenzy for CPG suppliers.

Surging order volumes, shorter shipping windows, and stretched resources create pressure on the entire supply chain, including your EDI systems and teams. As a result, cracks may show in the form of data bottlenecks, packing errors, late shipping notices, and worse.

These kinds of problems can be damaging any time of year, but especially during the all-important holiday season when your retail partners are counting on you for the correct inventory at the right time. And it’s not just the resulting chargebacks that are costly; peak-season road bumps can also harm your sales and customer relationships. Whether your internal teams manage your EDI systems or you outsource to an EDI vendor, the deluge of the holiday season will expose any weaknesses in your supply chain workflows, making the post-holiday period the ideal opportunity to address them. Here are some tips for creating an end-of-year EDI report card.

Spot EDI vulnerabilities by asking a few key questions

How did your systems handle high order and shipment volumes? Did packing and pricing errors or rejected invoices rise because of mapping or coding issues? How fast were you able to get problems resolved?

Here are some indicators that your EDI performance has room for improvement:

  • How much time did you spend checking data?

    Do you trust your EDI mapping to get every shipment and invoice right, or are manual checks built into your workflow? If you’re checking every electronic document manually and reviewing all your data before letting it flow into your backend ERP or WMS platform, you need better EDI automation.

    If your teams or vendors can’t keep up with mapping changes or your systems aren’t customized correctly to your suppliers, you’ll waste a lot of time checking for coding and pricing errors when you should be processing orders. During the holidays, that extra work can be crushing and the delays costly.

    A fully automated, end-to-end EDI solution should give you the confidence to let data flow with minimal manual intervention. Mapping should be accurate and up to date for all your retailer and distributor partners, and each partner’s individual EDI nuances and requirements should be automatically addressed. Your EDI system should know the difference between Walmart’s EDI conventions and requirements and those of Amazon, for example, so that every shipment is correct and every document compliant, without extra manual steps.

    Similarly, your EDI system should integrate seamlessly with all your backend systems without manual quality control. When accurate data flows automatically, real-time information is available for your ERP and WMS without error-prone manual data entry. 

    Take that integration a step further and combine EDI with your sales analytics, and you have a complete end-to-end picture of the supply chain for your brand. Real-time analytics allows you to proactively enhance your sales planning and provide valuable insights to your customers.
  • Was your IT team stretched too thin?

    The holiday season is intense for everyone in the CPG organization, including IT. If you operate your EDI systems in-house, EDI mapping, updates, and system support fall to your IT team, which may get backlogged during the holiday season by requests from across the business. This bandwidth issue can be especially costly during peak periods, and it is easily alleviated by outsourcing your EDI compliance systems to an accountable third-party provider. Outsourcing takes EDI off the IT plate and puts it in the hands of specialists focused 100% on accurate mapping, ongoing system maintenance, change management, and customer support. With the right EDI partner, you’ll also have virtually infinite scalability, preventing bottlenecks when volume is at its highest.
  • Did you get support when you needed it?

    Outsourcing your EDI management can take a lot of the holiday pressure off your in-house teams and help keep things running smoothly when the orders flood in. But there will still be times when you need support, and if your vendor isn’t responsive, you’ll face delays.In our experience at Crisp, poor customer service is one of the top complaints of suppliers who rely on third parties for EDI. If your EDI vendor doesn’t give you the same superb customer service during the holiday rush as they do during quieter months, you need to rethink your relationship. And if you aren’t treated like their most important customer every time you call, call a different vendor.

The holiday season is intense for everyone in the CPG organization, including IT. If you operate your EDI systems in-house, EDI mapping, updates, and system support fall to your IT team, which may get backlogged during the holiday season by requests from across the business.

Next peak season, be sure your EDI delivers confidence, compliance, and collaboration

If your EDI systems ran smoothly without a hitch or a headache this holiday season, congratulations! If not, here are some improvements to consider:

  • Prevent delays and errors with seamless integration and end-to-end automation

    The right partner and platform will automate the flow of data throughout your supply chain, from trading partners to third-party logistics providers and back-office applications. By eliminating manual steps, you’ll operate more efficiently, prevent errors and delays, and build stronger relationships with your trading partners. Most importantly, every shipment, barcode, invoice, and remittance will be accurate and compliant whether it’s Black Friday or next Friday.

    •  Eliminate capacity issues by outsourcing to EDI specialists

      At Crisp, we process millions of orders each month, work with every major retailer in North America, and can handle any volume of orders accurately and in compliance with each retailer’s unique standards and specifications. We manage the transfer, translation, and mapping of all your EDI data, not to mention the constant changes from your EDI trading partners. Leave EDI to the experts so IT teams can focus on strategic projects.
    •  Choose a vendor known for service year-round

      In the thick of the holidays or any day of the year, your EDI team should be available to answer questions and solve problems quickly. At Crisp, we know EDI and CPG, and we are known for excellent customer service.

    Holiday-proof your EDI in 2024

    If your EDI systems don’t pass the holiday stress test, take the opportunity to bolster your automation, integration, scalability, and support. And if you’re upgrading your ERP in 2024 it’s an ideal time to rethink your EDI strategy, too.

    Let’s talk. Visit with a Crisp EDI specialist to ensure a holiday-proof supply chain in 2024. Get more information and book a demo here.

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