Success Story: Varner Retail

  • Headquarters

    Billingstad, Norway
  • Industry

  • Challenge

    Select and migrate to a new EDI solution that provides native support for a full range of EDI formats, is compatible with the corporate ERP, is highly stable, and offers an array of new functionality

  • Solution

  • Results

    • Automated data interactions with partners for vastly more efficient purchasing, logistics and payments processes
    • Agile processes that enable the company to grow in new markets
    • A highly stable and reliable automated replenishment process
    • Data flow governance that ensures time-critical business processes occur on schedule

As a major fashion retailer in Northern Europe, Varner has to manage complex interactions with its ecosystem of diverse, global partners. To do this, they need an infrastructure that facilitates communication and helps the company manage those connections. Varner’s partner network includes internal stakeholders in each of the different countries where it operates stores, and external partners such as suppliers, transportation and logistics providers and financial institutions.

To ensure that apparel is delivered to Varner stores when and where needed, an automated replenishment process is essential. To this end, Varner uses EDI messaging with its partners to automate key business processes, including purchasing, logistics and payments.

With a steadily growing business and rapid advances in B2B community integration technologies, Varner knew it had to modernize its infrastructure and processes to retain its competitive advantage and position itself for the future.

Dressing for success

Moving to the next level with Axway B2Bi

An early adopter of Axway technology, Varner deployed the AMTrix solution to run its EDI processes, starting some 13 years ago. “From the start, we chose the Axway solution because of its capabilities and stability,” said Ole Martin Holt-Jacobsen, Head of Business Applications at Varner. Now that AMTrix is at end of life, however, Axway B2Bi is helping Varner up its game by:

  • Integrating EDI with existing systems
  • Providing comprehensive support for emerging formats and protocols

“A key consideration for us was compatibility with our ERP system, Infor M3. Axway is a long-time partner of Infor and developed the M3 interface that connects Infor to the Axway B2Bi solution,” said Holt-Jacobsen. The Infor M3 ERP system handles Varner’s back-end processing, while the Axway solution connects Varner to the outside world of partners, suppliers and providers.

“Our priority was to ensure support for our EDI messaging,” said Holt-Jacobsen, “and Axway B2Bi gives us native support for a full range of EDI formats. But the main new thing with Axway B2Bi is its support for new transportation protocols, including Web Services and Secure FTP. AMTrix doesn’t have those capabilities, while B2Bi has an extensive range.” Holt-Jacobsen continued, “From the standpoint of added value, Axway’s AMTrix solution has always been incredibly stable. We’re seeing the same level of stability in Axway B2Bi.”

Enabling business processes

Getting the right merchandise to the right store at the right time

In the retail business, stock availability is key for sustaining competitive advantage and customer loyalty. To ensure that apparel is replenished efficiently, Varner uses Axway B2Bi to enable vital business processes, including:

  • Sales and inventory reporting. The stores send daily sales and inventory reports to Varner headquarters. Varner’s central ordering system compiles the data and calculates the need for new merchandise to replenish the stock.
  • Purchasing. “We use Axway B2Bi to send purchase orders and receive order confirmation and shipment confirmation,” said Holt-Jacobsen. “We also receive invoices for merchandise sent by external suppliers.”
  • Logistics. “A key function of Axway B2Bi is logistics bookings for transportation from our distribution center and central warehouse to our stores,” said Holt-Jacobsen. “Without these bookings, merchandise would never reach the stores.”
  • Payments. “We also use Axway B2Bi to send all our payment orders, so integration with our financial partner is quite important,” stated Holt-Jacobsen.

Overall, these business processes are the basis for Varner’s automated replenishment process, enabled by Axway B2Bi.

Growing the business

A smooth transition to Axway B2Bi

While quick to adopt new concepts in retailing, Varner is careful to properly manage its expansion. “For the last seven or eight years, we’ve added about 100 stores per year,” said Holt-Jacobsen. “We have internal and external brands to manage, five distribution warehouses, and sorting is done at two facilities at our third-party transporters.”

Examining the Varner ecosystem, Holt-Jacobsen said, “We have 30 external partners — all of them quite large — and about 30 internal stakeholders. From the B2Bi perspective, all our legal entities are internal partners.”

To ensure a smooth transition from AMTrix, Varner worked closely with Axway Global Customer Services prior to, and during, the migration to Axway B2Bi. “We are quite satisfied with both the support and follow-up from Axway,” said Holt-Jacobsen. The migration was successfully completed in May 2014.

For Varner, Axway B2Bi automates and integrates the physical distribution of its goods, and facilitates the entire order-to-cash process, functions essential to its growth and to the overall health of the business.

“From the standpoint of added value, Axway’s AMTrix solution has always been incredibly stable. We’re seeing the same level of stability in Axway B2Bi.”

Ole Martin Holt-Jacobsen, Head of Business Applications, Varner Retail AS

 

Governing the flow of data — and merchandise

Managing time-critical processes

Asked whether Varner has service level agreements with its suppliers, Holt-Jacobsen replied: “No, we don’t have SLAs with our partners, but we are a typical retailer in that our organization demands that everything work all the time, every time, and that problems be resolved as soon as they arise.”

“Take the example of our outbound logistics flow,” said Holt-Jacobsen. “That’s the most time-critical process we handle through Axway B2Bi. Outbound logistics is time-critical not only for delivery to stores, but is particularly vital for sorting. Since we are a very big organization, we have a production slot just for sorting goods at our transporters’ sites. It takes six hours a day just to sort our goods.”

“The sorting is done at two sorting facilities in Sweden and Norway, at our third-party transporters’ locations. When EDI transport bookings are sent in a timely way, the goods are sorted automatically,” said Holt-Jacobsen. “But if our transport bookings are delayed, the warehouse staff has to sort the goods manually, causing major delays down the line.” And, as every retailer knows, delays are costly —   and impact the bottom line.

“To monitor this time-critical data flow, we set up email alerts in Axway B2Bi to warn us if a problem occurs that needs immediate attention. Axway B2Bi enables us to govern all of our EDI data streams, which is critical for our business,” said Holt-Jacobsen.

“Axway B2Bi enables us to govern all of our EDI data streams, which is critical for our business.”

Ole Martin Holt-Jacobsen, Head of Business Applications, Varner Retail AS

 

Value to Varner

Enabling growth through modernization and efficiency

With migration complete and Axway B2Bi now handling all of Varner’s EDI processes, many key benefits are already evident. According to Holt- Jacobsen, the Axway solution:

  • Automates Varner’s business processes. “The ability to automate our processes is probably the biggest benefit for Varner,” said Holt- Jacobsen. “Automating our data interactions and communications with third-party suppliers and service providers has been invaluable for Varner, first with AMTrix and now with Axway B2Bi.”
  • Streamlines processes. “Now that our partner interactions are fully automated, our processes have become more agile. This enables us to grow and positions us for future expansion,” said Holt-Jacobsen.
  • Ensures stability and reliability, essential for the operation of an automated and effective replenishment process.
  • Governs EDI data streams. “The ability to govern the flow of EDI data is very important for us, and Axway B2Bi has helped us accomplish this mission-critical function,” Holt-Jacobsen concluded.

Future steps

Exploring new options

To take fuller advantage of Axway B2Bi, Varner is examining additional capabilities and functionality offered by the solution. “At the moment, we use B2Bi only for EDI messages, but we also have other integration points and processes with internal stakeholders and external partners,” said Holt- Jacobsen. “We are looking at moving more of our external partner integration to the B2Bi solution.”

In particular, Varner is considering putting Axway B2Bi to work in the following areas:

  • XML messaging. “Today, we send our in-house and external XML messages though other solutions, and we are looking at moving that communication to Axway B2Bi,” said Holt-Jacobsen. “Our XML messages include sales and inventory statistics we send to external suppliers. Also, inbound transport from our Asian suppliers is handled through XML messages.”
  • Secure FTP. “Currently, we use Secure FTP for integration with the third-party warehouse that handles our e-commerce picking,” said Holt- Jacobsen. This process is also being considered for a move to Axway B2Bi.

The idea of centralizing all Varner data communications on a single Axway platform is an appealing option, as it would improve efficiency, simplify system management and enhance Varner’s ability to govern the flow of data.

Whatever future steps Varner takes, the Axway B2Bi deployment is already a clear success. “We are quite pleased with the Axway B2Bi solution,” said Holt-Jacobsen. “Our expectations have absolutely been met.”

“We are quite pleased with the Axway B2Bi solution. Our expectations have absolutely been met.”

Ole Martin Holt-Jacobsen, Head of Business Applications, Varner Retail AS

 

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