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EDI becomes standard.


You might think a business-form company would resist electronic data interchange and other forms of electronic ordering. Who will need paper in the paperlesss offce, after all?

But Standard Register, a $708 million company whose main focus is customized business documents, embraces EDI along with a proprietary on-line order system.

"Years ago, they predicted a paperless society, and it never happened," says Michael Lingmann, manager of technical support for the company, based in Dayton, Ohio.

"EDI addresses mainly external forms. A major portion of our business is internal forms. But we recognize that electronic forms and imaging are around the corner. We're moving in that direction, to offer products and services in that area."

The 78-year-old company has gradually increased its use of electronic ordering over the last two years. That ordering is done two ways:

* A true EDI, in X.12 format, over a value-added network. Standard Register maintains a mailbox where some of its larger customers can drop off their orders, and it picks up orders in other networks' mailboxes as well.

* Its own on-line service, AccuServ. Standard Register equips about three dozen customers with IBM PS/2 personal computers, with individually customized software and Racal modems. Those PCs provide easy, direct ordering.

Customer Requests

"We were getting requests for electronic invoices," explains Lingmann. "Larger companies tend to be into technology sooner. For instance, one of our customers might be a vendor for the auto industry, which is already big in EDI. It becomes a chain reaction."

"We scrambled a bit at first, because of pressure from a big customer," concedes Brent Rawlins, senior systems programmer. "We signed up with a VAN to get something going immediately."

Larger customers on value-added networks tend to be Standard Register's EDI partners. The company uses Sterling Software Tracs products to allow it to communicate with a variety of VANs.

"We're on the IBM Information Network, and our direction is to use our connection to IBM's network and EDI as far as the mailboxing," explains Lingmann. "But we know we can't lock ourselves into that, so we accommodate other VANs and other mailboxes."

AccuServ customers have their orders polled nightly. They simply key the orders in and leave the PC in transmission mode at the close of each business day.

Standard Register spends about three hours an evening dialing up each customer's orders, using SuperTracs Software.

Big Edge

"With our AccuServe system, if we can stick a PC in a customer's site and they've got it sitting there as a constant reminder to do business with Standard Register, that's a very favorable advantage. They can sit down and just key in, rather than make a phone call to a competitor," says Rawlins.

Those orders are merged with on-line orders coming in from Standard Register's more than 90 district offices. Then the order data goes through the data center's IBM 3090 mainframe in Dayton and is sent over leased lines to Standard Register printing facilities in Denver and Tolland, Conn.

EDI and AccuServe allow Standard Register to meet its goal of quick response--usually a two-day turnaround--to customer orders.

Many of those orders are simply shipments of customized forms that the company has held in a warehouse for its customers' future use. But others require customized imprinting of variable information on otherwise stock forms.

"It's the timeliness of receiving that order and being able to turn the product around to the customer quickly that makes electronic ordering so valuable," says Lingmann.

"We're trying to be more service oriented. Standard Register has always been known for quality. Now customers can get a quality product anywhere, but they're after something more--service."

Lingmann also sees EDI cutting some overhead costs internally, streamlining the process of handling an order.

Ball Rolling

As far as expanding its EDI use, Lingmann says: "There are people in the queue. The network backbone is there." Adds Rawlins: "We're really just getting the ball rolling on true EDI."

Also as part of streamlining its internal operations, Standard Register is evaluating satellite transmission of ordering data via VSATs.

Standard Register got its start in 1912. Its first product was a pinfeed mechanism that engaged marginally punched holes in continuous forms. Today the company makes and markets form-handling gear and financial equipment as well as business documents. Its Communicolor division does promotional direct-mail printing.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:electronic data interchange; at Standard Register
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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