Franks Expands Electronic Processing Of Supplier Transactions

November 12, 2003 - 14:28

Franks Nursery will be expanding its e-commerce initiatives through SPS Commerce, a move that will automate purchase order invoicing and shipping between Franks and suppliers.

Probably a majority of Franks suppliers currently receive purchase orders, make changes to those orders and invoice over the phone or via fax, explained Eric Chaffee, director of marketing for SPS. Moving these tasks to an electronic process cuts down on errors and improves the speed of the transaction, he said.

The cost of electronic data interchange (EDI) software is prohibitive for smaller businesses, Chaffee continued. Franks has the EDI structure in place, but has only been able to use it with those of its suppliers that also have been able to invest in the technology. SPS, which has been working with Franks since 2000 to help connect other suppliers, will serve as the outsourcer, or host of the EDI translator software, for smaller suppliers.

"We basically rent the software for a monthly fee," Chaffee explained. Suppliers have a few options to hook in. The most popular of these is WebForms, a Web site that allows the supplier to type in or view EDI information in a format that looks and feels like paper. SPS takes the information that the supplier has typed into the forms, converts it into EDI and sends it to Franks. SPS also converts what Franks sends and puts it on the Web site form for suppliers. A second option for suppliers is file integration, in which SPS will integrate directly to the supplier’s back end accounting system. For suppliers that don’t have an electronic connection or the volume of business with Franks to justify the WebForms or file integration cost, SPS offers a fax option. The supplier will transmit and receive information via fax, and SPS will convert those faxes into electronic data.

Suppliers who subscribe to WebForms will pay anywhere from $39 up to $200-300 per month, depending on the number of transactions, Chaffee said. The service price includes support in answering questions and tracking down resolutions to problems. File integration is charged at the same rate as WebForms. The fax option is $2-3 per fax.

For suppliers who do have EDI software, SPS will validate that the supplier’s software is compatible with Franks’ for a one-time charge of $200-500.

"Whether a supplier is using EDI, WebForms or file integration, it all looks the same to Franks, which is what it wants: good, clean data, so it can eliminate the overhead of having people read faxes, make phone calls to clarify and those types of things," Chaffee said.

Chaffee said that with the arrangement, new suppliers to Franks will see a faster turnaround from the time they sign their deal to when they start to trade with Franks. Existing suppliers will see more reliable information, faster purchase orders and invoices, better resolution of disputes, and a better ability to grow their business with Franks.

Franks and SPS will be outlining the e-commerce initiative to suppliers in a combined conference call/Web cast this week, in which they will walk vendors through the initiative, explain their options for connecting to the system, and review the value for suppliers.

Franks Nursery is the nation’s specialty retailer of largest lawn, garden and indoor garden products and supplies, operating 170 stores in 14 states.

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