Over the last year, consumers and business buyers have dramatically changed how they procure products and services, highlighting just how important digital transformation now is to building resilience. During expected or unexpected peak events, IT leaders and B2B managers need confidence that their B2B infrastructure operating behind the scenes — connecting retailers, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers throughout the lifecycle of a customer order — can keep pace as demand spikes.

As you face peak events and the certainty of change, here are three ways you can shore up your B2B systems and infrastructure to be ready for surges in EDI transaction volumes.

1. Keep orders flowing in the cloud

As orders for products surge and are fulfilled, you need to replenish inventory — fast. Orders must continue to flow across your supply chain to ensure distributors ship additional products to stores or warehouses, and manufacturers have the supplies they need to make more products and keep the pipeline full. But if your EDI system slows under mounting transaction volumes or worse, completely fails, you lose the ability to communicate with your trading partners and receive orders from your customers. Critical transactions, like orders and ship notices, are delayed.

Eric Doty of Greenworks Tools keeps orders flowing without hiring more staff with a cloud-enabled multi-enterprise business network that enables reliable, secure and scalable B2B exchanges. As this power equipment manufacturing company expands its global presence, the network provides a more efficient and cost-effective way to track the increasing number of orders. The solution digitizes and automates transactions and uses AI technology to deliver deeper insights into B2B processes.

With visual reports and natural language queries, business users can quickly track the status of an order without help from IT to make faster and more-informed decisions and deliver better customer service. Greenworks Tools is keeping up with global B2B transaction growth and realizing a 40 percent IT cost savings by putting EDI insights into the hands of business users.

2. Get flexibility to auto-scale

2020 has taught us that peak events can happen at any time for a variety of reasons. There are black swan events like a pandemic, but weather, seasonal, regional, and industry-specific events are far more common. Sometimes you can anticipate disruptions, and other times you can’t. Either way, you can eliminate worry by being prepared. A business network that’s available as a cloud or hybrid solution, makes it fast and easy to scale up or down to support growing or slowing transaction volumes and manage costs.

Cinram links some of Europe’s biggest media producers and retailers with consumers of music, TV shows and movies, helping to keep shelves stocked with popular titles. Volumes spike during peak periods, but also when highly-anticipated media releases become available. With a cloud-based business network, Cinram has maintained close to 100 percent uptime and can easily scale up the system when business volumes spike. They can add EDI connections rapidly without having to worry about provisioning new hardware to deliver the consistent, fast response and reliable service their clients have come to expect.

3. Invest in proven B2B infrastructure

To keep pace with demand peaks, like those some industries saw due to COVID-19, you need the capability to and suppliers quickly. Faster onboarding means eliminating slow and error-prone manual processes with more efficient digitized processes. IT leaders are doing this now with B2B infrastructure built for multi-enterprise connectivity, automation of manual processes, and transaction visibility to exchange necessary information without disruption.

Saint-Gobain, a leading global manufacturer of abrasives, is putting their cloud-based, B2B infrastructure to work every day, all day, and have cut costs per line order by 92 percent. They are transacting securely with customers through EDI rather than manually and onboarding new customers faster. They have moved several vendors to EDI, all using one generic map. And Chase Shelby, eBusiness Manager, aims to bring on as many customers to EDI as possible to drive further efficiency and gain competitive advantage. With automation and visibility, they are receiving orders 24×7 and providing customers real-time updates on order and shipment status.

They’re also simplifying the inherent complexity in their environment, even when one PO may include made-to-order products and stock products, or a complementary product from one of Saint-Gobain’s partners that will be drop shipped. In one simple query, customer service reps can retrieve all documents related to the PO for streamlined tracking. Automation has freed-up customer service reps for other value-added tasks, and Shelby points to additional savings from moving some of the in-house server load to the cloud.

Business buyers’ procurement expectations have changed forever, and there’s no turning back to phone and paper-based transactions. So, B2B managers must increasingly look to digital channels to meet demand and build resilience. With a proven B2B infrastructure that is available as a cloud or hybrid cloud option, there’s no need to worry about keeping orders flowing with your customers and suppliers or scaling up or down easily. IT leaders and B2B managers can take on peak events and the certainty of change with confidence.

Sign up for a 30-day trial of IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Network to experience our fast, flexible and secure B2B collaboration network

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