Founded in 1899, Morgan Foods has grown from a small canning company supplying food for soldiers during wartime to one of the three major manufacturers of condensed soup in the U.S. That kind of growth also led it to become a supplier to Wal-Mart ... with the opportunities and challenges that go with dealing with the world's largest retailer.
In June 2003, Morgan Foods received a mandate from Wal-Mart: adopt Applicability Statement 2 (AS2), a Wal-Mart-created connectivity standard for Internet Electronic Data Interchange (EDI-INT). As part of an initiative to streamline communications with its suppliers, Wal-Mart required them by Sept. 30, 2003 to adopt AS2 to standardize trading and facilitate communications.
Immediately following that mandate, Morgan Foods was faced with another demand from Wal-Mart. The retail giant, Morgan Foods' third largest customer, also required suppliers to provide product information to the UCCnet GlobalRegistry, the UCC foundation’s standard for efficient, cost-effective data exchange among trading partners. That deadline was Jan. 31, 2004.
Morgan Foods needed to move reasonably fast to implement a proven technology solution to fulfill these connectivity standards and position the company to comply with emerging protocols without compromising business with its other trading partners.
"We have 18 items with Wal-Mart: several kinds of canned beans and sloppy joe sauce, and we're hoping to do some soups, our main product line," says Roger Heaverin, information systems manager at Morgan Foods. "Naturally, we're hoping to do more business with them.
"We have other partners, some we do more business with than Wal-Mart, but nobody else has required this level of electronic data interchange," he continues. "But it's only a matter of time, really. You could say we did this all for Wal-Mart. But at the same time, we couldn't really cost-justify this effort just for Wal-Mart. The same technology will be put to use with the others and the costs will be amortized with other customers."
Heaverin said Morgan Foods looked at several options. The company had an EDI system that dated back to Unisys. It also had enterprise software from Harbinger, a company that ultimately was acquired by Inovis. Inovis not only took over support of that system, it started to do other work for Morgan Foods.
"Some alternatives [with other vendors] could have worked, but probably would have required rewriting some code," the IS manager says. "We have been working directly with Inovis for 10 years, and we trusted them to create a solution that worked."
A decade-long customer of Inovis' business commerce automation solutions, Morgan Foods has employed Inovis' TrustedLink EDI transformation software and value-added network (VAN) services since the company first began facilitating electronic commerce with its retail trading partners in 1994.
So in July 2003, Morgan Foods turned again to Inovis to comply with Wal-Mart's AS2 and UCCnet mandates. Implementing Inovis' BizManager for UCCnet Services, Morgan Foods began synchronizing product information with Wal-Mart through the UCCnet GlobalRegistry. Morgan Foods also meets retailer AS2 connectivity mandates with BizManager, Inovis' Internet EDI solution for exchanging purchase orders, invoices and other business documents with trading partners over the Internet.
"We create a special pallet ID unique to Wal-Mart and send it to their distribution centers," says Heaverin. "We used to work through a VAN, but with this change we deal directly with Wal-Mart, which was one of Wal-Mart's goals."
Partnering with Inovis, Morgan Foods complied with Wal-Mart's AS2 requirement two weeks before the deadline. It also met the UCCnet mandate early. The flexibility and ease of integration of Inovis' solutions enabled Morgan Foods to support its existing technology infrastructure, coordinating easily with its SAP warehouse management module.
While many of Wal-Mart's suppliers are still struggling to comply with these guidelines well into 2004, according to Heaverin, Morgan Foods was conducting critical business transactions with its major retailer in just a few hours, thanks to the help of Inovis' implementation team.
"Inovis has put us ahead of the game," says Heaverin. "By enabling us to meet Wal-Mart's initiatives and arming us with the agility to respond to the data exchange and integration requirements of the rest of our customer base as they adopt AS2 and UCCnet standards, Inovis enabled Morgan Foods to deliver quality products more efficiently and accurately."
As a private-label goods manufacturer, Morgan Foods contends with tight margins and must ensure transactions are processed with speed and accuracy. With this new software, Morgan Foods has achieved 99.97 percent uptime, and the company processes an average of 1,200 EDI orders in its busiest months with zero communication errors.
"With our state-of-the-art technology infrastructure in place, we ship truckloads of our products to our customers faster, more efficiently and at the lowest cost to our customers," Heaverin continues. Even with a modest $100 million in sales, "Our focus on technology and innovation sets us apart from the competition."
Inovis provides Morgan Foods with the flexibility to conduct business with each member of its supply chain, from those adopting new technologies and standards like AS2 and UCCnet such as Wal-Mart to other partners relying on traditional EDI and VAN transactions. The company is well positioned for future e-commerce growth, easily adding new communication options, adapting to evolving trading partner requirements and scaling additional partners with ease.
"We are working with another customer now who also wants AS2, so this is already being amortized," says Heaverin. "I've got to believe within two or three years all of our top 20 accounts will want some type of similar Internet data exchange. It will be a huge cost savings for them when they do.
"We are already able to implement Internet EDI and retail item synchronization with new customers in less than 24 hours," he continues. "Since Inovis is always current on the latest standards certifications and versions, we never have to worry about outgrowing our business commerce infrastructure even as we continue to scale our trading partner network."
For more information, call Inovis at (000) 000-0000 or see www.inovis.com