Perspectives: Making It Simple
At some point, “the way we’ve always done it” isn’t good enough. Especially when there are simpler alternatives available to everyone in the promotional products marketplace.
Consider the regular scenarios of needing to know how much inventory is available, or the status of an order, or the tracking number of an order that was shipped. Historically, the most common method for a distributor to get this information was by placing a phone call to a supplier. This was the peak of efficiency for businesses a couple of generations ago, but technology has evolved to the point that phone calls are now truly a waste of time for both organizations.
The problem is that little has been done to make things more efficient for both suppliers and distributors. Industry distributors have long been frustrated by the lack of information, but since the pandemic began spurring supply chain disruptions, many distributors told me they spend as much as 50% of their day calling to attain the most basic information. Suppliers were overwhelmed with the phone calls and spent too much of their time supplying answers that should’ve been readily available for the distributors.
When we speak about the need for digital transformation in the industry, these are exactly the kinds of problems PPAI is working to address. The full focus of our recently launched Promo Data Exchange (PDX) initiative is increasing efficiency caused by lack of information which should be readily available to all industry participants.
PDX is now available to be utilized by all PPAI members as part of your PPAI membership. All of this data can be easily shared electronically, drastically improving the efficiency of the industry and reserving phone calls for situations that need human to human interaction.
PDX consists of several data standards (essentially agreements between all participants on things like formatting, definitions, structuring, tagging, manipulation, management of data and so on) to address different inefficiencies, such as:
- Order Status
- Purchase Orders (coming in 2024)
Invoicing (coming in 2024)
- Among the most important values is that a supplier can leverage PDX with a single implementation with PPAI exclusive technology partner SAGE and have the information available to 45,000 SAGE users.
One implementation, 45,000 consumers of data. That is a lot fewer phone calls for order status or inventory.
In addition, by implementing PDX with SAGE, members receive technical support on the implementation at no cost. At the same time, PDX can be leveraged by any PPAI member to work directly with other PPAI members—good for those who prefer to work directly with your trading partner. This allows you to leverage your initial investment beyond the 45,000 users of SAGE with other industry firms, including other service providers.
The initial PDX standards are designed specifically for suppliers to provide the data to SAGE, leveraging SAGE to distribute the information to the 45,000 users. Along with being a single implementation for the supplier, distributors using SAGE do not have to do any additional work to access the data. For those distributors that want the data in their own ERP or order management systems, the PPAI Technology Committee is working on documentation for PPAI member service providers and distributors to pull the data (order status and inventory) from SAGE into their own systems at no cost.
Every distributor should have immediate access to this information from any system they are using, and PPAI’s effort will ensure this information is available to every member company. PDX is a very important initiative for PPAI and one of many efforts we have in progress to facilitate digital transformation within the industry, as announced during The PPAI Expo 2022. You can read about more of our plans on page 72 of this issue.
For more information on PDX, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dale Denham, MAS+, is president and CEO of PPAI.