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More than just a convenient data connection: EDI as an economic factor

B&R Industrial Automation is the global center for machine and factory automation in the ABB Group. Accordingly, the company develops the best solutions, from the product idea to implementation and after-sales. Following this claim, they have also automated their own business processes highly efficiently with DIG!

"We deal with a lot of orders every year," says Karl Aumayr, Head of IS Business Solutions, describing the situation. "This involves customers and suppliers of all sizes. In total, this involves around a quarter of a million documents, because we process all business documents right down to the invoice. Manually, this would mean an enormous amount of work, which we save with EDI." However, data exchange is not a one-way street for B&R: "EDI is also a timely offer to large customers and suppliers who actively demand it." And not without reason, because, "It's in the interaction that the true scope of this technology - and its potential for business - becomes apparent."

Short lead time improves overall performance

The duration from receipt of the order to delivery of the goods is crucial: "Manual processing of the order response can sometimes cost two to three days. If this is done within minutes instead, this has an extremely positive impact on our production planning and ultimately also enables faster order confirmation or announcement of the delivery date to our customers. This brings more predictability for everyone." B&R uses SAP at the ERP level, where the EDI connection makes the entire procurement process more efficient: "The orders go directly to the supplier, and the incoming order confirmations are matched fully automatically and transferred to the system. The same happens later with the electronic delivery bills." EDI thus occupies a central position in business automation.

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Profitability is a question of the business case

Whether an EDI connection makes economic sense is examined on a case-by-case basis, explains Aumayr: "The number of orders per year is certainly an important factor, and the effort only pays off when the cooperation reaches a certain level. But other aspects also play a role." These include, for example, the qualitative aspect: "EDI rules out manual errors 100%. So, it can make a lot of sense to connect even smaller suppliers for the sake of the big picture." After all, B&R benefits from every automatically processed document. "In any case, the fact is that EDI makes a significant contribution to efficient and thus time-saving processing of business documents." In order to integrate even very small partners or customers into the electronic data flow, DIG also offers other options for transmission: Excel or text files received by mail can also be sent from B&R to the platform. "There, they are then translated into our desired format so that they can be seamlessly transferred into our workflow."

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No own EDI department necessary

All incoming files are translated into the desired target formats via the DIG platform so that they can be easily processed by the ERP systems of the international subsidiaries. "We take care of the prerequisites for this data exchange at the headquarters in Austria," says Aumayr, outlining the process and highlighting the interaction with DIG: "For the EDI connections, we have installed a standard processing system to handle the mapping efficiently. By knowing which fields are available and how we communicate with the professionals at DIG, this runs very smoothly." Right from the start, connections are thus implemented within a few weeks - even internationally. Almost 20 different formats are used in the process. "Once you've handled all the usual ones, it's no longer a big challenge; new formats are rarely added.

Benefits of EDI depending on the business model

"The extent to which EDI can support our processes also depends on the intended use of the ordered material," introduces Aumayr, referring to the differences between anonymous make-to-stock production or individual make-to-order production. "In the latter case, the direct 1:1 reference of all documents brings striking advantages." Overall, faster exchange of information holds potential for the entire economy, but always depends on the respective business model of the companies: "The benefits of EDI are certainly greater in the series business than in the project business. EDI also definitely brings benefits in areas that act according to the first-come-first-served principle." Likewise, the classification of a delivery as urgent and important influences the importance of fast data exchange. At B&R, in any case, with its automated generation of orders based on production planning, the benefits extend to confirming deadlines to customers.

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