Reduce friction and create a robust supply chain with customers by integrating to Fourth Trade Simple.
If you're a supplier, establishing a strong procurement process with your customers is vital. It ensures that you always deliver the right products at the right price to the right place — vital when dealing with distributed and cost-sensitive hospitality businesses.
However, implementing an electronic data interchange (EDI) directly with customers often has limited success, and potentially requires you to integrate many times with respective customers. Meanwhile, your hospitality customers have the daunting task of processing many thousands of product orders and transactions each week — not just from your business, but with a diverse range of other suppliers, many still using either physical paper trails or their own EDI. Those suppliers who instead are seamlessly integrated with the customer's systems are the ones most likely to establish a trusted and continuing relationship. Those suppliers who add friction in the supply chain risk being replaced.
Fourth are experts at reducing friction on behalf of our customers, and for supplier relationships we created Trade Simple, an electronic trading platform. Trade Simple enables suppliers and customers to exchange predefined and structured documents in a secure manner, with a complete audit trail and guaranteed delivery. And, it's designed to integrate with supplier systems and processes in a way that is flexible, usable and tailored to hospitality.
Once integrated, both you and your customers benefit from:
- Clean orders
- Reduced cost of telesales
- Disciplined and on-time ordering
- Significant reductions in errors
- Timely payments
- Improved cash flow
- No ‘lost’ invoices
How does it work?
Fourth Trade Simple was designed with maximum compatibility in mind, and to encompass every part of the purchase-to-pay document cycle.
In discussion with your business, we establish:
- What business transaction documents you send and receive
- How the data in each document will be formatted
- Which technologies to use in the integration
The aim is to be as inclusive as possible, so Fourth does not mandate any standard or technical means by which you have to connect to the solution. For example, we can receive invoices and credits as PDFs. However, the greatest return on investment for all parties occurs when suppliers integrate their business applications to Fourth.
Once adopted, you can begin receiving customer orders via email, in the Trade Simple application, or directly into your own integrated systems.
In return, Fourth converts the documents you send - like order responses, invoices and credits — from your agreed format and then delivers them to your customers. This can include creating and managing the documents within the Trade Simple application itself or directly from your own integrated systems.
Meanwhile, your customers create orders, review your responses, and receive your invoices and credits via their own Fourth integration. Customers have similar options for integrating as suppliers, with automation and compatibility paramount. And with fully-integrated suppliers, the customer never needs to send you custom documentation; everything is easily tracked and managed through Trade Simple.
Plus, there's a big customer experience win behind the scenes: the data collected via Trade Simple can be used to by Fourth to update stock levels and produce reports, without your customer needing to manually re-enter data.
A major benefit of integrating with Fourth is that you send data to a central hub in the format of your choosing. Fourth stores this data in a standardized format (XML), which is then translated as necessary to the favored format of each of your customers. This hub-based approach enables you to trade with all existing or potential business partners in the same way — the way that best suits you. And every part of the procurement process can be integrated, which virtually eliminates any manual intervention. This sets up your business to begin trading with new customers — including enterprise customers — faster and easier.
A typical — but not mandatory — workflow between customers and suppliers is as follows:
1. The supplier uploads one or more product catalogs, containing customer-specific products and prices, and grants access to authorized buyers.
2. The supplier submits supporting data such as delivery schedules.
3. A buyer raises a purchase order.
4. The supplier immediately raises a purchase order acknowledgement, which is sent to the buyer to acknowledge receipt of the order.
5. The same day the supplier raises a purchase order confirmation, which is sent to the buyer to provide detailed information about which order lines can be supplied as ordered and which cannot.
6. Following picking, the supplier usually raises a dispatch advice or advanced shipping note (ASN), which is sent to the buyer to provide detailed information about exactly what will be on the delivery. This document may also reflect if there has been a change of unit of measure such as for "catch weight" products like meat and fish.
7. Shortly afterwards, the supplier raises an invoice for the items dispatched. Alternatively, some suppliers wait until after a goods received note (GRN) or electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) is generated; this is known as "clean invoicing" and can facilitate matching and payment.
8. On the delivery day, the buyer checks the incoming delivery and raises a GRN, which can be sent to the supplier to provide detailed information about which delivery lines have been accepted as delivered and which have not. The buyer can use this as an accrual for goods which have been received but not yet invoiced. Alternatively, some suppliers who have "sign on glass" technology in their trucks may generate an ePOD which can be easily turned into a "100% accepted" GRN by the buyer.
9. If there is a discrepancy between the invoice and delivery, the buyer can raise a request for credit informing the supplier.
10. To resolve a financial discrepancy, the supplier can raise a credit note against the invoice.
How do I connect?
As we customize integrations to your capabilities and needs, the best next step is to get in contact with our team for an initial chat. You may opt to use a mixed approach to your documents, integrating some and using the Trade Simple web application for others; and you can modify and improve your level of integration over time. Typical integration options can include the following:
Email with web
The simplest and quickest way to begin trading through Fourth is to receive orders via email and then create the required responses (acknowledgments, confirmations, etc) in the Trade Simple application. This low-cost option is particularly suitable if you only receive a small number of orders and do not have the capacity to integrate your back office system. This provides you with the benefit of clear, accurate orders from your customers, while additionally supporting their business processes and goals.
PDF invoices and credits
If your system produces PDF invoices and credits for your customers, then Fourth can convert these to an electronic document. This allows suppliers with a relatively low order volume to still appear as 'integrated' for these important financial documents. We normally charge the customer for this service.
To get the maximum benefit, we strongly suggest that you fully integrate all the documents into your business systems. This approach is particularly appropriate if you receive large numbers of orders, as it virtually eliminates any manual intervention and processing.
With this option, you can define the transport mechanisms and data formats that are most suitable for your existing infrastructure and support capabilities, allowing you to extend the use of any existing investments in electronic trading and communications. This includes whether you want to send documents in batches (e.g. using FTP) or use online options to send in data (e.g. using AS2). If you are looking to employ new technology, this option enables you to choose the solution that is most appropriate for all of your business goals, rather than one implemented to support a single customer.
For those organisations that make minimal use of IT systems, or have bespoke/in-house systems, Fourth can provide a data-mapping service. This service is run and controlled centrally by the Fourth Data Team who, during your integration, creates a data map to translate your proprietary format into the Fourth format. While we charge for this service, it can be particularly useful and cost-effective if your business has limited IT personnel.