With hundreds of trading partners submitting thousands of transactions, Radial struggled to build and maintain connections between its partners’ e-commerce sites and its own back-end order management systems.
The company deployed a platform that supports high-volume electronic message exchange, making it easier to connect to a diverse range of external partner technologies and interact with trading partners.
Eliminates manual interventionby automating business-to-business (B2B) processes across operations
Reduces development time for integration workwith built-in support for most communication protocols
Speeds onboarding of new trading partnersby providing an extensive library of APIs
Business challenge story
Feeling the pressure to fulfill demand
According to data released by Adobe Analytics, consumers spent USD 122 billion shopping online during the 2018 holiday season alone. To process and fulfill their customers’ orders, many leading brands and online retailers — including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Ralph Lauren and Estee Lauder — depend on the services and expertise of Radial, the world’s largest fulfillment company. When consumers select and add products to their carts and go through check-out, it appears as if they’re purchasing items directly from the retailer. In fact, they’re interacting with Radial.
“We process a lot of data,” says Walt Bishop, an IBM Sterling Integrator Analyst at Radial. “We take in orders, we create orders, we distribute on behalf of our customers. Our Super Bowl is Black Friday and Cyber Monday — over 30 billion ship orders go out on Black Friday alone.”
To interact with its trading partners and exchange business-critical information, Radial relies on electronic data interchange (EDI) messages. However, because each retailer uses a unique mix of systems and applications that require various data formats and protocols, files and messages have to be exchanged in a wide variety of ways.
What’s more, the interfaces between each retailer’s e-commerce sites and Radial’s back-end order management systems were different. So, to get the systems to communicate with each other and keep the data flowing, Radial had to manually configure the interfaces and develop the necessary APIs and other functions.
As the business grew, creating and maintaining the necessary connections became more difficult and time consuming. Mr. Bishop explains: “We handled and processed orders with legacy systems and used shell and Perl scripting to exchange messages and for development. Eventually, the development time for integration work took longer, we had less visibility on file flow and no built-in support for protocols and standards.”
But the onus is on Radial to translate various data formats and its partners’ files and messages into EDI format, and to ensure tight integration between applications.
“We needed a system that can handle our type of volume,” says Mr. Bishop. “A communication breakup between our order management system, warehouse management systems and our clients will result in lost business. So we decided to look for a different type of middleware.”
Using a gateway platform for data exchange
Radial chose Sterling B2B Integrator technology, a powerful, flexible platform that supports high-volume electronic message exchange, making it easier to connect to a diverse range of external systems and interact with trading partners. Right out of the box, the solution also provides an extensive set of communications protocols for file transfers, helping the company speed and facilitate the onboarding of new partners.
“If I had to describe Sterling B2B Integrator, it’s the transformation of documents from one format to another through integrated support for communications protocols, like FTP, SFTP [SSH File Transfer Protocol] and AS2 [Applicability Statement 2],” says Mr. Bishop. “It lets you communicate and exchange business documents back and forth between your trading partners.”
Radial is currently running the solution in its customer care, fulfillment and production environments. The Sterling B2B Integrator platform collects data, such as order or shipping requests, from trading partner source applications, transforms the data into the proper format and delivers it to Radial’s order management, warehouse management and other business systems.
Interacting with partners, easier and faster
Using Sterling B2B Integrator technology, Radial gained a scalable, security-rich platform to support its B2B integration and EDI. With built-in support for most communication protocols, the solution helps resolve complex routing requirements, making it easier to connect to trading partners, regardless of the partners’ technologies.
What’s more, through automation capabilities and an extensive API library for inbound and outbound data collection, the platform reduces manual coding and overall development time for integration work, saving time and money. Developers can also reuse code.
“With Sterling B2B Integrator, there’s no more manual intervention,” says Mr. Bishop. “Now, everything’s electronic and seamless. But the biggest benefit is reusability. We can reuse the APIs we develop, which cuts down on development time.”
The solution supports data security by enabling Radial to set up connections with its retail partners using AS2 technology, a communication protocol for securely exchanging data over the Internet. “We communicate with our partners a lot with AS2,” says Mr. Bishop. “The exchanging of certificates goes through a perimeter server, so the data is very secure.”
Radial can also onboard new trading partners more quickly than before. “Now when we have a new business partner, we can run several different transactions and roll out in less than two months,” says Mr. Bishop. “That's been really helpful.”
“The biggest thing that led us to choose Sterling B2B Integrator was the ability to collaborate with IBM and its clients,” concludes Mr. Bishop, “and the way that IBM helps its clients.”
Founded in 2016, Radial is a leader in omnichannel commerce technology and operations, providing order management, payment processing, order routing, fulfillment and analytics services for companies such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Godiva Chocolatier, Ralph Lauren and many others. The company owns roughly 13 million square feet of warehouse space across 26 distribution centers, and operates 24 fulfillment centers. Radial is based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania in the US and employs more than 7,000 people.