Fletcher Wood Panels says it has reaped significant business benefits through the use of XML Adaptor in its business-to-business processes.
Auckland-based Mi Services Group, the firm’s ERP provider, developed the tool for the company. Using the Jade-based SML adapter, FWP can extract data from its ERP package and generate documents in a number of different formats.
The move toward XML began when one of FWP’s customers, Placemakers, invited some of its suppliers to provide invoicing and they had a preference for XML, although they did allow an alternate format.
“I’d had some previous experience of EDI [electronic data interchange] and … it seemed that if you had the opportunity to start fresh then XML was likely to take you furthest,” says FWP business systems consultant Robin Watts.
FWP then needed a low-cost system to interface with its existing ERP system to produce and deliver XML documents to its partners. The company approached MiServices as far back as 1999, says Peter De Heer, business unit manager MiServices. The firm then produced a custom solution for FWP and talked to Placemakers.
Watts says one of the benefits of XML is being able to define files more clearly. “We’re using XML in a fairly basic form — we’re just structuring a transfer file between us and our customer. The advantage is that we can agree on using a DTD [data type definition], which is what we use, while Placemakers uses a BizTalk schema, but we’re able to convert that.”
He is pleased with the cost-effectiveness of the XML Adaptor and the way FWP is able to maintain it. “Alternative applications seemed quite expensive — about two or three times the cost of the XML Adaptor. And it did everything we wanted.”
De Heer says the initial project was about sending invoices from FWP to Placemakers. “When we started FWP said why don’t we do a generic solution, where we can do not only invoices, but we can send out anything else we want to other trading partners.”
The next step was to send consignment notes to its transport supplier, Owens Transport. “Then they said ‘what about incoming stuff as well, such as purchase orders, so they can turn those directly into the sales order in the system’,” says De Heer.
“We started off with what was a simple requirement, but ended up with quite a large generic solution for them that really handles all of their electronic documents and transactions between trading partners.”