There is one thing that every logistics company across the globe wants to do – scaling as quickly as possible. EDI software makes it possible, giving control over data that is required to manage the entire supply chain. This is how EDI has been supporting businesses for decades. Now its Mobile version comes into the spotlight – let’s see what the fuss is about.

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) has existed within business processes since 1960s, when transport industry, led by Ed Guilbert, developed an electronic messaging format to send shipping information and cargo. But it was not until 1973, when the first FTP communication channel was implemented. After that, it took a few more years for businesses to adapt and agree to national EDI specifications. More and more industries, such as retail, started using electronic messages in order to improve data flows between partners, what made them a major force driving the local and global implementation of standards. It is clear that EDI software has been evolving due to the constantly growing needs of enterprises, and one of the effects is the current opportunity to use classic or mobile system.

EDI: Classic vs Mobile

As users have been accessing EDI by using a VAN network or various internet channels, Mobile EDI simply had to came to place and became slowly adopted by specific industries and types of clients. In that case, what are the main differences between the Classic and Mobile versions? Classic EDI usually refers to exchanging electronic documents, using a standardized communication channel and predefined electronic format standard for the messages. These can be X12 for the retail industry, VDA for automotive, EDIFACT for Logistics industry, and many others depending on the field and client needs.

 
 
Figure 1: Sample EDI process in Logistics


 

Mobile EDI, on the other hand, refers to using a mobile phone application to send or receive EDI messages, again using a client specific format. EDI data can be easily accessed also by using various mobile applications, similarly to how cloud and other platforms are used, giving more flexibility to its users, especially if their applications are all synchronized. Mobile version can offer a variety of benefits and improve efficiency of many processes by sending delivery notifications, allowing simple document management and being accessible at any time and in any place, so the user can communicate directly with their customers and partners. So, why Mobile EDI is particularly beneficial in logistics?

6 things Mobile EDI gets simply done

Let’s imagine a warehouse with a specific role in the whole supply chain process. Many processes depend on each other, and if one puzzle is not placed right, the whole image does not fit, therefore it is important to perform all tasks on time and to maintain good communication between all parties without delays. Using mobile apps connected to systems is simply more convenient and time-efficient as you can get a lot of things done directly from your warehouse. Among other things, mobile EDI allows you and your business partners to:

1. Update status of delivery

In the past these statuses were updated manually and using different methods. Mobile EDI allows customers and suppliers, as well as logistic operators to exchange information not only in real time but also almost automatically. This reduces the time-consuming processes, eliminate the risk of errors and improves operations in the entire supply chain.

2. Directly scan labels or QR codes

Directly scanning QR codes or labels not only reduces errors and processing time but also improves communication between the operator and supplier. This allows real-time monitoring of where the goods actually are. It can also grow the reputation of logistics companies for being flexible and quickly adapting to digital innovations.

3. Sign orders or dispatch advices

Singing orders or dispatch advices strengthens security of all processes, while at the same time providing workflow tracking convenience to everyone. Not to start on the paperless process, that apart from being environmentally friendly also supports achieving positive ROI and fewer document errors.

4. Review product status and quality

Being able to review product status and quality can really help logistics operators to handle the issue better. They can react much faster, easily communicate with parties that face difficulties in and – as a consequence – create more trust for the workflow.

5. Communicate in real time with partners regarding any issues

Communicating in real-time can help prevent many problems, such as issues with packaging, last-minute order changes, incidents, missing information or any other difficulties. This not only saves time but also improves the reliability and trust between all parties, helping them deliver timely arrangement of substitutes.

6. Check status of delivery in real-time throughout the whole process

Again, it speeds the whole process and lowers the number of errors. However, it is crucial to note that real-time monitoring gives overview of the entire supply chain. This prevents miscommunication by providing the supplier and retailer with information when and by who the goods have been actually delivered. You don’t want to call your customer to ask how the goods are delivered while they are still on the road, right?

The growing potential of Mobile EDI applications

Logistics operations are often complex, with constantly growing needs of customers to be addressed. Therefore, companies have to smartly choose between applications supporting their operations. Some companies have implemented measures that help with scanning logistics labels directly, enabling paperless goods reception with the use of Proof of Delivery applications. Such applications are already widely used by couriers and now companies are adapting them to B2B paperless solutions. This significantly improves the accuracy of documents and other types of data that can be directly trace via app connected to Classic EDI systems. Other companies use mobile applications that allow barcode scanning, which allows to directly issue an invoice to the system (so-called dock system, often used in retail).

Furthermore, for those involved in the process who often travel, such as managers in sales or retail sector, mobile EDI apps help monitor data flows and order status in real time, from their smartphones. Many applications also include analytical dashboards. Another example are applications that help supply chain parties confirm orders directly from their mobile device, forward them to other colleagues or issue invoices. As the potential of EDI software is growing, we can expect that more and more of its functionalities will soon be available also on mobile devices.

It’s surely mobile, but is it secure?

Going mobile often raises questions connected to security. Some entrepreneurs worry for reliability of EDI mobile applications, external access to sensitive information, data breaches and various types of cyber-attacks. That is why when looking for EDI software provider, logistic companies usually search for a trusted and experienced IT partner. Comarch developers ensure there are no extra features that could increase the risk of mobile application use, such as access to social media. Other security measure that tackles potential risks are selectable user permissions. Strong coding, testing, backhand and regular updates also assure the reliability of Mobile EDI. Last but not least, multiple factor authentication, cryptographic techniques and encrypting data minimize the risk of accessing, changing, or destroying sensitive information and interrupting normal business processes. 

The rapid process of global business digitalization, mostly due to Covid-19 crisis, causes a growing need to innovate and automate various processes in logistics industry. Logistics operators have been growing and are often the first ones to use new technologies which can improve their processes in expanding networks. Thus, with already improved Classic EDI systems, companies are looking for mobile solutions to go a step further, towards even more digitized and automatic operations in the entire supply chain.

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