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PC-based software simplifies testing for Sears catalog division.


Putting together an electronic data interchange (EDI) testing program for hundreds of retail vendors was a challenge for the catalog division of Sears Roebuck and Co., headquartered in Northbrook, Ill.

But "The Big Store" has gotten big results.

What once required a programmer and took way too long has been streamlined with PC-based software.

Originally, Sears used mail or a 25-year-old proprietary EDI system to share purchase orders and invoices with vendors.

Sears switched to an EDI system based on the ANSI ASC X12 standard to provide an up-to-date system with wider transaction ability.

The new EDI system would be used for the drop-ship program in the Sears catalog division.

Sears does not stock some catalog items.

Vendors ship them direct to customers.

These include:

* custom-made drapes,

* healthcare products,

* and some auto parts.

Before switching to actual production using EDI transactions, Sears tested EDI with each vendor to make sure everything worked right.

Explains Judith Wardlaw, SFCO (source-filled customer order) administrator:

"We would send test data to trading partners while they tested their own EDI setup, so that we could then go on a live production basis."

Can't Wait

At the start of the program, Wardlaw used a Sears application programmer to generate transmissions.

Too slow.

If the programmer took a lunch break, it could take as long as several hours to get out a transmission.

Wardlaw called in Supply Tech Inc., located in Southfield, Mich.

Sears started using that vendor's PC-based EDI translation software for testing.

The system was set up quickly.

With the addition of a Sears test procedure, the system took over the testing program.

Running on an IBM PS/2 Model 50Z in Wardlaw's office, the EDI software--"STX12 for the Microcomputer"--lets her generate customized test data.

"We now get test transmissions out in minutes instead of hours," she says.

The PC-based EDI system uses six transaction sets of the ANSI ASC X12 standard.

Sears sends the 850 Purchase Order, 860 Purchase Order Change, and 869 Order Status Inquiry.

The vendors send the 856 Advance Ship Notice, 810 Invoice, and 870 Order Status Report.

All parties use the 997 Functional Acknowledgment to verify transaction receipt.

The software supports the ANSI ASC X12, TDCC, and UCS standards.

It also supports standards that are more specific to certain industries; these would include VICS, TALC, AIAG, WINS, EDX, and CIDX, to name a few.

It's designed to run on the IBM PC/AT, PS/2, and compatible micros.

Menu-driven, it's easy to use.

Batch Load

Dynamic help windows provide operator assistance.

A batch-load feature allows multiple transactions, giving Sears a set of generic data to send to trading partners.

A manipulation feature allows Sears to tailor and manipulate data for particular trading partners.

"This gives us lots of flexibility," says Wardlaw.

"Specific data can be overkeyed into test documents. Vendors can test their application-interface capabilities at midrange and mainframe level," she says.

EDI transmissions are sent through Sears Communications, an independent VAN (value-added network) that serves as an electronic mailbox for suppliers.

Only an hour of training was required to get the system operational.

Sears has been testing with vendors using STX12 since June 1989.

Sears has 100 vendors tested out and in production, 76 vendors in testing cycle, and another 200 to go.

Wardlaw is training clerical personnel to take over EDI testing.

This will be an ongoing program, vendors being added and deleted perpetually, Wardlaw says.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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