Business challenge

The online grocery model promises to offer food manufacturers new opportunities to reach consumers. How could this leading manufacturer prepare for the emerging B2B integration requirements?


The manufacturer worked with IBM to migrate its EDI connections to IBM® Supply Chain Business Network Premium—enabling it adapt quickly to evolving practices and international standards.



new business models, preparing the company to increase its market share


onboarding process for new trading partners, enabling fast growth


year-round EDI availability, supporting uninterrupted global operations

Business challenge story

New business models, new opportunities

Online grocery services are set to change the way we shop—and retailers not already established in the online market are looking to move in fast. Food manufacturers must also move quickly to capitalize on the new opportunities, and the challenge is to deliver scalable, flexible trading partner integration capabilities to support the online model.

A spokesperson for a leading food manufacturer explains: “To get our products to the shelves and warehouses of leading supermarket retailers around the world, we must communicate with our trading partners quickly and effectively. Electronic data interchange [EDI] is at the heart of our business: it enables us to coordinate our logistics and ensure we are meeting SLAs [service-level agreements] throughout our supply chain. As more grocery retailers launch online services, the ability to implement new EDI requirements effectively is vital to integrate with these customers and increase our market share.”

In the past, the company relied on a manual, on-premises approach to EDI. As it prepared to make a major acquisition, the company needed to onboard a significant number of new partners to its EDI platform quickly—and the company realized it needed a new way of working.

The spokesperson continues: “With our network of trading partners set to grow substantially through acquisition, we knew that managing and maintaining our in-house EDI platform would soon become unsustainable for our lean IT team. To support the increase in EDI volumes—and to lay the foundation for the online grocery model—we decided to embrace a managed services solution.”

With B2B integration in the cloud, we’re ready to reap the rewards of online grocery, and bring delicious, healthy foods to more consumers.

Spokesperson, leading food manufacturer

Transformation story

Recipe for success

The company selected IBM Supply Chain Business Network Premium—a security-rich, cloud-based, managed services solution that enables organizations to integrate with trading partners and optimize their supply chains.

The spokesperson says: “We are a global business, and IBM’s worldwide reach was one of the aspects of the solution that impressed us the most. We have further international growth on our roadmap, and it was very important for us that our vendor could deliver EDI services in all our markets; IBM satisfied that requirement perfectly.”

Working together with a team from IBM, the business migrated its existing and acquired EDI connections to the new platform.

“Transitioning to IBM Supply Chain Business Network Premium has been a seamless experience, and the IBM team drew on their extensive expertise to help us complete the work to a tight timeline,” adds the spokesperson. “Onboarding all of our trading partners was a large project, and we estimated that it would have taken us up to 12 months if we’d attempted to complete the work in house. Because IBM enables us to onboard multiple partners in parallel, we successfully finished the migration in just three months, with no impact on customer service. Our ability to migrate partners in parallel was a key factor in the overall success of the acquisition.”

He continues: “What’s more, we know we can always rely on the IBM team to provide expert assistance when we need it. Many of the large retailers we work with have their own specific standards and best practices around EDI—and without specialist knowledge, building new connections that address these requirements can be a complex and time-consuming task. Recently, we asked IBM to step in to build maps for one of our retail partners. The IBM team helped get our new connections up and running significantly faster than we would have been able to achieve on our own, and our partner appreciated how seamless the process was.”

Today, the manufacturer processes more than 4,000 documents on IBM Supply Chain Business Network Premium each month, and expects the number to grow as it expands into new markets.

Results story

Securing a slice of the market

By using IBM Supply Chain Business Network Premium to deliver B2B integration services, the company is achieving its goal of providing the reliable, flexible EDI capabilities it needs to serve customers effectively now and in the future.

The spokesperson elaborates: “Previously, it took the concerted effort of several people on our IT team to ensure that we could deliver on EDI requests from the business and our partner base—but today, that’s changed. By embracing the managed services model, we can offer high-quality EDI services to a growing business with just one full-time equivalent, which frees our team to focus on value-added development tasks, especially around information and network security.”

He adds: “Because we can onboard new retail partners faster, we are in a strong position to increase our market share and reach more consumers around the world. Crucially, we have the B2B integration expertise of IBM behind us, which gives us the confidence that we can adapt fast to satisfy EDI requirements around online grocery as they emerge.”

By moving its EDI platform into the cloud, the company gains the benefit of dependable reliability and high availability.

“Our EDI systems need to be available worldwide 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and thanks to IBM Supply Chain Business Network Premium, we’re delivering on that promise to the business and our customers,” says the spokesperson. “To date, we’ve never had a complaint from a customer about a message not being processed due to an IBM mapping failure, and we’ve never experienced any unplanned downtime.”

Looking ahead, the company plans to expand its global operations, and capitalize on the surge of online grocery shopping by partnering with online grocery retailers.

The spokesperson concludes: “With B2B integration in the cloud, we are ready to reap the rewards of online grocery, and bring delicious, healthy foods to more consumers than ever."

Leading food manufacturer

This leading food manufacturer serves customers around the world.

Solution components

  • Consumer Products: Digital Operations
  • Consumer Products: Supply Chain
  • IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Network

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