Electronic data interchange (EDI) has been a staple of the electronics supply chain for decades. EDI links are used between component makers, distributors and end-customers to share data crucial to managing the supply chain—price, orders, lead times, availability, transaction records, replenishment signals and more. Historically, though, these links have been customized, meaning partners essentially had to ‘recreate the wheel’ every time a new affiliate was added.
The internet has provided an open and neutral platform for EDI transactions. TrueCommerce, a provider of trade platforms and services, started as an EDI provider, according to TrueCommerce president Ross Elliott. “Our true claim to fame is integrating our solutions into ERP systems for big and small companies alike. Our goal is to get transactions on a network and enable users to implement them in a variety of ways.”
TrueCommerce’s solutions reside on a web-based cloud platform that can harvest information from businesses systems. “We then take that information and do what the customer wants—deliver it to other partners, provide analytics, help with demand planning—the key is pulling information out of the cloud and acting on that data,” said Elliott.
TrueCommerce’s solutions go beyond typical EDI. It offers b2b and b2c solutions; provides ways to manage services such as rebates, shipping, labeling, event scheduling and packing lists. It integrates with ERPs from Intuit, Microsoft, NetSuite, Sage and SAP and supports 12,000 customers in retail, banking, healthcare, government and many other industries.
TrueCommerce’s value added is multilayered, said Elliott. “From the process standpoint, businesses want to convert orders to cash. That requires harvesting order information and consolidating it through fulfillment—a classic EDI model—but through a process that can be used across different channels.”
“On the other side is procurement,” Elliott said. “That means paying retailers that are buying products. Our solutions can also help them discover how to buy more efficiently.”
Third, Elliott said, is replenishment planning. “That means working with both buyers and sellers. Our platform helps buyers plan replenishment from supplier and customer feeds.” Mostly, TrueCommerce is about scalability, said Elliott. “Big companies have the IT or tech clout to build their own APIs—small companies don’t have the technical clout.”
Elliott got his start in the electronics industry, which has a variety of practices that confound suppliers, distributors and customers, such as ship from stock and debit. “Distributors negotiate a deal with suppliers based on certain scenarios,” he said. “l’ll take stock at x price and sell it at price y and then get a debit against my next order.” This practice, at least on the books, creates phantom inventory that has been credited but possibly not manufactured yet by suppliers.
TrueCommerce offers a Pricing & Rebate Reconciliation tool that provides benefits such as:
- Automated manual rebate review and approval process
- Offers flexible rules for defining pricing and deal terms
- Synchronizes pricing, deal, sales and rebate responses using EDI, CSV or other flexible data formats
- Delivers rich report sets for manufacturers, helping them understand item and distributor level performance
- Reduces rebate payment disputes by setting eligible time periods and volume thresholds
- Eliminates supply chain financial bottlenecks by paying distributors in a timely manner
The electronics industry also faces another challenge since some supplier franchises don’t cover every geography. The rebate tool can organize partners by region, date of sale, discounts or by customer. “In many cases we can capture a lot of product movement from warehouse-and-transfer data. We also have a tool that will run an algorithmic comparison with the sales information and reconcile rebates and credits better than the manufacturer or distributor,” said Elliott.
Data sharing, TrueCommerce believes, improves the supply chain for everyone. “If you look at the electronics industry where a lot of products are commodities, gaining information about overall consumption helps a supplier manufacturer ratchet production up or down,” Elliott explained.
“You can also use data to help move your products against your competition,” he continued. “The downside is that it can lead to an industry-wide shift if the information isn’t managed effectively—everyone shifts away from a product that’s widely used, and that can create shortages. In the long run data sharing and product transparency allows everyone to have a better view of the marketplace and where they should make the investments. [Adding capacity] is really a leap of faith for a manufacturer if the only information they have is from [the history of the products they sell] and their customers.”