February 27, 2018

Tech 360: Third Edition

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What’s new for IDEA?

Welcome back to Tech 360, where readers get a full view of all sides of the supply chain, along with the latest happenings at IDEA. This month we are pleased to announce the opening of eBiz Early Bird registration, important new changes coming to standards, and the inception of the IDW’s Customer Solutions Team. In our manufacturer’s take, IDEA spoke to a senior manufacturing executive about the role of technology and how it shaped daily operations and relationships with customers.


IDEA’s News: eBiz Early Bird Registration is Open!

Registration is now open for eBiz 2018!

The early bird gets the discount: reserve your spot now and save $200. We’re still in planning stages, but so far we’ve got two keynote speakers, 12 breakout sessions, and multiple opportunities to test out new technology at our demo station. eBiz is a fantastic opportunity to connect with other leading manufacturers and distributors, learn from peers, and catch up on the latest trends and hot topics in the electrical industry.

Think eBiz is just for senior management? Think again! Anyone from any stage in their career can benefit—including marketing and sales, eCommerce, data and information management, and information technology.

Here’s what a past attendee had to say about eBiz:

“The networking opportunities at this event are second to none. I know of nowhere else where you can get a relatively clear vision of where the industry is heading on multiple fronts, not just solely from a technological aspect.”

Kyle Johnson, marketing manager of Viking Electric Supply.

This year’s eBiz Forum will be at the Hyatt Regency in Tysons, Virgina, midway between Dulles (IAD) and Reagan (DCA) international airports. For more information, and to register, head to idea4industry.com/ebiz

Become a Sponsor!

Sponsoring at eBiz offers your organization a unique opportunity to increase its visibility with both manufacturers and distributors at the only eBusiness event within the electrical industry. For more information contact Kristin Ballance at kballance@idea4industry.com or at (703) 909-8865

New Faces at IDEA

This week, IDEA is welcoming a new team member. Susan Emmenegger is the new IDEA Exchange Business Development Manager. She will be working on EDI issues with Tom Guzik, Director of Data Integration Services. She will be based in Atlanta and has a background in Information Technology management. Welcome Susan!


Fiction: Some in the industry mistakenly believe that there are only 43 fields in the IDW, which is not the case.

Fact: While it’s true that there are 43 critical fields, there are actually over 350 fields in the IDW. The critical fields serve as a minimum, yet achievable benchmark for manufacturers who may be new to the IDW or starting to improve their product information for better sales.

We asked Sherri Thorne, IDEA’s director of product content services, to explain in a bit more detail. Here is what she said:

“The 43 fields of data were selected to fill the minimum requirements for distributors to populate an ERP/Business System. Though these are required fields for the IDW, this isn’t the only data that distributors need to run their electrical business. They need other information that is critical to running their company, like departments to make buying decisions, shipping methods, and stocking and receiving.

To paint a full picture, distributors need additional data such as multiple levels of packaging used by a distributor’s purchasing departments to make buying decisions. Shipping information is also necessary, as warehouses determine shipping methods. Extended packaging levels can also be used by distributors with Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) for receiving and stock put-away functionality. The more complete the marketing content distributors have access to, the better positioned they are to sell their products on eCommerce sites. Manufacturers providing additional content like warranty, installation documents, and many CMD attributes gives their distributors an advantage in that marketplace.”

Why clear this up?

We want to empower customers to make the best decisions for themselves, and 43 fields can sound limiting. The hope is that manufacturers feel so comfortable with the IDW that they reach the 43 fields and continue to fill out as many as possible. Have a question about IDW or standards? Email Sherri Thorne for IDW support at sthorne@idea4industry.com and Mary Shaw for standards questions at mshaw@idea4industry.com


tED Magazine recently published an article about the potential pitfalls and payoffs of eCommerce—which include EDI—and what tangible steps you can take to make your customer’s experience seamless, whether it’s in the store, online, or both. Here are five key takeaways:

1. Customers want 24/7 access to product information

The article recommends viewing eCommerce as a self-service model for product research, obtaining key information like spec sheets, checking product availability, comparing prices, and getting additional resources like installation videos.

2. Overcome the risks by carefully choosing your platforms and strategy

In addition to website-based eCommerce, distributors are transacting business electronically through EDI and punchouts (sometimes called round trips), which offer a more efficient way to create the PO without the same barriers to entry and cost.

tED author Carol Katarsky shares a helpful definition of how EDI and punchouts work in eCommerce:

“With EDI, the buyer can enter a part number or similar identifier and place an order electronically with computers handling the work on either side. Typically, the documentation associated with each transaction (PO, invoice, shipping, etc.) is processed and sent electronically as well. With punchouts, the PO process starts with the customer creating a virtual shopping cart on the seller’s site but then importing it to the buyer’s ERP to populate the PO with the relevant data, and then sending it to the distributor through its usual procurement process, depending on the buyer’s preferences and technological abilities.”

3. EDI can an effective eCommerce tool

With EDI, the automated order experience reduces manual labor from order entry, reduces the chance of human error, and is quicker and more accurate than more traditional means of sending and receiving POs. EDI also shortens the payment cycle in ways that benefit both trading partners.

Once set up, EDI creates additional benefits for companies. “Its common format enables companies to exchange many other transactions beyond the purchase cycle,” says Denise Keating of DataAgility, “including automation for quotes, transportation and delivery information, product catalogs, inventory, point of sale, and blanket orders. EDI can also enable VMI, which provides a host of additional benefits including visibility to point-of-sale information, analyzing promotion effectiveness, improved forecasting, and reducing stockouts and delivery times, among others.”

4. eCommerce and EDI build customer loyalty

Joe Hart of Kirby Risk shared, “We’ve been able to corner some accounts by using eCommerce because our competitors don’t. Then it’s a matter of showing the customer how the company can take costs out of the transaction,” Hart says, which then increases retention as customers find it more expensive to switch to another company.

Keating sums it up, “More sophisticated customers look for partners that offer EDI to improve their efficiencies and profit. Once you set this up with a customer, you can lock them in.”

5. Industry efforts to improve data make a difference

“The eCommerce system is only as good as your data,” said Dan Dungan, Springfield Electric’s executive chairman and current NAED chair. “Most distributors are not prepared for the fact that it’s a never-ending battle—there is always something to do on a daily basis.

Dungan noted that there are industry-wide efforts to improve data coming from vendors. “My challenge as chair is how do we help distributors get there,” he said.