If change is the new reality in today’s competitive marketplace, what does that mean in practice? First, it depends on the type of change. Changes can be large - such as upgrading an ERP or warehouse management system - or smaller, including onboarding new vendors, or enhancing shipping procedures.
Introducing Change Into Your Supply Chain
But no matter the scale of the change you’re implementing, it has the power to upend your smooth-running supply chain processes without solid planning and a testing program.
Below is an illustration of the complex chain of events that change can bring to your supply chain. (Click image to enlarge)
In a system that relies on process, unforeseen variables in a supply chain can mean headaches for EDI managers. Adding new vendors, for example, might involve new vendors that to this point were using fax, email, and phones to communicate and are unfamiliar with EDI. Or a new system you’ve installed might not be completely compatible with your current EDI data mapping. Before going live, it’s critical that the EDI system be tested to identify any potential problems and avoid disruptions.
Vendor Compliance Testing is Easier Said than Done
It’s easy to talk about testing, but for a supply chain manager operating in a day-to-day environment that’s growing increasingly complex, establishing and executing an EDI compliance testing program can be a monumental task. Some of the changes you might face are so rare that they may only happen every decade.
With finite resources, managers do not always have the bandwidth or the resources to develop and conduct testing. Even for changes that might happen more frequently, such as onboarding new vendors, creating testing guidelines and conducting certifications can be challenging additions to the day-to-day workload.
Design a Testing and Certification Process
When Neiman Marcus wanted to optimize its omnichannel supply chain across its five different divisions, we recommended a design testing and a certification process for its vendors, many of whom were unfamiliar with EDI.
- First, develop an enablement program to help implement the EDI technology at each vendor.
- After the vendors are equipped with the necessary requirements, test every vendor to ensure that the data communicated through EDI was clean and accurate. With Neiman Marcus, this included full testing and verification of the vendors’ EDI communications in compliance with Neiman Marcus Group’s specific guidelines.
- Make sure all vendors register with a testing account and require them to send you or your third-party specialist EDI documents including purchase orders, advance ship notices and to ensure compliance without disrupting the flow of your current supply chain.
A Win-Win for Supply Chain Managers
Leaning on a expert third-party can be a win-win for managers, ensuring that the upgrades run smoothly without having to divert resources from their current operations. In the process, you can learn quite a bit from working with an external provider on testing. When we work with companies, we provide detailed visibility into the vendor testing activity and all of the information is summarized in a single report.
In today’s current compliance-focused environment, in which there is no room for error, testing changes is no longer an option, but a requirement. Working hand-in-hand with your third-party to create a vendor compliance testing process that works for your organization can help you stay competitive in today’s tough retail market.
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