June 28, 2011

Switching on the Savings – Part Two

By Sonia Coleman

In the last issue, representatives of Affiliated Distributors (A-D), Becker Electric, Franklin Empire, and Fromm Electric shared some details about their transition to IDEA’s Industry Data Exchange (IDX) for their eCommerce needs. This week they talk about future plans, the savings they’ve experienced, and the benefits of being part of the A-D community. You can also download their story and share it with others.

Future Focus

Franklin Empire, with 19 locations in Quebec and Ontario, has been involved in EDI since eCommerce was just a discussion topic. Shapiro’s background in computers propelled the business to invest in technology early—as a result, the distributor gets 55% of its invoices by EDI and processes 90% of the invoices it receives into accounts payable without human intervention.

“It’s a big win for us,” said Shapiro. With so much experience in eCommerce, Franklin Empire was no stranger to switching VAN providers. However, it was hope in the future that propelled the company to convert to IDX. According to Shapiro, he intends to use the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW), the electrical-owned data synchronization platform, to obtain manufacturer-owned product information.

“I’ve wanted to support IDEA for a long time, and IDX turned out to be the way to do it,” he said.

Shapiro points out that some distributors aren’t aware that they can use IDX without being an IDW user.

“IDX was originally created to transmit large data files to and from the IDW; that is no longer its only purpose, but I’m not sure everybody knows that,” said Shapiro. “Right now I’m not an IDW user, but one day I will be. Using IDW to obtain the content that I need to sell, not only pricing information—but also French and English descriptions—would be very important to me. And accessing product information from one resource, integrated with IDX, would have a terrific impact for our company.”

Savings and Service

Meanwhile, Franklin Empire is reaping the benefits of lower costs for EDI transactions through IDX.

“Our costs are considerably less than what they were, and the other potential benefits that will come when we are able to start to use the IDW to do price updates,” Shapiro said.

Others point out that IDX’s lower cost, coupled with its superior service, is a winning combination.

“The significant reduction in cost without major additional costs to convert made it an easy choice to switch to IDX from our previous VAN provider,” said Fromm’s McKee. “The service IDX provides is stable—we haven’t experienced an issue since our conversion.”

“IDEA staff not only executed the project, but I felt like someone was paying attention,” said Shapiro. “They didn’t just sell me a service and then walk away and hope that the conversion would go through. They were involved 100 percent, and they stayed with it until it was done. They definitely have the technical competency on hand.”

Since switching to IDX four years ago, A-D headquarters has received exceptional service.

“We’ve had 100% uptime on IDX,” said Pieretti. “The level of service has been very good, including technical services. We’ve found that they are quick to respond with any changes to mappings. Overall, IDX offers high support levels at a competitive price point.”

A-D has also experienced optimal results with affiliates.

“IDEA has excellent customer service, and they’re very good at helping anyone I refer to them in timely manner. Once affiliates are set up with EDI, the customer service continues to be great. I know that I can recommend them with confidence,” said Hilberts.

Hilbert also points out that IDEA’s online application, the IDX Tracker, brings added value. Customers can look up and track documents securely, access business metrics, plus submit customer service requests online. According to Hilberts, this enables IDX customers to be self-sufficient and access detailed information for more efficient customer service.

Community Benefits

Ultimately, IDX offers another way that A-D affiliates can unite to compete more effectively and keep revenues in the industry.

“As A-D brings us together, we gain economies of scale. Not all affiliates have IT departments as large as national chains, but by going through A-D, we are given comparable resources with those national chains to remain competitive,” said Hanna.

By working together, A-D and its affiliates are leveling the playing field for independents by developing a community of best practices and competitive discounts.

“We’ve built a community relationship between IDEA, Activant, A-D and our affiliates that enables information sharing,” said Hilberts. “We have this great resource in IDEA that we can call anytime to help with our questions and assist affiliates in getting a reference or recommendation on a product that they’re using.”

Unlike traditional value-added networks (VANs), IDX is an electrical industry initiative, founded by electrical distributors and manufacturers.

“The more we can do amongst ourselves to benefit the industry is a benefit to all of us. I’m not sure how many other distributors are aware of the savings they could get by switching to IDX,” said Snyder. “Once we made the move to IDX, it was one of those things we said to ourselves, ‘Why didn’t we do that earlier?’ Because it was easy, the transition was smooth, we had no downtime and the savings are exactly what IDEA told me it would be.”

Download the “Switching on the Savings” Case Study>