Buddha Brands, a brand manufacturer and marketer of out-of-the-ordinary nutritious snack foods—like Coconut Cocoa Keto protein bars and Sparkling Coconut Water with Pineapple—is taking a novel approach to processing orders from Amazon.com Inc. and other retailers.
A new way of integrating its enterprise resource planning system with Amazon.com Inc. has streamlined how Buddha Brands processes orders received through the Amazon Marketplace that Buddha sells direct-to-consumer as a third-party seller on Amazon.com via Amazon Seller Central.
Buddha Brands, like many sellers on Amazon, had moved order and inventory data in the past manually between its Amazon account and its NetSuite enterprise resource planning system of business operations software. Now, Buddha automates the movement of order data between Amazon.com and its NetSuite ERP system. The new web-based integration system makes the Amazon channel more profitable overall, Pilon says.
The Montreal-based brand manufacturer, which operates as part of Temple Lifestyle Brands, is also using the same web-based system to streamline and expedite how it receives and processes orders from other retailers in the United States and Canada through EDI, or electronic data interchange. The EDI orders are for products ordered for resale in stores or online by such large retail grocery chains as HEB and Whole Foods Market, which is owned by Amazon.com Inc.
Speeding up both online and EDI orders
The speed and accuracy of receiving both online direct-to-consumer and EDI orders enables Buddha Brands to increase its own levels of order fulfillment service, Pilon says. “Timing is key in supply chain, and if we can receive information from our customers quicker and dispatch their orders faster, reducing our lead time and without any data entry error, we’re effectively increasing our service levels,” she says.
Like many brand manufacturers, Buddha Brands implemented its EDI platform to speed order processing through automation and ensure its business systems were speaking the same language as its customers’ systems. The original plan was to initially onboard about 13 customers to its EDI platform, with more to follow later, and connect the platform with its ERP system so key business information such as purchase orders, invoices and advance shipping notices could flow between the two systems.
But two years into its ERP deployment, the manufacturer, which produces plant-based foods and beverages and sells to retailers in the United States and Canada, was still struggling to connect the two systems. Consequently, customer support staff was spending more time rekeying information into the ERP system than providing customer service.
In addition, manual data entry into its ERP system was an inefficient, error-prone process that delayed visibility of orders in its NetSuite ERP system, and prevented the company from linking to its third-party logistics providers (3PL) through its EDI network, which subsequently slowed order dispatch and fulfillment.
Orders visible in NetSuite ERP
“We were working between two disparate systems, which meant incoming orders weren’t immediately visible in NetSuite for shipping and planning purposes,” Pilon says. “We needed an EDI solution that would eliminate all the non-value-added tasks we were doing around order entry and invoicing for our ERP system. We also wanted to link up with our 3PL partners through EDI so we could dispatch orders and receive fulfillment faster.”
Since not all EDI platforms have built-in ERP compatibility, suppliers turn either to their EDI vendor or a third-party software developer for it. Unable to receive the support it needed from its legacy EDI vendor, to connect the two systems, Buddha Brands deployed TrueCommerce Inc.’s integrated EDI solution for NetSuite ERP.
“With little to no visibility between our EDI and ERP systems, we paid a premium in terms of how we managed orders between the two systems,” Pilon says. “We weren’t working very efficiently.”
One challenge Buddha Brands faced with its legacy EDI platform was the inability to move complex order data to its ERP system, such as sales tax, which can vary by weight and size of the item being shipped, and in Canada by different tax rules in each province. Buddha also had to deal with deposit and recycling fees, and promotional and damage allowances. “Our former EDI provider was never able to map that data to our ERP system,” Pilon says. “We ended up manually entering it, and it was a mistake-prone process. Now we can automatically include taxes and fees on invoices,” Pilon says.
More orders per customer at major retailers
As part of its criteria in selecting a new EDI Platform, Buddha Brands sought a vendor that could have the new platform operational within three months. In addition to Amazon and Whole Foods, Buddha Brands sells through thousands of retail locations and online stores at merchants including Costco, HEB, Meijer, Wegmans, Loblaws Sobeys and food wholesale distributor UNFI.
Since implementing TrueCommerce EDI in 2019, Buddha Brands has grown order volume among new customers, as well as the number of orders per customer, without having to hire additional staff to manage the clerical tasks associated with those increases, Pilon says, without being more specific. Overall, clerical work, such as data entry or emailing pick tickets for dispatching, has decreased. As a result, some employees have been able to move on to other duties that they find more stimulating, which has boosted their morale.
“The ability to shift people from manual data entry and other non-value-added tasks to intellectual work is really what the ROI from TrueCommerce is all about,” says Pilon. “Even with our growing sales volume, my team is able to be more efficient and focus on what really matters.”
Today, 70% of orders flow through Buddha Brands’ EDI platform. In the past year, that volume has grown 30%, Pilon says. In addition, the company has connected three more customers, one warehouse, and one of its 3PL partners to its EDI network after completing its initial wave of onboarding. Plans are in the works to add more customers this year and at least one warehouse as growth warrants, Pilon says.
Adding TrueCommerce’s scheduler module to the mix has helped Buddha automate the import/export of EDI transactions to its ERP system at prearranged times, which has further increased operating efficiency, Pilon says. For example, Buddha Brands can use the scheduler to locate all orders that have been filled but have not had an invoice generated, then set the time of day it wants those reports to be available.
With its EDI and ERP platforms connected, Pilon says Buddha Brands has become EDI efficient, instead of just EDI capable. “At the end of the day you forget about EDI,” Pilon says. “We can manage our integration and our orders by exception within NetSuite. EDI stays in the background until we need to make a change.”
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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