Zur Mühlen Gruppe: Special treat at the EDI counter

With menten GmbH, the zur Mühlen Group has an EDI service provider that reacts quickly and implements unusual customer requirements promptly with its EDI‑solution i‑effect®.

No matter how different their product ranges may be, all major retailers have one thing in common: they already send and receive many business documents digitally. Invoices, shipping notifications and purchase orders no longer exist in paper form, but only as electronic data streams. The exchange of business documents electronically (EDI) is therefore standard in the retail sector at first glance, but in detail it has many special features. A major supplier like the zur Mühlen Group, whose products serve all the big names in the German food retail and specialist trade, has to adjust to this. Brands such as Gutfried, Böklunder or Redlefsen are known to almost every consumer in Germany. With these and other brands, the zur Mühlen Group is a major producer of meat and sausage products. 4,500 employees (seasonal) produce more than two billion packages annually. The number of invoices produced by the company's accounting department in its SoftM ERP software is correspondingly high: More than 500 invoices leave the company day after day and are transmitted via EDI to the major German retail chains. For this purpose, the zur Mühlen Group has been using i‑effect®, the solution from menten GmbH for electronic data exchange and data integration on IBM Power Systems, since 2017.

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Flexible and fast support

"We switched from another provider to menten GmbH in 2017," explains Norbert Ruhr, the company's IT manager. The reason was on the one hand the broad functionality that i‑effect® offers. In particular, however, an EDI service provider must distinguish itself through flexibility and fast response times in support, in Norbert Ruhr's view. If a customer has special requests regarding the format of incoming documents, you should be able to implement them quickly as a supplier - like menten GmbH, to whose software i‑effect® the zur Mühlen Group is currently converting its electronic data traffic step by step. The first step was to implement outgoing invoices; here, urgent changes in outgoing INVOIC messages had to be set up for a major customer, which was not possible with the previous service provider. This was followed by electronic delivery bills (DESADV), for which they were still in the test phase at the beginning of 2019. Incoming orders were still processed with the previous tool at this point. menten GmbH installed i‑effect® as a dedicated EDI server in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) of the customer's IT infrastructure and has been fully supporting the system ever since. In the day-to-day business of sending invoices, the work consists primarily of new connections of partners and processes.

Retailers with extra wishes

In IT, there is a lot of talk about standards, but a look at practice - especially in retail - shows that almost everyone has individual wishes and specific requirements, so that the exception is the rule. For example, zur Mühlen Group supplies a retail chain with cartons containing not just one type of sausage, but various products from its range. The company wanted this to be marked in the invoice, broken down by type and quantity. Another customer, on the other hand, does not work with the standard European Article Number (EAN), but has its own article numbers. The invoices must therefore be adapted in SoftM. The data then has to be converted into the EDIFACT-INVOIC output file format using mapping. "This was implemented very quickly by menten - a clear leap in service quality. The service provider simply won us over with its expertise and ability to quickly implement the desired message type," says Norbert Ruhr. "Even simpler tasks now run at a previously unknown speed at menten."

Monitoring possible at any time

Service is one thing, but we were also able to convince but the products were also convincing. According to users at the zur Mühlen Group, i‑effect® is much more convenient than other EDI tools, for example, in terms of troubleshooting. One can independently create analyses and statistics and check by means of protocols whether and when a message has arrived, whether it was sent a second time in case of an error, and so on. In this way, mission-critical business processes with external business partners can be comprehensively monitored and controlled. "Actually, we don't want to do that at all, because it's not our core business; we only operate a rudimentary monitoring system," says Norbert Ruhr. However, just the possibility to check daily whether messages were sent properly is a reassuring idea for the IT manager. With i‑effect®, this works via a graphical user interface in the browser: WebControl offers intuitive operation and thus opens up completely different monitoring possibilities than with the classic green screen. When all invoice recipients have been converted, the next special requests are already waiting with the delivery notifications, which must be implemented in DESADV format. Here, for example, a customer has concrete ideas about the form in which so-called mixed pallets should be displayed in the EDI message. The starting point for both invoices and delivery bills is the SoftM ERP system of the food manufacturer. The internal IT department has developed interfaces that provide invoice or advice note data to the EDI converter. i‑effect® regularly checks whether data is to be collected and converts the business transactions from the interface (database) from SoftM in the course of mapping into the formats EDIFACT INVOIC and DESADV in such a way that the recipient can process them in his systems. This is followed by the electronic transmission via AS2 and X.400. menten GmbH also takes care of setting up the technical connection to the customer and thus handles all EDI-relevant work for the zur Mühlen Group: provision of the software, creation of new mappings, connection of partners, EDI transmission and support - an EDI full service, carried out on the zur Mühlen Group's own EDI and communication server infrastructure.

The company

The zur Mühlen Group, headquartered in Böklund, is one of the leading European companies in the meat and sausage industry. With 4,000 employees, the zur Mühlen Group produces more than two billion consumer packages annually at 11 locations in Germany and Poland. The company's export share is 25%, which is delivered to 40 countries around the world. The rapidly expanding group of companies relies on innovative investments.

Around 100 million euros have been invested in optimizing operating processes in recent years. The zur Mühlen Group works with an integrated quality management system and thus meets national and international standards in accordance with the BRC, Bio, Halal, IFS, ISO, RSPO certifications and the QS inspection system. The quality management activities are centrally controlled in the Technology Center in Satrup.

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Challenges

Fast response times and a flexible tool like i‑effect® are crucial for the IT department of the zur Mühlen Group crucial when choosing an EDI service provider. The company was no longer satisfied with its previous partners and was looking for a service partner that could quickly implement even unusual requests from its business partners.

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Solutions

i‑effect® was introduced in 2017 and is to take over the entire electronic data traffic of the zur Mühlen Group in the long term. Via an interface to the ERP system SoftM, the EDI solution of menten GmbH regularly checks whether data is to be collected and converts the data from the database into the formats EDIFACT INVOIC and DESADV with the help of mapping.

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Benefits

Due to its flexibility, i‑effect® offers more functionality than other EDI tools. The EDI process thereby effortlessly adapts to the existing system landscape and aligns itself with the needs of the customer. Via WebControl, the zur Mühlen Group can independently create analyses and statistics if required and has a higher overall transparency about the electronic business transactions with the customers.

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