Stirs Skyline's EDI Chili-pot online

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Cincinnati's Skyline Chili's transaction volume is only about 25 to 30 invoices each week, but its staff was spending nearly one hour each day creating the invoice turnaround documents. promotes the establishment of Best Practices in e-Commerce. This is an example of the kinds of successful implementations promotes.

Web-based EDI systems are gaining momentum, especially with smaller companies that spend an inordinate amount of time and money to process a relatively small number of transactions. When Cincinnati's Skyline Chili's EDI volume began to increase, so did the time it took to process transactions. That's when the company began to look at web-based EDI systems to replace the software they were using.

"We had been using Sterling Commerce's EDI software and VAN since we began using EDI," explains John Roth, Skyline's assistant controller. "As we were signing up new trading partners, we got bogged down because of the complexity of the setup process, and we also started to spend more time each day handling transactions. At about the same time we got a call from Owens Direct, and we started to talk to them about their web-based system."

Growing Concern

Skyline was setting up its vendors and manually importing invoices in with the Sterling system. "Our transaction volume is only about 25 to 30 invoices each week, but I was spending nearly one hour each day creating the invoice turnaround documents. With our web-based system, the daily processing now takes about 10 minutes because it's automated," says Roth.

One of the benefits of web-based EDI systems is the lack of any locally installed hardware and software. As Roth puts it, "I installed the Sterling software on the PC at my desk." If Roth's computer required maintenance or even if he were out of the office, any EDI activity was on hold until things were back to normal. With the web-based system, Skyline isn't limited to using any particular computer. In fact, as long as Roth has a computer with Internet access, he can log on to the Owens Direct system and process his daily transactions.

"Although we don't set up new vendors every day, if I do need a new vendor set up, all I have to do is get them in contact with Owens Direct. I don't have to do any setup or testing. I just get notified when they are ready to start sending transactions," says Roth. The web-based nature of the system means new setups can be handled centrally by support staff, eliminating the sometimes tedious task from Skyline's staff.

Cost and Change

Pricing is another area that has benefited Skyline. Every EDI system has its own pricing structure, but according to Roth, Owens Direct's flat rate pricing saves the company an average of $150 each month compared to Sterling's pricing which is based on variable fees.

Changing EDI systems can be a headache, but as Roth puts it, "Some of our vendors are still using Sterling or other EDI systems, but our changeover was transparent to them." Skyline's vendors continue to manage their transactions based on their own needs. In this case, Owens Direct handled any transition issues with Skyline's vendors, making the changeover a non-issue for both Skyline and its vendors.

Clearly web-based EDI is here to stay. Companies like Skyline Chili that have relatively few transactions may have a lot to gain by looking into these kinds of services.

About is a forum for discovering and promoting the Best Practices for e-Commerce. Newsletter is distributed to those interested in understanding how their peer organizations are archiving their goals with regard to EDI. Free subscriptions are available at

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Scott Koegler
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