Merit, which manufactures pipe nipples and is also a master distributor of pipe, valves and fittings for plumbing and industrial uses, has seen an increase of interest in EDI transactions in the last year.
While other industries are using massive Web-based solutions that tie in manufacturers, distributors and customers, the pipe, valve and fitting industry has not. Small distributors with limited budgets and a lack of Internet access have kept Web-based e-commerce from blossoming like it has in other sectors of the economy.
Despite the lack of e-commerce, there is still interest in the efficiencies gained in electronic transactions.
Merit Brass has primarily focused on EDI initiatives to meet its customers' demands. With EDI, data is exchanged through a network, resulting in seamless entry. Transactions include remittances, invoicing, purchase orders, purchase order acknowledgments and advanced shipping notices.
Merit continues to expand its EDI capabilities as its customer base adds the ability to conduct EDI. The company benefits through a reduction in the number of errors because of minimal human intervention, and the order is processed and filled more rapidly because data is going directly into the computer system.
Other benefits include:
* Customer part numbers are printed on the packing slip, making it easier for the shipping department to process the shipment.
* The purchase order mirrors the order in which the customer placed it.
* Documents are standardized.
Merit has seen EDI blossom from five customers to 32, accounting for 14 percent of the order lines entered. The seamless entry enables the sales and order entry departments to focus on other tasks.
Eventually, EDI will replace an order entry person because the workload has been transferred from human to technology. The end result is lowered transaction costs and overhead.
The company expects even more EDI success this year, as some of its largest customers signed on in the fourth quarter of 2002.
Even though the bulk of customer interest and capability is focused on EDI, Merit is exploring the possibilities of e-commerce. The convenience of a 24/7 Web site is a competitive edge when price can no longer be adjusted. As a result, Merit continues to embellish its online capabilities. How to reach: Merit Brass Co., (216) 261-9800