With Lobster_DATA GmbH, cream cheese gets to consumers on time

1.8 million tons of cheese are produced annually in Germany. Some hard cheese, which often needs to ripen in storage for years at a time, and some cream cheese, which has the advantage of being ready to eat straight after production. In order for the right products to make it to the right shelves as quickly as possible, manufacturers, logistics companies and retailers need to actively take part in exchanging information – albeit in a wide variety of different formats. Fast, accurate and reliable data conversions and transfers are needed across the industry – and just like the cheese, that data has to come ‘ready-made’. To guarantee fresh deliveries for its customers, the Karwendel Group uses Lobster_data as an efficient data translator.

Let’s think about the process involved when a retail chain like Kaufland or REWE orders a popular Exquisa cheese from the Karwendel Group by the lorry load. The manufacturer, in this case the Karwendel Group, first has to issue a notification of the goods requested and tell its logistics service provider to deliver the required quantities of Exquisa from the warehouse. After the order is placed, internal availability checks are made and confirmation is sent to the customer, whilst another message is sent to the logistics provider telling them to organise the shipment. The logistics provider then confirms the date and time of delivery with the retail chain, informs the Karwendel Group when the delivery has been successfully made, and then an invoice is sent from the Group to the customer once the goods are safely received. At the same time, the Karwendel Group and the logistics company are constantly sharing daily stock level information between one another…

If any information is incorrect or goes missing throughout any of these processes, high costs will undoubtedly be incurred. As suppliers to the central warehouses of large retail chains, lorries are only allowed to ship and deliver goods that are electronically recorded. After ordering and confirmation, details of individual shipments have to be recorded and issued by the logistics provider and delivery dates must be agreed electronically. If any of this doesn’t happen, either because of mistranslated data or data transmission errors, lorries have to turn around and return the goods to the depot.

Customer loyalty amongst the biggest retailers

“Even as a purely communications-based process, electronically-managed supply chains can be challenging”, says Martin Fischer, CEO of IT service provider Lobster in Starnberg. “It all becomes very exciting when the different types of communications all need their own translation into other data formats. And that’s the challenge most big companies today are facing”.

This also applies to the example mentioned above. For the Karwendel Group, the retail chains and logistics providers they work with all use different file formats. INVOIC IDocs need to be converted to Edifact INVOIC formats, incoming Edifact ORDERS need to swap to IDoc ORDERS05 and then into DOC/SHIPMENT documents, etc. Converting Edifact files is particularly important, because Edifacts are written in Global Standard One (GS1), an EU standard that, today, almost all major retail chains use.

After experiencing difficulties with another data converter, the Karwendel Group was looking for a powerful and secure GS1-compliant converter to simplify their connections with retailers, such as REWE, Lidl and Kaufland, which could also be adapted to changing needs in a very short space of time without any prior programming knowledge required. Lobster_data, a Lobster_DATA GmbH product, fulfilled all these criteria “to our complete satisfaction”, as Jochen Honold put it, EDI Administrator at the Karwendel Group who is responsible for Lobster_data.

Thinking outside the black box

“The Karwendel Group’s IT system needs to be able to react very quickly to requirements from both their external partners and internal departments”, explains Jochen. Time and time again, individual processes have to be altered. The Karwendel Group wanted to be able to implement changes itself at short notice and, particularly in the case of mission-critical processes, not have to rely on an external software service provider to carry out any lengthy programming involved. In the past, the company dabbled in dual conversions, but if any data transmission errors occurred, it would sometimes take several hours just to analyse the cause, alongside the possibility that some errors could only be resolved with the help of the external software service provider – a costly process indeed. “With our previous system, it wasn’t always clear if the problems were to do with incorrect data entry when mapping or with the converter itself. The converter was almost like a black box that we couldn’t touch without the service provider or programmers on hand. This made troubleshooting tedious and costly. Lobster’s open system, on the other hand, now means we can analyse and react very quickly”, Jochen explains.

With Lobster_data, IT staff can make changes themselves within minutes, without any programming knowledge, using the transparent 6-phase model. Data communications are set up as part of an open system. This has the benefit of any error messages being flagged up immediately by Lobster_data, which can be dealt with directly, all thanks to the wizard interface. Internal process control and monitoring are also optimised, and the company can retain a firm grip of its IT operations.

“But that’s not all”, says Jochen. The Karwendel Group’s IT department can also install control points anywhere it wants with the help of Lobster_data. Text messages and emails will then be sent whenever certain actions aren’t performed when they should have been. If no data has been sent to the logistics warehouse by 9.00am, for example, Lobster_data will send out an error message.

Or if the logistics provider’s FTP server is busy due to a system backup and no data can be transferred, another message will be sent. Lobster_data will then look for an alternative and send the data automatically by email. This means no information and, more importantly, no time is lost.

At the Karwendel Group, Lobster_data runs on IBM computers. “We have excellent integration within the high-availability i-environment”, explains Jochen. The Lobster-initiated stress test at IBM’s own research centre has also proven that more than 10,000 Edifact documents can be converted with Lobster_data in just five minutes – and that’s using linear time-quantity development. As the Karwendel Group works with IBM’s Content Manager for i-systems and uses IBM’s server, hardware, operating system and archiving system, a positive outcome from the stress test was an important decision in the procurement process.

Rapid and reliable

Lots of software programs that perform translations in complex processes, such as automated supply chains, operate at their limit nowadays. Dozens of formats, extremely high data loads, a variety of platforms, constant changes to the data structures that need to be transferred at short notice… there are very few data converters that don’t cause additional problems and stress.

“We’re pleased that we’ve found a safe, rapid, stable and highly-integrable solution in Lobster_data. Lobster_data is no less important to us than our SAP system”, adds Jochen. “Our previous converter was complex and required an intensive amount of support. That’s where Lobster_data is different. The support team at Lobster GmbH offers fantastic response times. We’re totally satisfied”.

Lobster_data helps ensure Karwendel products are delivered on time and reliably, making sure their cream cheeses can move from production to the supermarket shelves to your kitchen within the fastest possible time frames. But this can only be achieved if large amounts of data are transferred as ‘ready for use’, with the highest levels of precision and into the requested formats, forwarded on correctly so you can enjoy the freshest cream cheese there is. Thanks to Lobster, the quality of data supplied by Karwendel is just as good as their products – always fresh, always enjoyable.

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