It's a bit of a challenge to take over accounts from someone else's terminated relationship at the same time you're starting up your own business. Faced with existing orders that need to be fulfilled, there's little or no time for baby steps.
However, that's the situation that confronted BabySwede in 2005 when it became the exclusive distributor of a Swedish company's baby products in the United States and Canada. Born in February of that year, Cleveland-based BabySwede had to be able by May to deliver to existing accounts, including such major retailers as Babies 'R' Us and Target.
The products, designed and developed by BabyBjorn of Stockholm, include travel cribs, baby carriers, high chairs and smocks, and such plastic products as plates, spoons and cups. The items are manufactured in Sweden, China, Vietnam, Turkey and the U.S., according to Gregg Infante, BabySwede chief financial officer. Product from Asia is imported through Long Beach; items from Europe enter through the Port of New/New Jersey.
BabyBjorn, more than 50 years old, enjoys a vogue among some parents, and its product line can be in high demand. Infante attributes that to the Swedish company's insistence on safety and quality. Given that competition is fierce, he says, BabyBjorn management asks, “How can we make better-performing products safely?”
Quality aside, Infante's challenge was in fulfilling orders, which can be daunting.
“When BabySwede was founded, we were under a tight time-frame to establish EDI capabilities as we had several large U.S. retailers lined up at the start of business,” says Infante. “We were really under the gun. We had to go from ground zero to being able to ship product right away.”
BabySwede vetted several vendors before partnering with DiCentral. “[Their solution] was able to get us up and running very quickly and we were able to meet all initial ship dates–and everything since.”
The rush to launch operations notwithstanding, BabySwede’s requirements were relatively simple in the beginning, Infante says. But as the business grew, the company’s EDI requirements quickly expanded from processing 25 orders a week to more than 200, which required BabySwede to upgrade to DiCentral’s DiIntegrator solution. DiIntegrator allowed BabySwede to process EDI transactions in batch form and have EDI documents to be imported to and exported from its customers’ accounting software system.
“The implementation of DiIntegrator was a lifesaver,” says Infante. “It created huge gains in EDI document processing efficiency. The import process also increased order entry accuracy. Additionally, DiIntegrator enabled us to create a process where back orders could be managed via EDI without having to cancel orders that had out-of-stock product. Also noteworthy, DiIntegrator has allowed us to continue to add EDI trading partners while keeping our internal overhead at the same level.”
“Since implementing DiIntegrator, BabySwede has increased the number of documents processed by approximately 500 percent with no increase to personnel,” says DiCentral chief solutions officer Jacques Dulac. “In addition, as the company continues to add new trading partners, DiCentral provides additional EDI solutions to enable BabySwede to be compliant with each customer's unique set of requirements.”
Growth, both in the number of clients and in order volume, has been quite dramatic, says Infante. Amazon and buybuyBaby, among others, have been added to the customer roster. As for order proliferation, Babies 'R' Us initially ordered once a month, but that grew to twice a week. Other accounts have seen similar or even greater increases.
The solution's scalability is valuable, says Infante, especially when working with some companies which order from individual stores rather than through a centralized procurement department.
“Some retailers will order each item from the store, but there have been times in the last year or two when a customer with that type of ordering system will place 2000 orders at once,” he says. “We take them and use DiIntegrator and batch-process the orders.” The order process is “a little strange,” Infante says, but “we can handle them that way.”
DiIntegrator, combined with DiCentral's hosted EDI translation and routing services, allows users to process large groups of orders like that while providing tight integration with local back-end applications, such as an accounting software package or ERP system, Dulac says. BabySwede now has the benefit of processing EDI data locally while maintaining the advantages of complete visibility and redundancy offered through a web-hosted EDI solution.
“BabySwede is now able to dedicate more time towards supplying customers with quality goods through shorter order processing times, seamless integration with Sage Peachtree [accounting system], and the multi-user functionality allowing more tasks to be done simultaneously,” says Dulac.
"Processing agents" within DiIntegrator are designed to manage and manipulate large volumes of EDI data to facilitate order and fulfillment processes. This increased functionality allows the user to manage much heavier loads of data, and comply with today's most challenging supply chain requirements, Dulac says. “DiIntegrator allows BabySwede to reduce supply chain costs by applying unique business rules and policies to meet the specific requirements for each trading partner.”
Perhaps BabySwede's initial attraction to DiIntegrator was its ease of use, says Infante. “You get it out of the box and you just use their web-based application; it's simple to use. There was not a lot of overhead required from us to get things running. So that was pretty attractive.”
But from his perspective, the solution's ability to handle “unlimited amounts or unlimited orders” was just as compelling. “And the way it works, it lets us enter those orders with 100-percent accuracy.”
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