WHSmith News has upgraded its Electronic Data Interchange capability to enable it to use the AS2 standard for communications with major retail suppliers.
The timing of the move to AS2 was driven by Asda, owned by US retail giant Wal-Mart, which told WHSmith recently that it wants to turn off its Value-Added Network connection.
AS2 enables secure EDI-formatted files to be transmitted online, thus avoiding the costs of transferring files via a value added network for both WHSmith News and its customers.
The news wholesaler is working with Seeburger UK to manage its EDI integration over five years, but the core AS2 platform is already partly in place, letting WHSmith share electronic point of sale information with Asda and other major retailers, including Sainsbury and Tesco.
Chris Gibbons, business systems manager at WHSmith News, said bringing in AS2 capability would save money wherever a Value-Added Network connection was being used for outbound messaging. It said its main retail contacts would save costs when they send Epos data to WHSmith News and the news wholesaler would make savings when transmitting sales and delivery data to publishers and retailers.
Gibbons added that one immediate cost saving within WHSmith Group from the move to AS2 would come from WHSmith Retail's communications with its sister unit, which were costing £75,000 a year using the Value-Added Network but now cost nothing.
The news operation has predicted the cost of EDI integration will be recovered through savings within 13 months.
The news wholesaler works closely with five major retailers -Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, WHSmith Retail and Sainsbury - which between them account for the bulk of its business. It also has relationships with second-tier retail networks that it hopes will also move to electronic invoicing in time. It estimated that within three years 60% of its retail invoicing would be handled electronically using AS2.
WH Smith News' IT infrastructure
- IBM servers running Unix
- EMC network storage employing
- Oracle 9i database (it will shortly upgrade to 10g)
- SAP Exchange Infrastructure to run the messaging technology
- All systems are hosted by Capgemini in a secure datacentre.
What is AS2?
AS2 is a real-time communications technology that provides a secure encryption wrapper around HTTP packets. It uses Mime and HTTP instead of SMTP as the transport protocol.