The ABCs of EDI Support

Integrated EDI systems have a lot of moving parts. Each of the key areas involved in processing EDI have to do their part for the process to run smoothly. Let’s review the different components of an integrated EDI system and some of the typical issues we’ve seen and supported.

At TRG, we provide a one-stop shop for support on all things EDI – we assess the problem and work to find the resolution, regardless of where the problem originated; our philosophy is to also perform root cause analysis of the issue and, implement or recommend a permanent solution.

We utilize a helpdesk for EDI support (support@trgwi.com) which is monitored M-F 7am-5pm Central Time – support may also be available outside of these hours, but is not guaranteed. You can also use the helpdesk to review your support cases (if you want to do this, I think we need to send you an invitation to set up your login).

EDI support is billed T&M as used with a minimum ½ hour for a case.

We are always willing to train or recommend how you can handle issues on your own and minimize the amount of support time required from us.

It’s also important to treat your on-premise EDI PC as a production server, providing it sufficient resources to allow EDI processes to run and complete in a timley manner and to complete successfully. EDI is also very disk intensive so the faster disk you have on your EDI PC, the better EDI will perform.

Communications

There are multiple methods of EDI communications that our clients use, however, most trade documents via a Value Added Network (VAN) such as Inovisworks, GXS or IBM Sterling. VANs provide secure data communication with your trading partners – basically you have incoming/outgoing mail slots on the VAN. The VAN itself can occasionally have issues – usually they will communicate via email if they are having problems. Overall, however, VANs are typically very reliable and we have very few support cases where we have to contact the VAN.

From your internal EDI PC, you do have communications software that has to go out to the VAN to pick up or drop off documents. Most of our clients are using a product we recommend called ArcESB (previously RSSBus). This is an on-premise communications software package that has a number of methods available for data communication – primarily we use sFTP (secure file transfer protocol) connected to the VAN.

If you are using Trusted Link for Windows, it has built-in communications functionality – that has been a point of failure at times. If, for whatever reason, the VAN bill is not paid (I realize that would never happen to you, but you’d be surprised how many times it has happened for one reason or another), OpenText will disable the VAN account causing the software to fail, but it is extremely difficult to find out that this is the reason it no longer works.

ArcESB is also used for some of our clients that need direct AS2 connections to their trading partners.

ArcESB has been a solid piece of software with minimal support requirements from our side – the typical issue we’ve seen related to ArcESB, however, is if the annual subscription renewal is not paid, the license will then expire, causing communications with the VAN or AS2 communication with the trading partner to stop working.

With AS2 connections, there is occasional support to renew the security certficate when it expires.

Microsoft Windows/Task Scheduler

I could write a book on all of the possible problems created by Microsoft Windows, many of which remain a mystery, no matter how deeply we investigate them.

Typical Windows issues that cause EDI problems include:

  • Critical services either are stopped or not started on a reboot – these include the ArcESB (RSSBus) service which manages communications and at times we’ll see the Microsoft SQL services will stop for no apparent reason
  • Windows Task Scheduler – issues with starting/ending scheduled tasks – overall, Windows Task Scheduler works very well, but we’ve run into cases where it doesn’t work as expected

On-Premise (or cloud) EDI PC/Server 

Typical support issues for on-premise EDI PCs include:

  • PC hung up or off-line – we’ve run into this numerous times where the PC will be hung – possibly after automatic updates are applied or if something else happens to cause it to hang.
  • Running out of disk space – never a good thing, but it does happen occasionally – there are ways to monitor and notify you when disk is getting low – talk to your network admin to set this up

TRG EDI Connector Software/Data Translation

  • One of the many things the EDI Connector does is handle sending out email notifications for all EDI transactions. If your email server changes, the EDI Connector email settings need to be updated. If you are moving to Office 365, it’s a small project to move the mail server from using your smtp mail server to using Office 365 to send out emails.
  • In many cases, the EDI Connector will send out automated messages to our helpdesk if there is an issue – if processing fails due to errors with the PC, connection to the ERP system, issues with SQL, we will typically get an automated message and will investigate the issue.

Your Trading Partner

There are issues that can be caused by bad data sent by your trading partners as well:

  • Missing critical segments/elements – in particular we’ve seen missing EDI location codes
  • Duplicate orders – while we typically have catches for duplicate orders, if they send duplicate orders in the same batch of EDI, that can cause issues in some cases

Trusted Link for Windows (TLW)

If you are still utilizing this software, there are support issues that do come up primarily caused by the fact that this software has not been updated (by OpenText) to run on modern operating systems.  Currently it is only supported to run up to Windows 7.  We are recommending migrating/retiring this software, but there are some considerations/changes required to do that.  We can work with you on a migration plan.

One of the most common issues is with the task scheduler in TLW – mostly that it doesn’t fire tasks on occasion.

We have also run into issues with the TLW database being corrupted and/or the software itself becoming corrupted forcing us to reinstall it.

It has served its purpose and has been a workhorse for many of our clients, but it’s getting to be the time to retire it and move to newer technology.

ERP Processes/Data

Once inbound data is handed off to the ERP system for processing, there can be issues/errors in the ERP system that cause orders not to post or to post with errors. Many of the errors are reported on the audit reports emailed out of the EDI Connector.

Examples of ERP errors:

  • Invalid item numbers is the most common error
  • Invalid units of measure (in many cases we auto-correct this before we get to the ERP)
  • Location not set up/no ERP ship-to found

In the TRG EDI Connector, we always strive to have the software handle as many scenarios as possible and to have “catches” for as many possible issues, but it’s impossible to anticipate every single possible problem that can affect EDI processing.

We believe there is added value to having a one-stop EDI concierge to address any EDI issues that arise, regardless of where the problem resides. With most EDI companies, you are forced to triage the issue yourself and you may need to determine which company to contact for resolution and at times, it’s not always clear who should (or will) take responsibility for the problem. Your integrated EDI system has a lot of moving parts, but your EDI support shouldn’t.