Report set to ring retailing changes
THE Retail Management Association (RMA) will deliver a report to the retail and manufacturing sectors, giving them guidelines about how they could use electronic data interchange (EDI) in their businesses.
Presently, the report is being complied and it is based on the pilot EDI site initiated by the working party of the EDI sub-committee of the RMA last March.
It will be made available at the end of this month to the retail and manufacturing industries, which include members of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association, the Federation of Hongkong Industries and the Hongkong Article Numbering Association. All are on the RMA's EDI sub-committee.
The Hongkong Government was also invited to be an observer.
The pilot involved two of Hongkong's leading supermarkets, Park 'N Shop and Wellcome, and convenience store Circle K, with three of its suppliers, AS Watson, Swire Bottlers and Dairy Farm.
Hutchison AT & T Network Services (HANS) was the value-added network services provider, which gave all its network services free to the pilot to help EDI transactions.
The EDI pilot testing was for purchase ordering and invoicing, which are two EDI messages based on EANCOM, an international EDI standard tailored for the retail industry.
EANCOM is a sub-set of UN/EDIFACT, an internationally recognised EDI message standard.
The terms of reference of the pilot site were to evaluate the messaging standards available in the world and to choose one or two of these to be tested in the pilot.
RMA's EDI sub-committee chairman, William Grimsey, said the pilot test recommended that EANCOM be used for Hongkong.
Mr Grimsey, also Park 'N Shop's managing director, said: ''The whole paper is a valuable piece of information which is also an industry property.'' Besides endorsing EANCOM as the message standard, the report would ''tell you what to watch out for when you implement EDI; what resources and what costs are needed; what to do; what to look out for from a network services provider, and so on'', he said.
''If you were to set up a project team to find out all this, it would be a big initiative and you would need a lot of technical support.'' One of the key benefits of EDI in the purchase ordering and invoicing was the 100 per cent accuracy of the transactions, compared with manual keying in of information, which would, naturally, leave some margin for error in large volume transactions.
For example, between May 1 and 10, more than 1,400 transactions a day were made for a total of 256 products, involving suppliers and retailers using EDI.
After the report is released, it is up to retailers, manufacturers and suppliers to go their own route to implement and use EDI.
''But they'll have sound information to help them, which they are getting free,'' said Mr Grimsey.
As for Park 'N Shop, Mr Grimsey said the company was committed to using EDI and would continue with the process.
''We have to take out the costs from our business,'' he said, adding that retailing was a high volume business with low margins and intense competition.
''EDI is the next big step towards reducing inventory. Just-in-time processes can only be achieved through an EDI platform.'' ''If I can take out costs in the supply chain, using EDI, and speed up the mode of transactions with suppliers, it is a big benefit for me.''