EDI at Sears, Roebuck and Co

Article excerpt

About 800 vendors have been electronically linked to Sears, Roebuck and Co. since the large retailer moved into commercial telecommunications 20 years ago. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Sears maintained its own proprietary network for the purpose.

However, in 1989 it announced a move to a public standard. The reasons, according to Sears EDI administrator Judith Ketch, included Sears' own increasing needs, declining numbers of competent prospective employees, and the presence of too many other proprietary systems.

Also, by 1989, said Kerch, standardized electronic data interchange (EDI) was superior to Sear's own system. Now ED1 is required for most other enterprises to do business with Sears.

Kerch addressed conferences on EDI at an ANPA prepress systems meeting in February and at ANPA/ TEC in June. EDI is a general business telecommunications standard that can be adopted and adapted by individual industries. The Newspaper Association of America is creating a guide to industry-specific conventions and implementation of EDI for advertising (see story, P. 26). Sears is participating in a newspaper advertising pilot project with Gannett and Times Mirror.

EDI streamlines commercial transactions by putting all parties' communications into the same agreed-upon format, which is generated and recognized by computers. Documents are ordinarily exchanged directly between the parties' computer systems or through the intermediary Storeand-forward services of a value-added network.

"We view EDI as a tool which provides tactical support" to Sears' business, said Ketch. The focus of Sears' move to EDl, she said, has been to improve customer service (product availability through inventory support), enhance relationships with trading partners (data forecasting for production planning), and reduce operating costs (paper and paperwork).

Since migrating to EDI, she added, the company has moved well beyond its 800 electronic trading relationships. Some suppliers now receive electronic payment; even more use electronic purchase order confirmation.

For Sears, EDI brought increased efficiency, according to Kerch. The improved quality of its information led to timelier inventory information, which in turn helped to lower operating costs. …