March 29, 2017

Making the right connections

Making the right connections

After a merger, SlimFast distributor HNS had just three months to add 60 new trading partners to its EDI network. Fortunately, its HighJump software was up to the challenge.

By Ben Ames

Hyper Network Solutions LLC (HNS) made its name as a small distributor of nutritional supplements. Employing 10 to 15 people, the West Palm Beach, Fla.-based company developed consumer health and wellness products under the Healthy Delights brand name and distributed them to some 20 retailers.

That all changed overnight in 2014 when the company was acquired by private equity firm Kainos Capital and merged with the high-profile SlimFast brand of ready-to-drink weight loss products. Suddenly, HNS was a company of 60 people distributing products to more than 80 retailers, including a particularly large customer called Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

To help the distributor handle the growth, HNS's new owner upgraded the firm's enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform from The Sage Group PLC's mid-range Sage 100 product to the enterprise-class Sage X3 version. The new software was powerful, but HNS found itself struggling to implement the new tool while simultaneously revamping the electronic data interchange (EDI)-based business processes it used to track invoices.

In essence, HNS's challenge was to expand its EDI tracking system to incorporate the SlimFast products and integrate with new suppliers and third-party logistics service providers (3PLs), all while keeping up with orders from big names like the aforementioned Walmart as well as CVS, Rite Aid, Safeway, Supervalu, Family Dollar, GNC, and Amazon. "Overnight, we had an additional 60 customers, with orders pouring in, and with a brand-new ERP system. It was a huge learning curve," says Rob MacFarlane, EDI systems manager for SlimFast and HNS Global.

As a short-term fix, HNS hired a broker to manage the vital EDI connections that supported the flow of digital invoices between HNS and its trading partners. But the company's ultimate goal was to take over those relationships directly. To help with that job, HNS turned to HighJump Software Inc., the Minneapolis-based technology vendor that was already providing its TrueCommerce EDI platform for HNS's Sage X3 system.

Because HighJump's TrueCommerce platform maintains integration modules for about 20 different ERP systems, the vendor was able to quickly switch HNS to its more advanced Sage platform. HighJump also provided software extensions that allowed HNS to seamlessly take over operations from its temporary broker while handling the flood of purchase orders and issuing documents like advance ship notices (ASNs), HighJump says.

Today, HNS has established EDI links with 90 percent of its customers, allowing the necessary data to flow directly into its ERP system and then on to the 3PLs that handle HNS's fulfillment. Compared with manually handling the new orders—using print, e-mail, or fax—processing them with EDI is a lightning-fast operation. With EDI, HNS can validate every price, quantity, and SKU (stock-keeping unit) number while assigning most new orders to the appropriate warehouse within an hour of receipt, according to Haitham Ghadiry, HighJump's vice president of sales and marketing.

"Before this was all set up, I would have to hire five temps in our peak season to handle invoicing and getting inventory through our system," HNS's MacFarlane says. "But now all our order management people do is handle exceptions, things that error-out because of a new item or a different address. The whole process is pretty much flawless."

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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