To operate effectively, most rental companies require a way to communicate electronically and exchange data quickly with vendors and customers. Obtaining or providing critical information from and to customers—such as current or obsolete part numbers, pricing, and warranty claim information—can often be the factor that puts some rental organizations ahead of their competitors.
Traditional Data Exchange Processes Cost More Time and Money
Traditionally, this information was communicated on paper, usually in the form of purchase orders and invoices. The buyer would need to generate a purchase order which was then printed and sent to a supplier. The supplier would enter the order and delivery details into their computer system. Then an invoice would be created, printed, and sent to the buyer, who would then enter the invoice into their own system. That is quite the process! If your company is still doing this, it cost you time and money that directly impacts your bottom line.
A Faster Data Exchange Approach
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a system designed to exchange business documents with external trading entities—a technical representation of a conversation between two businesses. EDI electronically transmits structured data (with agreed message standards) from one computer system to another without human intervention. Common business documents that can be exchanged via EDI are purchase orders, invoices, advance ship notices, as well as customs documents, bills of lading, inventory documents, payment documents, and shipping status documents.
With an effective EDI system in place, the buyer’s ERP system can simply communicate a purchase order directly to the supplier’s ERP system. The supplier’s system directly communicates an invoice (and any other necessary documents) to the buyer’s system. No printing, mailing, faxing, or emailing is necessary, and very little effort is needed in this faster approach on either part of the buyer or supplier.
Benefits of EDI for Equipment Rental Companies
Today, EDI is used in quite diverse business-to-business relationships, including interchanges between healthcare providers and their insurers, educational institutions, travel and hotel bookings, administration entities, tax reporting, and supply chain management. Now it is emerging as a top tech trend for the equipment rental industry.
The benefits of using EDI systems for equipment rental businesses include:
- Reduced cycle time
- Enhanced customer service
- Lower costs with enhanced management of inventory
- Less paper use and storage
- Reduced data errors
- Improved traceability and reporting
- Improved business relationships
- Elevated customer experience
- Quality communication
- Higher profit with improved cash flow
- Increase in productivity and efficiency among staff
Web Services Take EDI Even Further
In many cases, for modern data communication purposes, data must be properly formatted into an appropriate transaction type such as purchase orders, shipping acknowledgments, payment advice, etc. More recently, EDI has been the industry standard as the key method or technology for data interchange of electronic documents. However, this standard does not always answer how to retrieve information on demand or transfer the information more efficiently.
Web-based EDI is a cloud-based EDI subscription service that makes connecting and executing EDI between your business and your customers quick and painless. Web EDI Services allow a company to efficiently interact with suppliers without having to implement a complex EDI infrastructure.
Web EDI services require only an Internet connection. This makes EDI even more accessible and affordable—even for small and medium-sized equipment rental businesses. Web EDI provides a low-cost alternative to an in-house EDI system while still providing the multiple benefits of EDI, such as sped-up business document transfer, no lost paperwork, reducing administrative customer phone calls, and minimizing chargebacks. The user does not have to download, install, or support separate software.
Why You Should Consider Microsoft Web EDI Services
Web Services, available with Microsoft SQL Server and other databases, now offers a more efficient way to transmit EDI documents and provides a cost-effective tool for requesting and transferring information on demand. For example, an equipment rental company can quickly send off a query to a sub rental supplier’s system to get the latest price or stock levels. This information can be retrieved directly by the accounting or ERP system of the querying company.
If you need a lightweight, industry-standard way to make application functionality available to various external systems and users (i.e., buyers/customers), Microsoft Web EDI Services are an excellent tool. Developers create and publish functionality as Web Services where they can expose pages, code units, or queries, and even enhance a page Web Service by using an extension code unit.
While this feature has always been available for larger companies, it required a great deal of effort and related cost to manage it. New technology now makes this useful feature available to mid-market organizations and will eventually offer it to entry-level ones too.
How Microsoft ERP Plays a Role
A Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central system, as an example, supports exposing pages and code units (posting code) through Web Services. This greatly simplifies sharing information between systems in almost any format and can handle, create, read, update, and delete access. Business Central’s integration capability is practically limitless with Web Services.
Business Central supports two types of Web Services, namely SOAP and OData. Developers will need to decide which type of Web Service will suit their needs better. All calls to Business Central Web Services are logged to partner telemetry. Telemetry helps you monitor which endpoints are being used and the category of the Web Service, like SOAP or OData. You’re also able to see possible failures, which are tracked in the HTTP status codes for the calls.
Be aware that Business Central Web Services are stateless and don’t preserve the values of global variables or single-instance code units between calls. You can learn more about the performance differences between SOAP and OData in Microsoft’s article here.
By default, Business Central exposes multiple objects as Web Services for better integration with other Microsoft services. When Business Central objects are published as Web Services, they’re immediately available on the network. You can also add additional Web Services as required by your business.
You can set up a Web Service in your Business Central solution and then publish the Web Service, so it’s available to any authenticated users you select. However, be aware that all authorized users can access metadata for Web Services, but only users who have sufficient permissions can access actual data. You can read Microsoft’s article here to learn how to publish a Web Service for your system.
Scalable Equipment Rental and Maintenance Software That You Can’t Outgrow
If you’d like your equipment rental operation to really function flawlessly, leverage a Dynamics 365 Business Central system tailor-made for the equipment rental industry, ODT Rentals. ODT Rentals is a fully featured financial, operations, service, and rental system built for Business Central. Its design eliminates duplicate data entry and helps you take control of your rental and service business.
With seamless, no-cost upgrades and a low monthly cost per user, ODT Rentals is an affordable rental management system that is quick to install and easy to use. Built specifically for the rental industry, it includes advanced functionality for service management, preventative maintenance, meter reading, rental kits, and enhanced logistics.
Stay Competitive: Don’t Get Left Behind the EDI Trend
As always, technology evolves, so it’s important to stay informed about what’s ahead and how it might affect your rental business. The prediction is that EDI will universally be the core document exchange method and channel in future supply chains. This will support growing innovations like the Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain technology, and artificial intelligence (AI)³.
For more emerging equipment rental technology trends, download our latest eBook:
Equipment Rental Industry Trends in Technology eBook:
Future Technologies of the Rental Industry and How They Impact Equipment Rental Organizations
If you would like to improve processes in your business, contact us here for a no-obligation discussion on how a system upgrade and EDI system with Web Services will benefit your rental operation.