The right way will not always be the easiest, fastest or most appealing choice but it’s the only way we choose to run the race.
This is one of those “build it and they will come” stories, with a bit of “David vs Goliath” for good measure. No one ever told ECRS to build our state-of-the-art EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) Gateway. When we first introduced it, many didn’t see the value, while others, still thought this type of technology was only meant for large, national retailers. You see, Gateway is based on the simple logic that your store, warehouse systems, and your Supplier’s IT system should freely exchange information, known as EDI. In doing so, duplicate data entry is removed and precision and speed is greatly increased.
For example, when a supplier places items on a delivery truck, our CATAPULT® Retail Store Automation System is notified and automatically updated by Gateway with the exact shipping quantities and cost – you never have to re-enter that same data into the store or warehouse system. Purchase orders work the same, only in reverse. The same goes for supplier catalogs and promotions; it completely automates the bi-directional exchange of data between the supplier and the retailer.
The part of EDI history where ECRS comes in, is the risky and expensive chance we took to build one of the first private internet-based EDI network systems in the world.
We would love to take credit for EDI, but the core of the process was perfected a long time ago by a pretty smart retailer and his innovative IT team, an Arkansas man who started with a single store location and grew it to become the retail Goliath that it is today. The part of EDI history where ECRS comes in, is the risky and expensive chance we took to build one of the first private internet-based EDI network systems in the world; then we dedicated this network to the sole purpose of helping local and regional Grocers, Specialty Food and Natural Food retailers.
From our perspective, if EDI is good enough for the retail Goliaths, then our local and regional retailers absolutely need it too, if they are to stay supply chain competitive. We also understood that EDI was going to be a necessity if a retailer wanted to shift to perpetual inventory and auto-replenishment, both of which are becoming more and more essential each day, and neither of which can be accomplished efficiently without automated EDI supplier integration.
The first day we turned on our shiny, new, EDI network we had zero demand from our customers. It was that dreaded moment when you could hear a pin drop. But good ideas eventually catch on; and as our retail customers started to demand perpetual inventory and auto replenishment, we had this great tool readily in place and raring to go.
Today, that same service, now called ECRS Gateway™, has 79 Supplier partners and over
600 800 (updated April 2018) connected retail locations, both of which continue to grow rapidly. (the current 800 EDI-enabled sites only makes up about 15% of all ECRS Catapult retailer locations nationwide). However, to put things in perspective, 800 locations already represent one of the largest internet-based, bidirectional, private EDI-purchasing gateways in the world. It’s accessible to all of the retailers and suppliers we serve and delivered at a fraction of the cost of 3rd party proprietary EDI network services. Now, each of these locations can enjoy highly automated and competitive EDI technology, equivalent to – if not better than – what the largest national retailers have access to.
Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
From the beginning, we knew we had to make our EDI Gateway very affordable, so we were one of the first, if not the only, EDI providers that offered our service at a low, fixed monthly cost. This means our retailers can send and receive as many EDI documents as they want, to any of our current 85 supplier partners. With such affordable pricing for retailers, we knew it would always be just a “break-even” service for us, but we were okay with that. The fact is, even today it only represents approximately 2% of our yearly revenue. When you factor in the complexity, the time, and the cost for us to build and maintain it, it hardly makes sense that we would even bother. But we didn’t do it for the money.
We built and maintain Gateway because it was, and remains, the right thing to do, and as Mark Twain said best: “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Gateway continues to grow in popularity and is now paying it’s own way. With Twain’s wisdom in mind, we trust our Gateway users have learned to love the untold benefits of EDI and are grateful to have such a tool. And to those who told us we were foolish to build it; that local and regional retailers and their suppliers didn’t need it, couldn’t handle it, and wouldn’t use an EDI Gateway – it’s safe to say those folks are astonished ;-).