Connected or Confused? by William “Williee” Armellini
When I began writing this article I imagined my precise words explaining the benefits of working with your suppliers or customers on Data exchange. This is where tech savvy floral companies can format their invoicing data in a way that their customers can receive and process the details without having to input it manually. This is a huge time saver and reduces the risk of input errors so that the bunch of lilies you sold for $2.35 does not get invoiced at $.235. With today’s technology, making this data exchange happen is not science fiction but a reality worth exploring.
Having worked closely with a few companies to make this happen, I have seen the big benefit in getting required data into and out of their computer to share with their larger trading partners – saving time and money.
My idea was to explain in great detail how this works and how simple it can be. However, the more I tried, the more I wrote myself into a corner until I came to the conclusion that it is not simple. Not only is it not simple to explain, but it is not so simple to implement either. Now, before we give up on this idea, there is more to learn. Basically this is a project that only makes sense for like-minded companies with the need to exchange large volumes of data that have the hardware, software and the will to make it happen. Regrettably, this would seem to exclude the bulk of the companies engaged in floral trading and make this article seem quite anti-climactic.
The good news is that some third party companies have begun to make this data flow process much easier and affordable. Offshore growers need to get their shipping and invoicing data into a digital format in order for their shipments to comply with export and import paperwork requirements. As a result, they have been forced to figure out the best way to accomplish this. The best solution lies with a select few Cargo Agents that have programs allowing growers and shippers to create their data right in the cargo agent’s database. This process, by default, creates a common format so that the data from many growers and shippers is now in a common format that can more easily be shared with others. Basically they have laid down the tracks so most of the technical, expensive and hard computer integration work is already done for you. The companies using this method can now share their data with government agencies, Freight Forwarders, Trucking companies and finally, their customers. This makes very accurate and timely information available to those that need it and results in faster clearances, more accurate payments, and many other benefits.
In conclusion, my advice would be to first check with your own computer people to see what options you have and then with your trading and logistics partners to see what data exchange options, if any, exist with them. If the answer is “none” or “what the heck are you talking about”, then I would begin by contacting me and I will be pleased to recommend a few companies that do offer this level of customer service.