MLO Pumps up Trading Partners Communications

Nutritional supplements company deploys EDI-XML electronic data interchange solution

Fairfield, CA — March 4, 2004 — Nutritional supplements company MLO Products has deployed an EDI-XML electronic data interchange software suite from solution provider ACOM to exchange purchase order and invoice documents with trading partners.

With roots tracing to the 1960s, when fitness guru Millard Williamson developed a weight-training bar, MLO now markets an array of products nationwide to grocery and drug chains, department stores and specialty nutrition and health food outlets, most of which now encourage, if not insist, that suppliers execute transactions electronically.

MLO had acquired an electronic data interchange (EDI) solution previously, later to find that the solution lacked sufficient business rules flexibility to allow the company to adapt quickly and inexpensively to varying customer situations, according to MLO EDI administrator Chris Rickard.

As a result, the company recently replaced that solution with ACOM's EZConnect solution, which MLO can use to map its own trading partner documents rather than employ consulting services. In addition, ACOM said that the solution provides much needed flexibility in specifying operational and control details.

ACOM said its modular suite of e-commerce applications and integration tools enable automated data translation and connectivity between businesses and their trading partners, as well as within user organizations. EZConnect's e-commerce engine supports various data standards, including all U.S. and international EDI standards (X12 &-EDIFACT), as well as all Internet (XML) standards and extensions.

In the MLO Products application, EZConnect utilizes data from the eBackOffice enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite from ACOM business partner Epicor, accessing the data through a dedicated SQL Server database.

"Under the previous solution, we were restricted to hard-wired business rules that locked us into procedures pre-set by the developer," Rickard said. "For example, we were unable to isolate discrepancies between what our ERP solution expected to see and what was present in X12 EDI documents sent to us by trading partners."

Rickard explained that EZConnect forwards incoming documents to its dedicated MS SQL Server database, which can detect and log discrepancies between trading partner documents and their eBackOffice counterparts. "If discrepancies are found, they are routed to an operator for individual follow-up," he said.

Following installation of the system, ACOM provided training in mapping X12 EDI documents, including the Inbound Purchase Order (850) and the Outbound Invoice (810), as well as in advanced capabilities, administration and process control

With EZConnect, Rickard said that MLO has become EDI self-sufficient, able to meet customer requirements and also to reduce expenses related trading partner transactions. He has mapped the two initial documents for about a half-dozen of the company's trading partners, with a like number to follow. "It is easy," Rickard said. "Anybody can learn it in a week."

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