Digital Transformation: The paperless manufacturer

Posted on 22 Nov 2017 by The Manufacturer

Digital and connected manufacturing has taken the industry by storm, however not all parts of manufacturing businesses have been caught up in the tide of tech.  Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is here to help turn the tide.

Digital technologies are transforming manufacturing processes and supply chain communication.
Digital technologies are transforming manufacturing processes as well as the way business is done.

The adoption of the connected factory, smart manufacturing and other enabling technology into manufacturing means manufacturers can produce greater numbers and greater variety than ever before. The shop floor, sales and business management have seen a quantum leap in the past 10 years thanks to the advent of internet enabled technologies, but not all aspects of business have been carried along with it.

Paper is still part and parcel of how to do business. Whether it is sending a purchase order, receiving an invoice or a delivery note, a lot of communication between businesses still takes place via paper.

In an industry where the biggest hot topic of the moment seems to be digital transformation, it seems that a lot of organisations are forgetting to transform their whole business.

Retailers have long understood the benefits of digital transformation and have harnessed the power of EDI to not only digitise their trading documents with manufacturers but also validate the contents of those documents to ensure important details like dates, prices and quantities are always correct. As a result of this uptake, many manufacturers supplying the retail sector have had a glimpse of what EDI is capable of but many still haven’t capitalised on the full benefits EDI can offer to them.

EDI provides businesses with a cost saving choice for transferring documents safely and securely whilst enabling businesses to take their digital trading to the next level.

Enable your entire supply chain

If you need to trade with one of the big retailers today, you will find they will always stipulate that EDI must be used to facilitate the exchange of transactional documents such as orders and invoices.

Stock - Connected Connectivity Globe Smart Supply Chain TechnologyAlthough this may seem burdensome, there are a whole host of benefits the retailer is gaining and offering by imposing this technology. The main benefit to both parties is the substantial reduction of order and invoice processing costs; because the documents are exchanged electronically, the processing of paper orders and invoices is eliminated.

Whether your company supplies to the retail sector or not, there is great potential for your business to take advantage of the full benefits of the technology. For instance, businesses with many suppliers can implement EDI within their supply chain.

Advances in the accessibility of electronic trading now allows all businesses regardless of size or technical capabilities to dispense with paper and join the digital revolution. PDFs and web browser solutions are all now translatable into EDI allowing for much greater adoption among your suppliers.

Additionally, manufacturers with many smaller customers can now implement electronic trading with these businesses using a simple web browser solution. This type of platform allows customers to log onto a browser and easily place orders which are then transmitted directly to your business ready for processing, at which point the invoice will be delivered back to your customer triggering an email alert.

Using the solutions outlined above, we can start to see how businesses can reach a point where all their trading documents are transferred electronically. Not only this, but the process of getting to this nirvana no longer needs to involve lengthy and complicated projects.

Validation is the key

So you’re business has reached the point where all your suppliers or customers (or both) are now electronically trading with you and you’re benefitting from the many cost savings the technology offers, what’s next?

The missing link that is often overlooked when implementing EDI with a community of suppliers or customers is validation. It’s very efficient to have the documents exchanged digitally but what if some of the details on those documents are still incorrect? This results in a separate workflow for the finance team who have to manually check documents in the system as well as resolve issues regarding suppliers’ invoices.

Validation eliminates the need for this extra workflow, this is achieved through the use of a rules based engine that automatically validates invoices before they can become a problem. This ensures documents can’t be submitted without details such as the date, price and quantity being correct, meaning your AP department can greatly reduce the amount of time spent on processing these documents and queries and instead focus on more value added tasks.

Service matters

The final but most important part of achieving digital transformation is the service that underpins the technology. The technology

Profit will be increasingly driven through services and software – which are also potential monetisation routes for owner/operators of IoT devices - image courtesy of Pixabay
Making sure that both you and your customers have visibility of contracts is key to customer happiness and business growth.

mentioned above is complex but can be implemented and maintained quickly and easily by specialists. This is often the element of the technology that is overlooked even though in many cases the solution is facilitating a business’s largest and most lucrative trading relationships.

As a result, reputable EDI providers often include a managed service as standard to ensure the technology is always operating to the maximum capacity and your most important trading relationships are always running smoothly.

A managed service also ensures your business is free from the burden and risks associated with technical issues, maintenance costs and the need to keep abreast of advancing technology.


Demand for faster, more accurate deliveries from consumers has pushed technology in the retail and manufacturing sector to advance at an unrelenting pace in order to fulfil expectations.  Manufacturers from all sectors can now take advantage of the advances made here to benefit their own businesses.

At this time of great innovation, it is important that all members of the supply chain keep pace to avoid being left behind or overtaken by competitors. Adopting EDI is a critical first step to any digital transformation. Not only does EDI enable you to trade with your largest customers, it also allows your business to take full advantage of an electronic trading platform with your own supply chain. Once a solution is in place, it can be scaled to harness the data and meet the growing requirements or your customers and suppliers.

Simply implementing a solution alone is not effective or sustainable, it’s always important to ensure your solution is supported by a fully managed service that will implement the initial system, maximise its potential and maintain it going forward.

About TrueCommerce

Irrespective of geography, business sector or type of digital communication, TrueCommerce helps organisations secure the economic benefits that are available in the increasingly digitally focused world of commerce.

TrueCommerce gives organisations the competitive edge with a flexible and cost effective solution that harnesses the scale of our global commerce network underpinned by our best of breed, managed service, delivered by locally based service consultants.

With the TrueCommerce solution, organisations of any size can easily connect with any trading partner while enjoying the peace of mind of a proven platform that reliably handles tens of millions of transactions annually without the need for any client interaction.

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