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Furniture maker uses EDI to stop paper blizzard.

The proliferation of paperwork in today's business world is a problem that just keeps growing and growing. The more file cabinets a company buys, the faster they fill up. EDI (electronic data interchange) is a solution to the problem.

When Haworth Inc. of Holland, Mich., a world leader in the manufacture of office furniture, initiated the use of EDI with its suppliers, management hoped to significantly reduce the paper pushing. The application of EDI software from Supply Tech Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich., has met the goal.

Haworth manufactures freestanding and open plan systems furniture, seating, and wood office furniture. The firm made the decision to pursue EDI and purchased a PC package from Supply Tech in November 1990. The software, called STX for the Microcomputer, was to be used for testing and to do a pilot program. The company then moved up to Supply Tech's mainframe software, STX12 for the Mainframe, in January of 1991.

According to Brian Davis, programmer analyst II for Haworth, "We started with the PC software to learn the basic system and the Overlays feature, knowing that it would be easier to test and do a pilot program with the PC, then move to the mainframe.

"Menu-driven operation for both the PC and mainframe software made it simple to operate," explains Davis. "The sales staff, customer service, and hotline support were also excellent." Compatible PC and mainframe software was another plus.

EDI start-up

Once management determined that they would use EDI, they sent out a letter to their largest suppliers mandating its use. They recommended standardizing on one software package "because we've tested it and we know it's going to work;' Davis says.

"When the testing and pilot period were completed;' he continues, "we migrated to the mainframe software for production use."

The mainframe software was loaded into the system in one day, and was up ad running live with beta test sites the next day. In less than six months, Haworth had a full running EDI production system with its top 30 suppliers.

To aid the company in implementing EDI, the vendor provided technical support for Haworth's suppliers, working with network set-up, installation of software, and pre-testing.

On the mainframe, Davis adds, "We do one small test to make sure connectivity is still there." Once Haworth is up and running with a supplier, they run parallel paper and EDI for two to three weeks, to assure that all transactions are coming through properly and completely. Then they cut off the paper.

The primary reason Haworth switched over to EDI was to reduce paperwork. The company also wanted faster turnaround for orders and changes to orders.

Before EDI

Prior to EDI, Haworth primarily used the mail to send out orders to suppliers. The company has 350 to 400 total suppliers, so a foot-tail stack of paperwork had to be separated and mailed.

It could take suppliers four to five days to receive their mail. By the time they received one week's order, the next week's order was already going out.

Since some suppliers wanted to get their orders faster by fax, material planners at Haworth would have to stand at the fax machine and fax a pile of orders.

With EDI, suppliers now receive their orders immediately, as they are sent. And the information is already on their computer, eliminating the need for any paper transfer. Now orders and change orders are always up to date.

Mailings also have been reduced. The mountain of paperwork has been reduced to a molehill.

Notes Davis, "We're looking at getting the top 34% of our suppliers to switch over to EDI. With the 50 suppliers we have on-line right now, we already get 60% of our total raw material via EDI."

Haworth does EDI with supplier companies like Bemis Manufacturing, Green Bay Packaging, Guilford of Maine, Molex and others. The firm plans to reach its 34 % goal shortly.

The software is designed to run on IBM's MVS or DOS/VSE mainframe operating systems. The general-purpose EDI software supports the ANSI ASC X12, TDCC, and UCS standards.

EDI transaction formats are designed and implemented through the on-line administrator support functions. There are no limits to the number of transaction formats or the number of trading partners, and transactions and trading partners can be added at any time. Since the software is implemented at the object code level, not the source code level, no programming is required to maintain the software, simplifying ongoing system maintenance.

The support files used by Supply Tech's STX for the Microcomputer can be utilized by the mainframe system. Utility modules ensure full compatibility between the PC and mainframe files, enabling PC users to convert easily to the mainframe system without losing any accumulated data.

At Haworth, after testing on an IBM PC/AT, the migration to its IBM 3090 mainframe proceeded smoothly and easily.

The ANSI ASC X12 EDI standard is being used in this application. The transactions utilized include the 830 Material Release, 862b Shipping Schedule, and 997 Functional Acknowledement. The STX12 software allows use with virtually afiy value' added network (VAN).'In this case, the IBM Information Network is used as an electronic mailbox service for its vendors.

Although powerful, the software is easy to use.

The patented Overlay process is a software function used to tailor a transaction for an individual trading partner. The software Overlay selects different elements of the basic transaction, while ignoring other elements, to provide precisely the information that is needed in a user-friendly format.

Davis now develops Overlays himself using the PC software and then transfers them over to the mainframe. Through its use of EDI, Haworth has successfully reduced the paper shuffling in its ordering procedure. In addition, it has speeded turnaround with maximum ease and minimum man-hours.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:EDI; Haworth Inc.; electronic data interchange
Publication:Communications News
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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