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Basics Office Products

Situation

Since 1976, Basics Office Products has been servicing the office supply needs of Canada’s consumer and corporate buyers. With over 25 dealers and many points of sale, Basics’ national network offers some of the country’s largest corporations a unique approach based on local presence, support and service. This level of service relies on a strong National Office to provide economies of scale through centralized purchasing and invoicing with suppliers.

Business Challenge

Basics had been doing EDI since the late 1990s, mainly receiving invoices from a small number of suppliers. As competition in the market stiffened, it became more important to generate efficiencies and reduce costs. At the time, internal IT resources could not prioritize a full-blown EDI program with suppliers because of conflicting projects and an increasing workload stemming from enhanced process automation with dealers.

InterTrade was first selected to replace the incumbent VAN and provide some help in connecting more suppliers from which to receive automated invoices. Through a number of work sessions with Basics’ Finance and IT staff, InterTrade was able to propose a road map to capture more information from suppliers and enhance the customer service experience – Basics dealers’ principal point of differentiation with customers. The key initiative was to improve vendor compliance on Basics’ desire to exchange more documents, automate more processes and finally provide added visibility to its dealers on the overall supply chain process. The challenge was to find a way to convince vendors to comply willingly and to keep the whole exercise within a tight budget.

Solution Components

InterTrade provided help to Basics in a number of ways. The first step was to understand what vendors were able to do and under which conditions. It became clear that unless Basics dealers were ready to provide electronic purchase orders, most of the added value contained in PO Acknowledgements and Advance Shipping Notices was going to be difficult to capture. Initially, the bulk of orders were still being sent by dealers via fax and email directly to vendors, making the automated experience from vendors complicated at best. InterTrade’s survey with the Basics trading community highlighted this issue and made clear the path to follow to improve vendor compliance with the program.

As dealers automated and more orders were sent to vendors, InterTrade proceeded to activate more and more document types with which to gather information from vendors. Now dealers can request order confirmations and advance shipping notices to provide more accurate information that will improve fill rate.

One of the most cumbersome manual processes remained unaddressed. For years Basics had been struggling with multiple copies of Debit Memos being sent back and forth – to track damaged or undelivered goods from suppliers, flag incorrect pricing, query unexplained surcharges and so on. Requests came from dealers on paper forms, details were exchanged with the Finance group and a complex manual document exchange exercise was necessary to compile all the information prior to its being sent to vendors. InterTrade was called in to automate and render the entire process more fluid, less resource-intensive and less of a headache for all parties involved. A Web application was designed around existing visibility tools for documents, guiding dealers in completing the Debit Memo forms online.

Benefits

Basics’ partnership with InterTrade generates benefits on a daily basis. The overall supply chain process is gaining in efficiency and dealers are getting more and more value out of the various projects.

  • InterTrade’s proposed road map saved time and effort in better understanding vendors’ requirements in order to maximize compliance with the EDI initiative. Also, InterTrade’s review of supply chain processes led to a better understanding of how dealers could help themselves in participating in the automation exercise to gather more pertinent information while servicing their customers.
  • InterTrade’s on-boarding services allowed Basics’ resources to focus on their business while more vendors and more documents were being activated. Basics realized that outsourcing the coordination of vendor connections and tests was less expensive than trying to do it internally and resulted in quicker implementation for a lower cost.
  • As dealers got more and more orders to vendors electronically, InterTrade was able to connect an increasing number of them to capture Order Acknowledgements and Advance Shipping Notices. The Web interface posting of these documents now allows vendors to better serve their customers as they now know in advance the status of a shipment without having to do follow-ups by phone. Also, out-of-stocks have been reduced by using alternate sourcing when goods are not available on time from the regular supplier.
  • The Debit Memo automated process has streamlined what used to be an administrative nightmare. Beyond the time saved handling the back-and-forth of missing information, dealers now get their refunds much quicker, improving their cash flow and reducing the time spent filling out forms.

As per Basics, "InterTrade is acting as a real partner with Basics. They have helped us fine tune our EDI road map and focus on what is important and of value to us globally and to our dealers."

The road ahead

With its initial goal of improving vendor compliance now achieved, Basics is now poised to pursue what it started and propose ways to automate to those who are not yet capable.

Basics is on its way to complete the dealer-to-vendor supply chain cycle, a process that will bring value to its dealers, strengthen its relationships with its selected vendors and drive efficiencies to face an increasingly competitive market. InterTrade will be there to facilitate compliance and generate more benefits for dealers and vendors alike.

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