Drakes Supermarkets & SPS Commerce: Vendor Onboarding Success

When Drakes shifted from using a wholesaler to supplying its stores directly, managing its vendor partnerships via EDI became a priority.

  • Company Type:
    Grocery Retailer
  • Industry:
    Food & Beverage
  • Headquarters:
    Torrensville, SA, Australia
  • SPS Solution:
  • Customer Since:

It was the company’s first experience using EDI and they enlisted the Australia team at SPS Commerce to provide the plan, staff and experience to onboard their vendors. Deadlines were tight. Expectations were high. When the new distribution center opened, Drakes hoped to have five vendors onboard. SPS delivered 40 vendors, with several dozen more to follow.

With SPS, Drakes was able to:

  • Better manage its diverse vendor community
  • Speed shipments through receiving, preventing bottlenecks
  • Help improve the customer experience by keeping orders flowing

Doing business differently

Drakes Supermarket made a bold business decision in 2019 that changed their operations and vendor relationships. The grocer went from being supplied by a wholesaler to supplying its 40 stores in South Australia, purchasing more than 26,000 items direct from its suppliers.

“After 40 years, Drakes was making a significant change to its business operations to be more efficient and better serve our customers,” said Anthony Martini, ERP and Business Systems Implementation Program Manager at Drakes. “Our vendor partnerships no longer went through a distributor. We were responsible for all interactions and inventory.”

In 2019 Drakes built a new distribution center and deployed and/or modified eleven systems, including EDI.

Managing suppliers required EDI automation

The grocer’s vendor relationships were changing, as were the expectations. Direct partnerships would provide a better future for their grocery chain and also provide Drakes with the best supplies for its customers. There was one problem, Drakes didn’t have a vendor management program in place.

“For years, our direct suppliers wanted Drakes to do EDI,” said Anthony. “Until now, we didn’t need to. But now we simply couldn’t live without it. We couldn’t be successful and grow our business without doing EDI with our biggest suppliers.”

Drakes had extremely tight deadlines to have its first vendors automated with EDI. It needed to align with the opening of the new DC, the launching of a new ERP and WMS, and many other major changes. The grocer was starting from scratch and the EDI program was brand new. None of Drakes’ suppliers were doing EDI with the company at the time.

“EDI would provide Drakes with the order and inventory visibility we needed to keep shelves stocked at our stores and allow consumers to find everything they need,” said Anthony. “Based on my experience with onboarding vendors onto EDI in previous roles, I expected to have no more than 20 vendors in the first year. SPS has onboarded more than three times that number in nine months, and made it look easy.”

Experiencing the full-service EDI difference

Drakes didn’t select SPS Commerce at first. Their initial choice offered what seemed to be the tools they needed. It wasn’t and Drakes quickly changed course and signed with SPS. The full-service offering from SPS provided the grocer with everything they really needed. SPS offered the technology and had the staff and processes to run the entire program on Drakes’ behalf. The experienced SPS team did the work to deliver a successful program.

“Our decision to go with SPS Commerce made our EDI initiative a breeze. Their local team put everything together for us and ran the entire program. They reached out to our vendors, communicated what we needed, tested the connections and made everything come together. We simply couldn’t have done it without their team and their proven processes. They met our unrealistic deadlines and were so professional with our suppliers.”
– Anthony Martini, ERP and Business Systems Implementation Program Manager, Drakes

Today, SPS has connected more than 60 vendors to Drakes via EDI. These trading partners are sending orders, ship notices and more electronically to keep supplies flowing. The retailer plans to onboard another 40 suppliers soon, with the help of SPS.

“We would have been happy with just five vendors onboarded before we went live, but we had almost 40,” said Anthony. “SPS exceeded all my expectations. During the sales process, SPS told me what the program would look like and the results we could expect. It went just as they said it would and there were no surprises. You can trust them; the proof is in the pudding.”

Receiving inventory into the new DC

At their new DC, Drakes receives over 1,000 pallets at its docks every day. Eliminating any manual processes was critical to getting supplies to its stores quickly, with the hopes of doing cross-docking eventually. Warehouse staff needed the company’s vendors to send advance ship notices (ASN) via EDI, to help streamline the receiving process. The ASN alerts the warehouse of what is coming, when its coming and how its packed, well before it arrives at the DC.

“SPS worked with our vendors to have them send us an EDI ASN,” stated Anthony. “Having this document electronically means that orders are scanned at the dock and are immediately put away. No delays”.

Orders received by Drakes without an ASN must receive a pallet identification sticker. Warehouse staff need to identify all items, scan barcodes and correlate the shipment to a purchase order before it can be taken into inventory. This process is manual and time-consuming for Drakes staff.

“SPS provided us with the speed to market to achieve our goals and create a trusted bond with our vendors as we enter this new chapter in our business,” said Anthony. “They stand out among EDI providers with their service, integrity and professionalism.”

Automating invoice reconciliation

Drakes’ finance team wanted a way to ensure the accuracy of the invoices they received from suppliers. Using the purchase order and shipping notice data, they are now able to reconcile the majority of orders automatically.

The Interviewee:

Anthony Martini, ERP and Business Systems Implementation Program Manager

The Challenge:

Inability to effectively manage suppliers without EDI


The Solution:

Rely on SPS to build the platform and process, then communicate, test and onboard suppliers


The Results:

Onboarding vendors onto EDI was the easiest part of deploying a new DC and 11 new systems

“Drakes is automating the accounts payable process with the data from our SPS solution. Our systems automatically compare the order to the shipment to the invoice. If it’s a match, the invoice is processed without any intervention. Only when there are discrepancies does our finance team need to perform an audit. We want to make sure our vendors’ invoices are accurate, but don’t want our staff to have to audit every invoice. SPS provides the data to automate the reconciliation of the majority of our invoices”

– Anthony Martini, ERP and Business Systems Implementation Program Manager at Drakes