Takata needed a highly reliable EDI system to communicate with partners, customers and suppliers, as well as flexible monitoring capabilities to enhance system security and provide leverage in negotiations
- Highly stable EDI system handles 1,500 messages a day, with no down time
- TSIM Business Object Modeler enables Takata to define and modify mappings themselves, for tremendous flexibility
- Sentinel provides an infinite toolkit for the creation of customized tracking, monitoring and alerting dashboards
- Sentinel enables monitoring of specific processes, providing leverage for discussions with partners, suppliers and customers
- Technical monitoring enhances system security by tracking messages flagged for error handling, protocol status, and more
- Solid ROI, through monitoring that prevents overbilling, late fees and other financial penalties
"We have been working with Axway TSIM for 13 years, a choice based on quality and problem resolution. From time to time we run benchmarks [against] other B2B products, and Axway TSIM remains our first choice.”
Takata AG encompasses the European activities of the Takata Corporation, Tokyo, one of the leading global producers of automotive safety systems, with a turnover of ¥382.7 billion (€3.51 billion). Takata has more than 13,000 employees in Europe and more than 36,100 employees worldwide. A reliable and competent partner of the automotive industry, Takata designs, develops and produces safety systems and components. The company’s portfolio includes steering wheels, airbags and inflators, seat belts, plastic components, child restraint systems, electronics and sensors.
To communicate with its partners, customers and suppliers throughout Europe and Africa, Takata needed a stable, highly reliable EDI system to govern the flow of data — sending and receiving delivery instructions, dispatch advices and invoices.
In addition, Takata wanted to monitor specific processes in order to enhance system security and provide leverage for discussions with suppliers and customers. The company needed highly flexible software to build customized dashboards for this purpose.
To achieve these goals, Takata chose to deploy two systems from Axway 5 Suite: TradeSync Integration Manager (TSIM) for EDI, and Sentinel for its enhanced monitoring capabilities.
“Axway TSIM is highly stable. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we had down time!”
Managing time-sensitive business processes
“TSIM is a business-critical application for Takata,” said Thorsten Hartung, Project Coordinator responsible for sales and distribution applications at Takata AG. “Our system handles 1,500 messages a day,” he said. “If we don’t receive transmissions from our customers, we don’t know what to ship to them.”
Axway TSIM handles an array of business processes at Takata, including: managing data interchange with all customers, suppliers and partners; and handling the mappings required for the various transaction standards and communication protocols.
As a supplier to the automotive industry, Takata sends and receives a variety of industry-standard messages, including just-in-time (JIT) and just-in-sequence (JIS) messages and advanced shipping notices (ASN). Crucial message types include:
- Just-in-sequence deliveries: a high-wire act
“The JIS messages are the most critical,” explained Hartung. “We deliver components — such as steering wheels or airbags — in the exact sequence our customer will build its cars. The flow of components we deliver has to match the flow of the customer’s assembly line. If a JIS message is late or missing, the impact can be enormous. In the worst case,” said Hartung, “our customer’s entire assembly line can be shut down.”
- Advanced shipping notices: timing is key
“We have to send ASNs to most customers, to inform them of shipments that are on the way,” said Hartung. “These delivery notes must be sent within a specific period of time from when the truck leaves our plant — in some cases, within just 15 minutes,” he said. “If the delivery note is late and the customer says it’s our fault, we pay a penalty.”
Governing the Flow of Data
Using Axway TSIM to ensure system stability
Given the critical nature of the EDI function, Takata deploys an array of measures to ensure its system is always available. “Axway TSIM is highly stable,” said Hartung. “In fact, I can’t remember the last time we had down time!”
Takata’s security measures include:
- System dashboards for total visibility
“The main TSIM dashboard, the Object Browser, shows me at a glance what’s happening in our system,” said Hartung. “I can see incoming and outgoing messages, and messages in error. I can choose to display only new messages, or only messages in error,” he continued. TSIM dashboards show all data that passes through TSIM: where it comes from, where it goes, when it was sent, how it was or will be processed, and whether receipt of the data has been acknowledged. In addition to the Object Browser, Takata uses an Axway Sentinel dashboard to monitor particular processes, and an OFTP dashboard to check OFTP transactions.
- Running Axway TSIM on a virtual machine for added security
“For the last two years, we have been running TSIM on a virtual machine,” said Hartung. “We have ‘snapshots’ every 15 minutes, and if there’s a problem with the machine where TSIM is running, we can shift to other hardware in just 10 minutes, with the click of a mouse. Stability doesn’t just depend on TSIM. It also depends on hardware and backup systems. We have backup hardware in the event of problems with the virtual machines, so in 10 minutes, we can switch to separate hardware — housed on a separate server that’s totally outside of the virtual world.”
“Before Sentinel, we couldn’t give our VAN the information needed to correct billing errors. Now we can. We are in a better position in the event of differences.”
Axway Sentinel on Guard
Monitoring the value-added network
To expand its monitoring capabilities, Takata invested in Axway Sentinel in order to enhance system security and provide leverage for discussions with suppliers and customers. Among other features, Sentinel enables Takata to build its own dashboards to monitor specific processes, and even to flag a non-event, that is, issue an alert if an expected event does not occur.
In its first Sentinel implementation, Takata decided to monitor traffic to and from its value-added network (VAN) provider. Some of Takata’s customers work with this VAN, a private network used for routing, storing and delivering EDI messages.
Hartung explained, “We pay a monthly fee based on our traffic: the number of megabytes received, and the number sent. Over time, our rates went up as our traffic volume increased,” he said. “But when our traffic went back down, our invoices remained at the higher level.”
“So we set up a process on Sentinel to track the volume of data transmitted,” said Hartung. “Every month, we generate a report giving the number of megabytes sent and received. Then we compare our report to the VAN invoice, to see whether it’s correct.”
“Before Sentinel,” said Hartung, “we couldn’t give our VAN the information they needed to correct billing errors. Now we can: we just give them the report. We are in a better position in the event of differences.”
Expanding the Deployment of Sentinel
An infinite toolkit
In light of this success, Takata plans to implement additional procedures with Sentinel to check messages and processes such as:
- Advanced Shipping Notice (ASN): “We need to send messages to customers within 15 minutes after a truck leaves our premises,” said Hartung. “What if Takata sends the message on time, but the customer server is down? We want a report from Sentinel if the customer server doesn’t respond,” he said. “It may take us 30 minutes to send the message, so it arrives late. But that’s not our fault – and now we can prove it. We won’t have to pay a penalty.”
- Just-in-Sequence messages: “One of our customers sends us a JIS message every two hours,” said Hartung. “If two hours go by and there has been no message, we want an alert from Sentinel warning that there is a message missing. This checking procedure triggers an alert when an event fails to happen.”
- Messages flagged for error handling: “We also plan to use Sentinel to track messages that have gone to error,” said Hartung, “and to track how long it takes to recover them from the error state.”
- OFTP functions: “When we work with customers who use OFTP protocols, certain functions are needed for the data exchange,” said Hartung. “We’re going to use Sentinel to check whether these functions are available.”
According to Hartung, this is just the beginning. “Once I learn how to define Sentinel procedures, I’ll implement more dashboards on my own,” said Hartung.
Axway Sentinel Layered over TSIM
A substantial ROI, with more to come
When asked about the return on investment from Axway’s solution, Hartung replied, “Before Sentinel, if our VAN invoice was incorrect, there was nothing we could do. Now we can give our VAN provider a precise accounting of the data we sent and received,” he said. “This is a real benefit for us.”
Hartung also pointed to additional benefits that will accrue as new Sentinel processes are implemented, such as monitoring of time-sensitive ASN and JIS messages to avoid late fees and other penalties.
Moreover, Hartung cited the stability of the Axway solution as a significant advantage. “It’s a major benefit to have a stable, reliable working connection to our customers, suppliers and partners,” said Hartung. “This is a business-critical system for us.”
Describing the solution’s flexibility, Hartung praised the message mapping system. “The TSIM Business Object Modeler enables us to define mappings ourselves,” said Hartung. “We can also modify existing mappings when a customer changes something in the structure or content. This gives us tremendous flexibility.”
In summarizing Takata’s experience with Axway, Hartung said, “We have been working with Axway’s solution for 13 years, a choice based on quality and problem resolution. From time to time, Takata runs benchmarks with other B2B products, and Axway TSIM remains our first choice.”