This showcase originally published in our customer magazine, the LANSA Review Issue 28, 2004.
In today's business environment, the delivery of almost every product or service requires collaboration between multiple companies. Efficient collaboration is a significant factor in the success of every organization. During the last 10 years, self-service Web solutions have streamlined information exchange and taken pressure away from call centers for status inquiries and entry of orders.
But self-service for your business partners is only part of the solution. It still requires duplication of data entry by one of the parties. The automated dynamic exchange of transactions using XML, Web services, Marketplace integration and Internet-based EDI solutions directly between the core systems of business partners eliminates the need for any user interface and is the next stage of eBusiness.
This article showcases real business examples of dynamic Application-to-Application (A2A) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) integration including the exchange of trading transactions between and within organizations, integration via Web services and product data synchronization with GDSN.
- Inter-Enterprise M2M Trading Transactions
- Intra-Enterprise M2M Transactions
- Web Services with SOAP and RFI
- Product Data Synchronization
- Architected for the Future
Inter-Enterprise M2M Trading Transactions
Trading partners who are able to exchange transactions directly between their core systems in a fully automated way without the need for any human intervention, can achieve tremendous efficiencies, especially in high volume environments.
With Web catalogues and fax orders, one of the trading partners must enter transactions manually. Up to the nineties, only the large ERP and POS solution vendors offered EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) interfaces in their sales and purchase modules. The cost of implementing EDI in the traditional EDI VAN (Value Added Network) environment was often prohibitive. Now the Internet is becoming the secure and affordable way for businesses to exchange transactions.
LANSA offers a variety of ways to exchange secure transactions over the Internet. Transactions can be in any format including XML, CSV, XLS, TSV, ANSI ACS X12, UN/EDIFACT EDI. LANSA supports traditional EDI and EDI over the Internet. LANSA supports AS1 for secure SMTP, is AS2 certified and will support AS3.
General Electric Appliances Canada (Camco), part of the 6 billion dollar General Electric Appliances group, is Canada's largest manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances. Camco use LANSA Integrator for Application-to-Application integration with kiosks at Home Depot stores, the world's largest home improvement retailer.
John Hills, manager of Camco's eBusiness technology group, said, "The Home Depot stores send us a secure parameterised string of data over HTTPS. With LANSA Integrator, we can interpret that string and process the transaction directly into our legacy RPG system. We may receive a request to give stock availability for a particular product, or we may receive an order. We process the request and send back our response. This all happens in real-time while the customer is at a Home Depot kiosk."
"Home Depot orders can be fulfilled and delivered from our warehouse directly to the home address of the customer in a completely automated process. Home Depot stores do not have to stock GE products and Home Depot staff does not have to phone or fax their orders. The end result is savings on both sides and a quicker service to the customer."
E.P. Barrus Ltd, located in the UK, designs and manufactures engines and distributes a diverse range of products including MTD lawn and garden machinery, moto-roma scooters and motorcycles, Mercury, Mariner and Yanmar marine and industrial engines.
Barrus uses LANSA Integrator to exchange EDI messages with its trading partners including B&Q, the largest do-it-yourself chain in Europe and the third largest in the world. For the B&Q implementation, messages are exchanged using the Tradacom v8 standard, designed for UK domestic trade. Barrus also uses EDIFACT D99B as a messaging standard with the Ministry of Defense, and is in the process of implementing XML to exchange transactions with its 1,500 dealers.
Dave Hansford, IT Manager at Barrus, says, "With LANSA we have the flexibility to accept and send business transactions in a variety of formats, using many different communication methods. LANSA hides the complexities of EDI and XML and allows us to implement new technologies rapidly with our own IT staff."
The Oil-Dri Corporation of America is a manufacturer of floor absorbents and other sorbent clay products headquartered in Chicago. Through its brand names Jonny Cat, Cat's Pride and Lasting Pride, Oil-Dri has a 25 percent market share in the U.S. kitty litter market. Using LANSA Data Secure Direct, Oil-Dri met Wal-Mart's AS2 requirements one month ahead of schedule with minimal changes to its existing EDI processing.
Allison Park, Director of Information Systems at Oil-Dri, said, "This year the uptake of AS2 is mostly to replace traditional EDI. Over 10 percent of our current EDI customers have expressed an interest in AS2. With LANSA we are in a good position, because we can implement AS2 to an unlimited number of business partners without additional licensing and expense."
Delta Dental Plan of Wisconsin processes dental claims for Delta Dental Plans of Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois and provides coverage to over 2.8 million people. Delta Dental uses LANSA Integrator for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance. HIPAA compliance is an American federal mandate, aiming to provide better access to health insurance, limit fraud and reduce administrative costs.
LANSA allows for the exchange of HIPAA-compliant X.12 transactions between Delta Dental and their National Portal, over the Internet, in real-time and with tight integration to Delta Dental's back end application system.
Jeff Lutgen, IT manager at Delta Dental Plan of Wisconsin, said, "HIPAA compliance is vital to our business. LANSA offered an affordable product to help us achieve our objectives. We also liked the flexibility of the product and the fact that we will be able to use LANSA in future projects unrelated to HIPAA-specific initiatives."
Apria Healthcare is America's leading provider of integrated home healthcare products and services, including respiratory and home medical equipment and pharmacy services. Apria used LANSA Integrator to build a fast two-way XML interface between its business systems and the heterogeneous systems of its business partners, as well as its externally hosted eCommerce Web site.
George Suda, Executive Vice President, Information Services, says "With LANSA we built an XML plug-in connection engine that allows us to communicate to anything out there, without having to change our existing business systems. We call it the Apria Commerce Engine."
Intra-Enterprise M2M Transactions
The need for integration is not limited to the business systems between business partners. Companies that deploy heterogeneous computer systems find XML the most effective and flexible way to exchange real-time information between systems. Transport mechanisms may include MQSeries, HTTPS, or any other protocol.
Obvious examples include company divisions, each with its own IT infrastructure, that need to communicate in real-time with an enterprise wide Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or a line of business system that needs to communicate directly with the company Web site on another platform or hosted by a third party.
Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) is a global medical technology company that serves healthcare institutions, life science researchers, clinical laboratories and the public. BD uses LANSA Integrator and WebMethods to exchange real-time transactions between its European sales & distribution system and its global eBusiness platform. BD uses the same LANSA Integrator infrastructure for M2M communications with www.ghx.com, a Global Healthcare Exchange marketplace, where customers can expect an instant response to their product availability and price queries.
Rudi Deschilder, manager eBusiness at BD, said, "Everything we develop is universal. We don't differentiate between our own Web site and external portal sites. We view our own Web site, developed with Broadvision on a Sun Solaris, as an e-partner. The transactions from this site are transformed to XML by WebMethods and accepted by LANSA Integrator for immediate order processing and confirmation back to WebMethods. LANSA is the power behind our core distribution system and the glue between our logistic systems. And LANSA keeps evolving."
NIB Capital NV, headquartered in the Netherlands, is a major European capital-market specialist providing investment banking, private equity and asset management services. NIB Capital's business units wanted to be able to exchange information in a platform independent way. NIB chose XML and MS-BizTalk as the middleware to do this.
NIB Capital Bank uses LANSA Integrator to extract and update data from its iSeries-based commercial lending system and provide information in XML format in an IFS file to MS-BizTalk. Information flows both ways and LANSA Integrator is used to respond to and initiate data exchange requests.
Wilson Bowden plc, one of the leading U.K. house builders and property developers, has implemented a LANSA-based end-to-end integrated CRM, sales and lead generation solution. LANSA Integrator provides content in XML format to an outsourced Web site and maps incoming sales leads from the site in XML format to the Visual LANSA-based CRM system. Sales advisors can now call customers within 15 minutes of them leaving an inquiry on the Web site.
Bev Weston, David Wilson Homes group marketing manager, says, "Barely five months after going live we had over 7,500 leads and 400 successful sales from our CRM system. This shows how powerful the new CRM system is."
Web Services with SOAP and RFI
Many people see any real-time XML-enablement of an application as "Web services." However, there is a global standard for Web services called SOAP, for Simple Object Access Protocol, which includes a Web Service Description Language (WSDL) and optional use of a Universal Description Discovery and Integration (UDDI) registry capability. SOAP provides a commonly accepted framework for the specification of Web services.
Since SOAP and WSDL are both XML-based, a degree of confusion is understandable. SOAP is an XML-based protocol to let applications exchange information over HTTP. WSDL is a document written in XML for describing a Web service and how to access it. And UDDI registries simply act like yellow pages assisting you to locate a service. The service itself is usually presented as an Application Program Interface (API).
LANSA Integrator is helping customers implement Web services via SOAP and LANSA Integrator's Remote Function Invocation (RFI) middleware allows Java client developers to access both iSeries host programs and data as if they were local objects.
COMMON, the world's largest group of IBM and IBM-compatible information technology users with over 6,500 members, uses LANSA Integrator for Web services to tie the conference registration fee with hotel registration.
COMMON's housing company, Passkey, provided LANSA with the WSDL to identify the rules and methods to call their API. LANSA Integrator created a SOAP transaction over HTTPS using the WSDL to send and retrieve data via the API.
When the attendee selects a conference hotel, the Web services API verifies the housing registration code and determines the corresponding conference registration fee before the payment process begins. This new registration structure eases registration procedures and gives a discount to attendees who stay at a designated hotel.
The Board of Studies New South Wales (the Board) is responsible for the content, distribution and logistics of syllabus materials and the School Certificate (SC) and Higher School Certificate (HSC) examinations for NSW, the most populous state in Australia. Using LANSA, the Board has been offering a growing number of browser-based online services that are used by around 900 NSW schools to submit and maintain enrolment and achievement details for year 10, 11 and 12 students.
Jim Watterson, senior IT consultant at the Board explains, "With LANSA Integrator we plan to extend our browser-based services with Web services to take away the need for data entry by schools. There is a large overlap in the clientele of the Board and TAFE NSW and a huge amount of information about students and courses is currently exchanged and reconciled manually. We are implementing Web Services to and from TAFE to make this data exchange seamless and automatic."
Jim Watterson, senior IT consultant at the Board explains, "We have extended our browser-based services with Web services, taking away the need for data entry by schools. We use LANSA Integrator to offer (SOAP-based) Web services to the schools and also to access the Web services offered by the schools. We are now implementing Web services to and from TAFE NSW."
TAFE NSW is Australia's largest Technical And Further Educational institution and among the largest in the world, offering more than 1200 courses at over 130 locations.
The Board is also using LANSA Integrator to access Web services for credit card authorization and processing from Westpac, one of Australia's major banks.
Cramo is a machine and modular space rental services company headquartered in Sweden, with branches in Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Holland, Poland and Hungary. Cramo uses LANSA Integrator RFI to provide fast data access and application integration between their WebSphere-based Web site and iSeries core system.
Cramo IT staff tried this integration with JDBC, but accessing its core iSeries leasing solution was difficult and slow. LANSA Integrator RFI allowed Cramo's Java developers easy and fast access to iSeries functionality and data.
Hans Konig, CIO at Cramo, says, "With LANSA Integrator we have shortened the development time and costs for our eBusiness solution by at least 50 percent. We were able to provide our customers with an integrated eBusiness solution and improve customer service much quicker than originally planned."
The Greenery, headquartered in the Netherlands, is one of the leading European vegetable, fruit and mushroom auctioneers with a turnover of 1.6 billion Euro and 2,200 employees. The Greenery uses LANSA Integrator for exchanging order and delivery transactions with internal and external parties by placing transactions in XML format in a data queue for delivery by SonicMQ.
The Greenery uses LANSA Integrator RFI for integration with its auction system to get information about fruit and vegetable lots to be auctioned from loads/collections in an MS SQLServer environment for storage in the SQL environment.
Having proven superior in performance and reliability, LANSA Integrator RFI will soon be used to replace other data synchronization currently managed by LANSA Integrator but done via FTP using Windows-based DataQHandler. Once this is implemented, LANSA will write all transactions from the auction directly and in real-time to the iSeries database.
The Greenery also plans to use LANSA Integrator's EDI mapping facilities to make existing XML transactions available in EDI format.
Product Data Synchronization
According to A.T. Kearney, a leading management consulting firm, problems caused by catalog version errors between supplier and retailer typically cost between $60 and $80 each to fix and consume 25 minutes on average of manual cleansing. Additionally, details of new products can take several weeks to reach the retailer for entry into their procurement systems.
The Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) was created as an industry endorsed initiative to overcome product data inaccuracies and increase efficiencies among trading partners and their supply chains. GDSN is a network of certified data pools that enable product information to be captured and exchanged in a secure environment conforming to global standards. Global Data Synchronisation (GDS) ensures that you and your trading partner always use the same version of the data.
Wal-mart, the world's largest retailer with over 3,000 stores in the United States and overseas, has requested its suppliers synchronize their item information. Other retail chains worldwide are starting to do likewise.
LANSA Data Sync Direct is a native solution for iSeries (AS/400) and Windows customers who wish to integrate their GDSN transactions directly with their existing systems. The solution is 90 percent turnkey and implements in weeks.
Crowley Foods, headquartered in Binghamton, NY, is a leading dairy manufacturer distributing products under regional brand names in more than 24 states east of the Mississippi River. Crowley has integrated LANSA Data Sync Direct with their in-house developed Synon and COBOL-based ERP solution.
Diane Muller, information systems manager at Crowley Foods, says, "The LANSA solution allows us to communicate accurate, synchronized item level information quickly and cost effectively with our trading partners. The business benefits are many including our ability to develop one set of interfaces to do business with many trading partners, instead of developing a custom interface for each partner."
Riviana Foods, based in Houston, Texas, is one of the largest processors, marketers and distributors of branded and private-label rice products in the United States including Mahatma, Carolina and Success. It took Riviana five weeks to implement to their first retailer, with a second and third retailer following in the sixth week. The solution integrates with Riviana's PRISM Item Master information.
Mike Wessing, IT director at Riviana Foods, says, "The big advantage is the speed and ease with which we can issue new products to the trade. Eventually we can hand over the responsibility for updating new product information in the Global Registry to sales and marketing."
Because the fresh food industry is particularly hampered by loss from product returns resulting from catalog version inconsistencies, they were early GDSN adopters. But now implementation is widespread in hardline manufacturing as well.
As of January 2004, LANSA had over 100 LANSA Data Sync Direct customers and while the majority of these implementations are native iSeries, there are a growing number of Windows and Linux implementations.
Architected for the Future
Whatever the exact architecture of your A2A and M2M transactions, one thing is sure - XML, a language designed to describe data, is a cornerstone of the future.
Even if your business partners are not yet ready to process XML, with LANSA Integrator, you can offer a variety of transaction formats, based on an architecture that will last into the future. LANSA hides the complexities of interfacing XML and Java technologies, letting you concentrate on business requirements.
LANSA Integrator enables secure and real-time exchange of transactions over the Internet and makes collaboration between business partners or internal systems cost effective and efficient. LANSA Integrator also enables integration of user-written Java Services with LANSA, RPG and COBOL applications.
LANSA also has a series of industry vertical offerings that allow rapid implementation of A2A and M2M transactions between you and your trading partners. Packaged as ready-to-run templates or frameworks they allow you to address Sell-Side and Buy-Side automation, AS2, GDSN and HIPAA compliance in weeks.
LANSA has targeted industry verticals where direct integration with your Line-of-Business (LOB) Applications is crucial for efficient processing with your trading partners. Each solution offering is wrapped around LANSA Integrator to provide solutions that run natively on Windows, iSeries (AS/400) and Linux.