JR Wood Reduces Data Errors with EXTOL's UCCnet Solution
by Alex Woodie
Like all companies involved in supply chains, JR Wood experiences a certain rate of errors in its product data. The $135 million grower and manufacturer of frozen fruit products used a "rip and read" EDI system that required manual data entry into its J.D. Edwards ERP application. Last year, the company replaced its old EDI system with a new one from EXTOL, which improved its workflow and allowed it to synchronize its product data with its customer, Wal-Mart, via UCCnet.
Located in the fertile farm country of California's Central Valley, JR Wood has been growing and selling peaches and other fruit since 1919. In the 1960s, JR Wood turned its attention to frozen-fresh fruit, and the company developed the individual fresh-frozen process of freezing fruit, which has since become the industry standard. Today, the company's Big Valley brand of frozen peaches, strawberries, apricots, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, and blueberries can be found on the shelves of retailers such as Wal-Mart and Wegman's, and it also sells a variety of processed fruit to industrial, OEM, and government interests.
With Wal-Mart as one of JR Wood's biggest customers, the grower must meet certain IT standards. One of those standards is EDI, which Wal-Mart mandated that its suppliers use in the early 1990s (much as the retail giant is doing with other technologies today). JR Wood, which runs the OS/400-based PeopleSoft (formerly J.D. Edwards) World ERP system, installed a stand-alone Windows-based EDI system to satisfy its customers' EDI requirements.
However, that early EDI system wasn't completely up to snuff in the integration department. JR Wood's EDI implementation used a "rip and read" integration method, which is to say that there was no integration. Instead of updating the PeopleSoft World database directly, the system required employees to print out purchase orders or invoices and then manually retype the data into the World system or the EDI system, says JR Wood's IT director, Jennifer Jones.
In any computerized system, manual data entry is usually the source of data errors. JR Wood is not disclosing its actual error rate, but it's safe to say that the company was at or near the industry average. According to an AT Kearney study, 30 percent of all item data in retail procurement catalogs does not match that of the supplier, which leads directly to $40 billion in waste in the retail supply chain each year. Another study, from the Yankee Group, pegs the rate of errors in transactions exchanged between suppliers and retailers at 30 to 40 percent, and says that every error costs between $50 and $200 to fix. This is wasted money that retailers and suppliers are trying to cut out of the supply chain through the UCCnet product data synchronization program.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest company, is the biggest backer of UCCnet. Last year, the $250 billion behemoth required its suppliers, including JR Wood, to start using the UCCnet system by the first of this year. Jones was well aware of this impending deadline in 2003, when she started the hunt for a new integrated EDI system that could also supply serve JR Wood's other data integration needs, including UCCnet, Applicability Statement 2 (AS2, also known as EDI-INT), and, perhaps down the road, radio frequency identification (RFID).
Jones knew that any new EDI system would be an improvement over what JR Wood was currently using. "As we stared doing a lot of research, our current provider wasn't very helpful. We just weren't getting anything from them," she says. "So we started looking around. Through IBM, we were referred to EXTOL. Then I went to the UCCnet Connect conference, and EXTOL was there."
Having a clean integration point into the World application was Jones' primary goal with a new EDI system, but UCCnet connectivity was definitely a factor, too. "We were in a unique situation. We were ready to do EDI, but we were also ready to do UCCnet at the same time. We wanted one-stop shopping."
Jones had a good reference for EXTOL from IBM, but she looked at all of the other major OS/400 EDI and UCCnet providers, as well. Jones received different levels of response from the other software vendors when she peppered them with questions and requests. "I had specific questions about J.D. Edwards integration, but I couldn't get an answer from anybody," she says. "That's why we went to EXTOL. They were easy to work with, answered questions, gave us references. Whatever we asked them to do, they did in a timely manner."
The experience led Jones to select EXTOL's software, including EXTOL EDI Integrator, a native OS/400 EDI translation product, EXTOL Business Integrator, its newer Java-based integration broker suite, and EXTOL UCCnet Integrator, which lets users manage data synchronization efforts, but which at this time only runs on Windows (the OS/400 version is still in development). Along with EXTOL EDI Integrator, JR Wood purchased an additional template that streamlines the integration of the EDI data into the PeopleSoft World application; similar templates are available for other popular OS/400 ERP systems.
JR Wood began the EXTOL EDI Integrator installation in July 2003. Jones says the installation went smoothly and that it "wasn't necessary to purchase a lot of consulting," which, she says, would have been the case with JR Wood's previous EDI provider. "EXTOL's tech support over the phone is phenomenal. They acted like they wanted our business. Once we had the product, they stayed with us until it worked."
After implementing the new EDI system, in October 2003, JR Wood turned its attention to the UCCnet system. One of the first things that must be done with a UCCnet implementation is to get new 14-digit global trade identification numbers (GTINs) assigned to each product the user will be entering into the UCCnet's online GLOBALregistry. After creating new fields for GTINs in PeopleSoft World, and loading the actual GTINs for Wal-Mart into its system, it was a simple matter for JR Wood's IT team to expand it to include the GTINs for its other UCCnet partner. "We spent the majority of time checking our own data," Jones says. Today it publishes about 30 GTINs in the GLOBALrepository, out of a total of about 400 products.
Although JR Wood was a month late in complying with Wal-Mart's UCCnet mandate, a number of other Wal-Mart suppliers have yet to implement UCCnet data synchronization. For JR Wood--which is under relatively new management that, Jones says, has taken a proactive interest in exploiting IT--hooking into UCCnet benefits the company, not just by keeping its biggest customer happy but also by improving its own IT systems and business processes.
"One thing we see internally that is a big benefit is that the workflow has improved," Jones says. "When something changes with packaging, everybody knows. Before, sometimes only the packaging coordinator would know. When something with a GTIN gets synchronized, it goes through every department that is affected, in a much more orderly process." This workflow process is managed by the EXTOL software.
As a participant in EXTOL's early-adopter program for its UCCnet product, JR Wood did not satisfy one of the main requirements that its UCCnet software run on the iSeries server. However, EXTOL is putting the finishing touches on the OS/400 version of EXTOL UCCnet Integrator and expects to have that product ready by May 15. Once the software is ready, JR Wood expects to move its EXTOL UCCnet software to its iSeries Model 810.