Accelerated Electronic ConnectivityRonald Farrell
Byline: Ronald Farrell Guest columnist
Have you ever gone shopping for a new pair of pants and found that a size 32 waist doesn't fit the same in all brands of pants? Besides brand differences, there may well be flat front, pleated front, regular fit and relaxed fit available in that size, each with its own unique impact on size. But isn't a size 32 waist a standard size? The answer, of course, is yes, but the interpretation of the standard is generally up to each producer.
So what does that have to do with e-commerce in the agricultural industry? The same scenario recently occurred in the agricultural chemical industry when various trading partners began implementing the RAPID XML standards. Different trading partners often interpreted the standard differently. This dilemma frequently resulted in costly "work-arounds" or system reengineering to complete a connection. Resolution of this "interpretation" issue was one of the primary reasons the industry's Accelerated Electronic Connectivity (AEC) project was developed.
An overarching objective of the project (in addition to the electronic connectivity) was to assemble a top-level group of industry connectivity experts for the purpose of refining the business rules (often referenced as Business Use Cases, or BUCs) and standardizing the implementation process. Highly refined and detailed Business Use Cases for each standard will allow all industry players to apply the standards consistently and efficiently with all of their trading partners, thus reducing implementation and maintenance costs for all parties.
There are currently 10 distributors and eight manufacturers participating in the AEC project, working together to implement the selected XML standards. The distributors are Agriliance LLC, Growmark Inc., Jimmy Sanders Inc., MFA Inc., Rosen's Diversified Inc., Royster Clark, United Agri Products Inc., Van Diest Supply Company, Western Farm Services, and Wilbur Ellis Company. The manufacturers are Arvesta Corporation, BASF Corporation, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, FMC Corporation, Monsanto Company, and Syngenta Crop Protection.
The AEC project requires the completion of 518 separate e-connections between participating trading partners. As of October 1, more than 11% of the total connections have been completed. At the conclusion of this project, targeted for June 1, 2006, each participant will have automated its order-to-invoice process, inventory-reporting function and sales-reporting function with each participating trading partner.
Will it be easy? No! However, under the auspices of RAPID, a group of dedicated business and technical people from each participating company meet weekly as a team to discuss and resolve implementation issues as they arise. Additionally, RAPID's Standards and Guidelines Team is working diligently to develop, modify and enhance the needed Business Use Cases and appropriate implementation tools to assist project participants with the implementation process.
Companies that have already completed some of the connections and are using the selected AEC transactions are already recognizing the benefits of significantly reduced data entry errors, greatly reduced order and order response time, a reduction in EDI VAN costs, and quicker XML implementation with other trading partners, to name a few of the efficiencies.
For monthly updates on AEC and RAPID, please contact the RAPID office in Washington, DC, at 202/293-1234 or Misrak@rapidinc.org, and we will be happy to add you to our distribution list. More information on RAPID Inc. can be found on our Web site: www.rapidnet/org.
Ron Farrell is president and executive director of RAPID Inc., the e-commerce standard organization for the crop protection, seed and fertilizer segments of the ag industry.
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