The challenge of integration


The electronic platform shared for the documental management of the complete order cycle adopted by the production chain of consumer electronics and household appliances opens the doors to the collaborative logistics, involving also transporters in the system that operates via web.

by Moreno Soppelsa

Established in 2008 in Italy, Ediel Servizi has the mission of diffusing the adoption of a common codification protocol for the electronic transmission of data among producers and resellers in the ambit of the consumer electronics and household appliance industry. An important ambition, because the integration of such a structured production chain (sometimes reluctant towards changes of inner procedures) in a process of electronic invoicing and dematerialization was not an easy step. On the contrary the companies of this field that dematerialize the order cycle with EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) procedures registered in 2011 a 50% figure increase compared to the previous year. And for 2012, even if some precise data are still missing, things have gone even better. A positive result determined also by the TC1 Ediel system born from the collaboration between Ediel Servizi and the software house Tesi to implement a shared electronic platform for the documental management of the complete order cycle. But especially thanks to the fact that with the improvement of the operating flows deriving from the dematerialization, and it is a datum by now confirmed and perceived by all the players of the production chain, you can obtain a saving that at full capacity can reach even 80% of the process management costs.

Collaborative logistics
The success obtained with the first step of the platform has induced Ediel Servizi to extend the dematerialization process also to a third fundamental player of the production chain: logistic operators, junction link between producers and sellers. “The new platform – affirms Stefano Bassi, chief operating officer of Ediel Servizi – manages all the operations of booking, tracing and delivery of the product. An important instrument that allows a high level of integration among vendor, logistics/transport and retail, with the possibility of a significant reduction of costs and of non-conformities”. The pilot phase of this project, which until now has involved eight producers, three logistic operators and four retailers, has just ended. “We will soon involve other operators – explains Bassi – and in the course of 2013 we expect that over half of the companies that we represent will profitably use this system. One of the problems that we had to face both in the first EDI phase and in this one is not of technological type but derives from the players’ resistance to change their operating modalities. A resistance that has however been won by the tangible benefits of our platform, considering that until today almost all big trade and production brands that are part of Ediel Servizi make the data exchange in electronic format, a necessary prerequisite to involve them in this second phase of collaborative logistics”.

How it did function …
Let’s now how it does exactly operate the existing collaboration based on TC1. The reseller issues the orders in electronic format by connecting itself with the platform developed by Ediel, which performs the message certification. Actually the system checks that the document complies with the standards established by the consortium. “The added value of this system – specifies Bassi – is in fact the presence of a common language that must be shared by all operators”. The producer automatically receives the order and carries out automatic format controls that include prices, item code, dates and so on. It carries out the data entry, still automatic, into its management information system. The file that it receives can be implemented by any management system, from the smallest to the most sophisticated SAP. Once ready, the producer ships the goods and at the same time sends the electronic delivery note to the customer, which receives it even before goods. The latter can verify that the delivery note coincides with what ordered, executes the “preload” on its management system and is ready to receive the goods. “In this way – affirms Bassi – everything is faster and more efficient and, once occurred the delivery, the supplier sends the invoice to the customer, still in electronic format and without needing to perform further “data entries” until the accounting and the filing according to law, without making use of paper”.

…and what are the novelties
We have just described the “old” system, which did not involve logistics. “We started from this well-tested data exchange – explains the manager of Ediel Servizi – to develop the system of collaborative logistics for which the exchange of electronic orders, delivery notes and invoices was a fundamental prerequisite. Let’s see how the new process that involves logistic operators works. “At the centre of everything there is TC1 (acronym of Tower Control), which actually works as a control tower able to monitor all the displacements of goods in real time”. Actually, the logistic operator or the producer sends the “pre-delivery notes” (DDT) to the portal and asks for a delivery booking to the final recipient. The recipient receives an e-mail informing about this request. If it accepts the booking, it can send a confirmation to the portal, which in its turn sends an alert e-mail to the producer or to the logistic operator. At this stage the goods can be delivered at the expected time and the circle closes with the notification of the delivery outcome. “Our commitment will be to make all logistic players of the member companies join the system, so that all can have a full control of shipments without having to make recourse to a complex and confusing round of phone calls, fax and electronic mail messages”.

The system is highly structured. The function Meeting Creation allows for instance the operating user to create a booking starting from its logistic documents. For each single identified document the system highlights the document number, the quantity of pallets, of packages, the gross weight and the volume. The unloading point, which can be directly a store or the distributor’ s warehouse, enters via Web a screen with the bookings to be validated, with the possibility of confirming, reprogramming or refusing each single request. The Tower Control function allows visualizing, in a synthetic dashboard, the progress of logistic documents, displayed by delivery date. Practical also the access and the use of the function Download Agenda, real core of the portal because it reports in a board all the operating activities respectively seen from the point of view of the producer, the logistic operator and the retailer.

The 2012/45/EU Directive, which provides for the simplified use of the electronic invoice and the rules of chargeability to tax relating to the supplies of goods and performances of intra-Community services, must be transposed also by Italy within next January 1st. According to this directive, whose transposition mechanisms are under study at the time when we are writing these notes, the paper and electronic invoice will be equivalent. The necessary managerial procedures to assure authenticity and integrity to the invoice will be freely identified by the involved players. It is worth underlining that, to full advantage of simplicity, the passive subject will be no more obliged to use the XML format, previously imposed, but any electronic format. Also a simple e-mail is valid, provided that both issuer and recipient agree on this procedure, with the invoice in Pdf format enclosed. No particular written agreements are requested: it is sufficient that the recipient accepts and tacitly acknowledges the received document carrying out the common operations inherent to this document, such as the registration and the payment of the received invoice. For the whole preservation duration, the invoice must maintain the requisites of origin authenticity, content integrity and readability of the document.

And this can certainly occur by using the electronic signature but also enclosing the supporting documents like for instance the purchase order, transport documents and payment receipts.