How to Manage Business Growth

Osborn & SPS Commerce

Shorten the Purchase Order Process to Manage Business Growth
  • Company Type:
  •  Industry:
    Industrial Tools
  • Headquarters:
    Richmond, IN
  • SPS Solution:
    Fulfillment, System Automation
  • ERP:

Executive Summary

Founded in 1887, Osborn, LLC, is a global leader in industrial brushes and primarily sells through distributors such as Grainger and Fastenal. Their first EDI provider made everything difficult. So, the company went looking for a better alternative. With SPS Commerce, they found a full-service EDI provider who took on the direct management of their EDI operations to better manage business growth. The SPS technology was also proven to integrate Osborn’s ERP, SAP ECC.

“In SPS, we found the partnership we desired,” states Josh Tobler, IT Director at Osborn. “It was a dramatic shift from our previous provider. The SPS full-service approach was appealing. Today we are connected to our customers via EDI and integrated with our SAP ECC solution. The SPS team manages any trading partner additions or changes and keeps us compliant. They’ve been a great asset to our business, and we are excited about our next chapter with them that includes their Analytics solution.”

Taking a Weight Off Their Shoulders

Osborn had used EDI for many years with its customers but found it to be costly and inflexible. Making changes or adding new customers was difficult and time-consuming. When Josh received an email from SPS Commerce about their full-service offering, he saw a better alternative to their current EDI operations. One that would better manage their business growth.

“EDI wasn’t working out well for our company. It was like pulling teeth to get anything done and our previous provider was nickel and diming us on billing,” explained Tobler. “We were in a difficult spot. Osborn didn’t have internal EDI experts to take this on. We needed a partner that could bring the technology and the expertise to support us. The answer was a new EDI partnership, this time with SPS Commerce. By switching to their solution, it was a weight off of our shoulders.”

How to Manage Business Growth with EDI & SAP ECC

Osborn tapped into the SAP ECC expertise at SPS and the system automation capabilities of the EDI solution.

“I love that we can send iDOCs and import sales orders directly into SAP using SPS Fulfillment,” explains Tobler. “There is little work that our team needs to do. We have an automated FTP to pull purchase orders into SAP every 15 minutes using Fulfillment, and our outbound transactions follow this same hands-free process.”

Tobler’s team at Osborn is lean. With SPS Fulfillment, he hasn’t needed to hire additional staff to support their EDI operations. “We don’t have any internal EDI experts. With SPS this isn’t an issue, they manage it on our behalf. From adding new trading partners to troubleshooting any issues that arise, SPS has the experience to do it fast and without our direct involvement. Our partnership with SPS hasn’t just saved us time, it freed up our resources to go after other initiatives.”

Reducing Error Rates

Like most suppliers, over the years bad data practices had resulted in inaccurate pricing, part numbers and descriptions shared with their trading partners. This is problematic. For SAP ECC to manage orders, these errors needed to be manually corrected by Osborn’s sales teams, or they’d be rejected by the ERP. So, every order had to be reviewed and checked before processing.

Today, SPS Fulfillment has eliminated this step. EDI orders are automatically sent into SAP to create sales orders. Only those orders flagged with errors or missing data need personal attention, all others are processed hands-free.

“Our error rates due to bad data were at 30 percent or more before SPS, today they are under 10 percent and improving rapidly,” shares Tobler. “SPS allows us to manage by exception, manage business growth and saves our teams significant time. The SPS error rate is almost zero, our goal is to match that with our internal systems.”

For outbound documents, SPS Fulfillment identifies data errors before transactions are sent to retailers. Error notifications enable Osborn’s teams to fix the error and/or add any missing data before the trading partner receives it. This has eliminated time spent on rejected transactions and fees due to related chargebacks.

Improving Scorecard Metrics

Retailers and distributors keep scorecards on their suppliers, including Osborn. Each trading partner’s scorecard includes the accuracy of advance ship notices (ASNs). Retailers measure suppliers on whether the ASN EDI transaction is sent on time and if the data is accurate.

When Osborn hired a new director of national accounts, he asked about their retailer scorecards and how the company was performing. It wasn’t long before he teamed with Osborn’s IT department to set out to improve their ratings.

“It was important to manage our business growth, including the purchase order process and ASN compliance,” states Tobler. “Retailers, such as Amazon, charge us if we aren’t aligning with their requirements. These fees quickly erode our margins. With SPS, we are seeing significant improvements to our scorecards and reducing chargebacks. This news has even reached the desk of our CEO who complimented our teams on improving our scorecards.”

Expanding the SPS Partnership with Analytics

In 2021, Osborn is also deploying SPS Commerce Analytics. This solution will place point-of-sale (POS) data from 18 distributors into the hands of their sales team.
The supplier had been receiving customer POS data. They had a full-time staff member assigned to manually manipulate the data and make it useful for sales. It would take them a week to complete this task. When this individual retired, the company tried assigning this task to a new hire. It took them two weeks to ready the data for sales and prevented this individual from doing the job they were originally hired for.

“When one of our customers notified us that they would be providing their POS data exclusively through SPS Analytics, we were thrilled,” shared Tobler. “We knew SPS and trusted them. And, this was an answer to our resource issue. Osborn’s director of sales also saw this as an opportunity to gain better access and drive faster response from our sales teams. He wants us to use SPS Analytics across not just one account, but 18 of our national and regional customers. Our sales teams are giddy about being able to access the data they need on Monday morning, not the following week or two. That’s a big difference to our business.”

SPS Analytics normalizes the customers’ POS files, so Osborn can manage business growth and access all of their sales data in a single solution and in a single format. No more spreadsheets that don’t all align or delayed reporting. The solution equips the Osborn sales team to track sales, make timely buying recommendations and monitor promotions with ease.

The Interviewee:

Josh Tobler, IT Director, Osborn, LLC

The Challenge:

Replace EDI VAN to better support business without adding resources.

The Solution:

Deployed the full-service EDI software solution from SPS, integrated with SAP ECC.

The Results:

Improved retailer scorecards and eliminated chargebacks without adding staff.

“We don’t have any internal EDI experts. With SPS this isn’t an issue, they manage it on our behalf. From adding new trading partners to troubleshooting any issues that arise, SPS has the experience to do it fast and without our direct involvement. Our partnership with SPS hasn’t just saved us time, it freed up our resources to go after other initiatives.”

-Josh Tobler, IT Director, Osborn, LLC