Many businesses are fully behind the benefits of supply chain integration and think accordingly about using a Business2Business portal or EDI solution. But which is most suitable, and what exactly are the differences?

There are of course situations where (often large) suppliers ‘strongly encourage’ you to communicate with them via EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). In these cases you’re often left with little choice. However, there are plenty of other situations where you do indeed have a choice. How to ensure you make the right one?

The choice for an EDI or B2B portal is actually a relatively simple one when the following questions are considered:

– Are you in the food, DIY or automotive industries?
– Do you have a predictable and repetitive flow of orders?
– Are few changes to your orders generally required? Think about information like quantities or delivery dates.
– Is there little or no order-related communication?
– Is there little movement regarding changes to products?
– Is there broad standardization of products and components?
– Are you committed to using EDI by your customers or suppliers?

If the answer to the majority of these questions is yes, it would seem logical to lean towards a standard EDI solution. Many ERP vendors offer their own, or at least a streamlined co-operation with a partner who can provide the service. These suppliers usually offer a standard product including the possibility to export electronic documents.

Human2Human communication (H2H)?
When your business is active in a supply chain where both supplier and recipient are continually tuning the details around products and deliveries, another form of integration may be better suited. EDI is in reality a technical solution – read Machine2Machine. Interpersonal communication has no place within EDI – it offers no possibilities for Human2Human interaction.

B2B portals offer just that opportunity – in addition to the automation of the order processes, they support interpersonal co-operation between supplier and customer. Think along the lines of:

– Communicating changes to order information, including quantities or delivery dates.
– Giving suppliers insight into (future) purchase requirements. This could be related to materials requirements, calculated by the customer’s MRP software and communicated directly to the supplier through the portal.
– Active management based on delivery performance.
– Sharing product information and user guides, in addition to giving the customer insight into his order history, invoices and other relevant data.
– Furthermore, the cloud also offers the possibility to make this information available anywhere, anytime.

When the supplier and the customer can benefit from human interaction during the course of placing and confirming of orders, a B2B portal is often the smarter option. It helps businesses to achieve optimal communication between everyone involved in the supply chain. And this ultimately leads to more value in the end product and in turn more satisfaction for the end user!