Juan Rodriguez had a problem. Back in 2009, the IT director at Gamo Outdoor USA was overseeing the company's move from the Sage MAS 200 enterprise resource planning system to SAP R/3. Trouble was, the company's EDI provider at the time did not support SAP. To make the SAP project successful, Rodriguez needed to find a new provider that could support Gamo's EDI communications with its top clients.
"We do EDI with just a small percentage of our total customers, but it makes up about 50 percent of our transaction volume," Rodriguez says. "Our larger partners require EDI. They won't do it any other way." Naturally, then, finding a reliable EDI solution was critical to the business.
Aiming for Hosted
Gamo Outdoor USA is the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based unit of Gamo Outdoor, S.L., the Spanish manufacturer of airguns that also is the world's top producer of pellets for air rifles and pistols. The Spanish parent company was rolling out R/3 worldwide, and when it came time to implement the ERP system in the U.S. business, Rodriguez headed up the project.
When it became clear that the company's EDI provider could not make the leap with Gamo to SAP, Rodriguez began looking around for an alternate solution. He researched online and looked for feedback on different EDI service providers. One option that he considered was for a Web-based, or hosted, EDI solution that enabled buyers and suppliers to exchange data over the Internet.
Under the hosted model, the EDI service provider assumes responsibility for mapping data connections with various parties, alleviating the provider's customers of the need to maintain any significant number of full-time staff devoted to managing the EDI connections. Also, since the connections are conducted via a Web interface, companies using hosted EDI don't need to maintain hardware dedicated specifically to EDI connectivity.
Hosted EDI has been around for only about a dozen years, but the market includes several established players. Rodriguez says he reviewed four companies before settling on Houston-based DiCentral, which helped establish the Web-hosted EDI space in 2000. DiCentral offers a variety of hosted solutions targeted at buying organizations and suppliers. Its trading community encompasses major players across such industries as retail, petrochemical, telecoms, manufacturing, and shipping and logistics.
Rodriguez says that he tapped DiCentral for the project in part because of the favorable feedback that he read online. DiCentral, in particular, has developed a reputation as a good option for companies looking to do EDI in conjunction with an SAP ERP system.
Rodriguez also checked the customers that DiCentral was working with; many were Gamo customers. "When you start with a new trading partner, doing the integration is not easy," the IT director notes. "There's a lot of fine tuning, a lot of effort, and it takes time. Since DiCentral had some of our trading partners as customers, I knew they would have the integrations. That would make it much easier for my company."
Gamo Outdoor USA worked over the course of 2009 with its SAP implementation team, as well as with the technical team at DiCentral, with the goal of bringing the R/3 solution live together with the Web-based EDI on January 1, 2010. Rodriguez says that going through the ERP implementation and simultaneously working on the integration side with DiCentral represented something of a challenge.
"Going through an ERP implementation is a big deal, especially when you're going from a small system like MAS 200 to a system like SAP R/3. There was a lot of data we had to move from one system to the other, and it was very challenging. But we couldn't forget the EDI because that was very important, too," Rodriguez says.
He adds: "We had to change some things on the fly because some things didn't work the way we initially wanted. But the technical team at DiCentral was not only very knowledgeable, they always were on top of things."