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EDI: The Definitive Communication Tool that Streamlines Businesses

By Chris Baxter, Director of IT, Pilot Freight Services

Chris Baxter, Director of IT, Pilot Freight Services

EDI literally translates to Electronic Data Interchange simple. However, in today’s world, you get on Facebook, post a picture, comment on someone’s status or check-in at a local restaurant and it’s considered EDI because you’re exchanging information (data) between people or organizations. While the definition of EDI may not be as clear cut, and the definition has changed profusely over the last 15 years, one thing is certain the benefits of EDI to the logistics industry.

"At Pilot, our code is proprietary and written by our team, so we have the power to customize our EDI services based on a customer’s specific want or need"

At Pilot, we have created tailor-made technology solutions. Our talented in-house development team has built proprietary tools that are customizable, allowing people and businesses to think, work, and communicate more efficiently. One of those tools is CoPilot, which is one of the transportation industry’s most advanced online logistics management systems. We’ve also created the Navigator mobile app, which helps on-the-go customers remain in tune with their Pilot shipments and provides status updates right at their fingertips. EDI has empowered us to develop such innovative and successful tech solutions for our customers.

When it comes down to it, EDI is a communication tool. When I began working at Pilot Freight Services 17 years ago, EDI was already in place, primarily being used for invoicing. Now, roughly 70 percent of our shipments come through some form of EDI–whether it’s the customer entering information into our CoPilot system, or a customer uploading a spreadsheet or XML file to us. We use EDI with almost all of our vendors, shippers and customers.

I’ll ask you this question: If you could implement a tool for your business that would make your job and the job of your employees a bit easier while simultaneously helping to grow and improve the business’ bottom line, wouldn’t you? EDI is without a doubt ‘THE’ tool that can make this happen. If you and your business have not already adopted EDI into your supply chain or logistics business process, I’d like to go over just some of the benefits and solutions EDI can offer.

Communication and Streamlining Business 
EDI is first and foremost a communication tool. In fact, it’s the core of communication for us at Pilot. In addition to using it with our vendors, partners, and customers, we also use it internally. Everyone is on the same page and information is loaded into one place where it will remain from that point on. We use this technology for our CoPilot system loading-shipping information into our Navigator system.We’re able to track shipments and provide status updates with the information received through EDI, customizing our services and technology to suit the specific need of the customer, big or small.EDI helps us streamline the entire lifecycle of a shipment. It is used in quoting, when a customer wants to figure out the pricing of getting a shipment from point A to B. With EDI, we’re able to provide them options so they can customize their shipment. They can alter the time, date, and location all by using EDI. The technology is used for booking a shipment and notifying the customer when it is out for delivery. Status updates are also handled using EDI. We sent out an average of five to ten status update EDI messages per shipment, from booking to proof of delivery. All of this communication used to be handled manually and was much more time intensive. 

Protection 
EDI has the ability to protect a business from poor data entry, simply because with EDI, there is little to no manual data entry required. This eliminates room for error and frees uptime to focus on things such as customer service and on-time deliveries, which is where Pilot excels and this is what matters most to us. 

Timing 
When it comes to communicating efficiently and effectively, what it really boils down to is timing. Before EDI, businesses were spending most of their day making phone calls and sending faxes. Transactions were done over the phone and with stacks of paper. EDI allows us to get the information we need into the system in a timely manner so that the shipment gets made on time and the invoice gets paid on time.

A single shipment typically has 30 to 40 EDI transactions attached to it. When you multiply that by the average 120,000 shipments a month executed by Pilot, that’s a lot of transactions. Imagine if that was all done over the phone and fax. That’s a lot of paper and a lot of time. By leveraging EDI and through our proprietary technology solutions, we have created a level of transparency with our customers that provide them visibility to track and monitor shipments in real-time and in-turn builds trust.

So, while we’re eliminating room for error by using EDI, we are also able to get shipments done quicker, allowing Pilot the time to take on more business and more customers.

Customer/Partner Relationships 
Not only do we use EDI with our customers, we use it with our transportation partners as well. Customers send information to us and then we send that on to our carriers. Using EDI, our carriers then send status updates that we communicate back to our customers. Thanks to EDI, we always know where a shipment is. That way, our customer service team and our customers can easily and quickly know the location and status of a shipment.

EDI helps build strong relationships with customers or partners and lock-in their loyalty. Our code is proprietary and written by our team, so we have the power to customize our services based on a customer’s specific want or need. Our customized EDI services and the solutions we provide ensures, customers won’t need to look outside of Pilot.

We take great pride in our service, our software and, most importantly, our customers. At Pilot, it’s all about customized solutions. This individual approach allows us to create great relationships with each and every customer of ours.

So, why are some businesses not adopting EDI into their tool belt? Because, most don’t know how to implement such a system or are, frankly, intimidated by it. Its advanced capabilities may make EDI look complex, but in reality, it’s quite easy to use. 
To ease customers’ comfort with EDI, we provide easy-to-use interfaces with our CoPilot and Navigator systems.

We are always looking to find the most practical and efficient way to get transactions into the system, monitor them and deliver accurate information quickly.With the help of EDI and our proprietary products, CoPilot and Navigator,we can do just that. They deliver up-to-date information that doesn’t require manually updating the system. As a result, we can tackle any type or size project in the most efficient and effective way. This is an extremely valuable tool in this ecommerce fast-paced world we live in.