Nott Company, an industrial distributor, engages in assembly, component kitting and distribution of a wide range of industrial products throughout the Midwest and Canada. They needed to find a way to provide a complete picture for customer demands of a product and manage their inventory more accurately. To do this they needed to provide their buyers with timely, accurate forecasts versus old, unreliable information.
Nott’s ERP system, Infor’s Distribution SX.e™, was not capable of importing customer forecasts but their buyers needed the EDI 830 (Planning Forecast with Release Capability). The forecast numbers were being exported to a spreadsheet by calculating weekly and monthly buckets from within the 830 document. This spreadsheet was then e-mailed out to the buyers. Unfortunately since the spreadsheet was a stand-alone document for just one or a few trading partners the buyers couldn’t get a complete picture of all customer demand.
Snap Shot of the Environment
- The first step was to review the environment and take a snapshot of the challenges that the buyers faced.
- By not being able to provide an accurate forecast, it prevented Nott’s buyers a solid picture of how much to buy and when. This meant that inventory was not always available when needed.
- The ERP system, Infor SxEnterprise sent inventory data to the SQL database, but not to the EDI system, Extol, creating gaps in the reporting.
- Not all EDI customers sent forecasts and not all customers were on EDI. Nott needed to find a solution that would enable the ERP, EDI and SQL to work together to provide an accurate forecast.
To get an accurate forecast a program had to be created that would take all the components and bring them together into one forecast. By using Extol Business Integrator they were able to import 830 forecast data into the same SQL database that Nott used for reporting. The same database was also importing data from the Infor SX.e database. With this database setup Nott was able to create buyer reports in their reporting software, Hyperion, which contained both SX.e product data such as on hand quantities, on order quantities and other customer demands as well as EDI 830 forecasting data side-by-side.
This report utilized key historical data to create an item forecast proven to be very accurate in forecasting future movement for items shipping from their distribution centers. Because Nott had all the components in place, the cost to implement this solution was minimal.
By implementing 830 forecasts, the buyers were able to get a more accurate picture with just one report. They were able to view side-by-side what they needed to buy and when. This allowed them to reduce total cycle time durations, increase service levels and improve accuracy, ensuring a more accurate on-hand inventory. The 830 forecasts also allowed Nott to take advantage of consolidated vendor orders and the ability to obtain bulk pricing, therefore saving Nott money.
Communication is Key
It is important that there is an understanding between all parties involved when approaching a project. For Nott, they needed to understand what the buyers needed in a forecast report to accurately manage inventory and costs as well as their customer’s demands. Strong communication between the IT and the buyers played a role in the success of determining how to create the right report containing on hand quantities, what needed to be ordered and special orders.
Understanding your ERP/EDI System’s Strength and Weaknesses
Knowing that their ERP system sent inventory data to the SQL data base, but did not interface forecast data with the EDI side was important. On the flip side, knowing that EDI could also talk to the SQL database allowed Nott to find the right solution of merging the information.
Think “Outside” the Box
Nott had to look beyond both their ERP and EDI systems to determine the solution. By tapping in to Hyperion, an SQL reporting software to remove unwanted information, they were able to create a usable and more accurate forecast.
DCS’ EDI Specialists have the experience to work with companies to help achieve EDI 830 forecasts using their existing systems. To learn more on how forecasting can improve your bottom line, contact DCS.
Footnote: DCS EDI Specialist, Jacquelyn Grauel, a former employee of Nott was instrumental in implementing this solution. Her ability to look at the whole picture as well as her knowledge of the reporting software and EDI system allowed her to create an accurate forecasting report.