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A Bear-able E-Commerce Solution

The Boyds Collection, Ltd. adopts a new Y2K-compliant e-commerce solution that provides its wholesalers with required bar code labels and advance ship notices.

Chances are you've seen them, the porcelain and plush "Boyds" bears sold in department stores and on QVC, the cable home-shopping channel. The Boyds Collection, Ltd. (Gettysburg, PA) manufactures more than 420 different items in its various lines of collectibles. The product lines include Plush, Bearstones, Folkstones, Yesterday's Child, and the Uptown Collection to name a few. The company sold more than $197 million worth of collectibles through 26,000 retail stores in 1998. The Boyds Collection has doubled its workforce to more than 300 employees in the past two years.

The Boyds Collection distributes its products through wholesalers, according to Stephanie Inners, manager of MIS (management information systems) for the company. In the past year, the company was forced to update its electronic ordering system to meet its customers' demands. The EDI (electronic data interchange) program the company had in place was only a few years old, but it had several problems.

"To begin with, the EDI system was not Y2K-compliant," says Inners. "In addition, we had to pay an outside service to complete the mapping function, which is converting our trading partners' (the wholesalers) order data to our format. The EDI system also did not provide our wholesalers with ASNs (advance ship notices) and UCC128 bar-coded carton labels." An ASN is a notice sent to a customer from a vendor indicating what merchandise has been shipped. With an ASN, a receiver can electronically identify the contents of a package, without having to open the package. At risk of losing its two major customers because of the EDI system's weaknesses, Inners turned to VAR Lynn Klein, president of SWK, Inc. Located in Upper Montclair, NJ, SWK is a network integration and consulting company.

New Solution Integrates With Accounting Software
SWK needed approximately one year to land The Boyds Collection account. Klein says her company proved to be the most EDI-focused VAR under consideration. "We have nine people on staff dedicated to EDI," says Klein. For the new EDI solution, SWK provided The Boyds Collection with Eventra's Qualedi® translation software. "Qualedi interfaces with the MAS90 accounting package from Sage, which The Boyds Collection was already using," explains Klein. SWK also provided Loftware label software to print the UCC128 bar code labels on Monarch thermal bar code printers. "Normally, the installation of an EDI system takes months," says Klein. "Because of The Boyds Collection in-house capabilities – its own IT staff – we completed the installation and employee training in two days."

New EDI System Streamlines Order Processing
Inners deems the new EDI system a success. The two Boyds Collection employees responsible for EDI orders no longer have to re-key order data. "Now the two employees simply retrieve the orders electronically and route them to the warehouse," explains Inners.

In addition to the time savings, The Boyds Collection has realized cost savings over a six-month period. "We compared the cost of adding new trading partners to our old EDI system with the cost of a new, Y2K-compliant EDI system," says Inners. "Replacing the old system clearly made sense. We expect to add as many as 15 new trading partners and will complete the mapping for their data with our in-house staff. More importantly, we can now provide the ASNs and UCC128 bar codes our customers need. If we want to keep doing business with major department stores — and we do — we must have these capabilities."

Lisa Kerner