RealTime IT News

An All-in-One Japanese EDI Solution

Japanese EDI (electronic data interchange) has received a boost with Sterling Commerce launching a localized version of its popular EDI messaging gateway software.

The Japanese-language version of GENTRAN:Server for Microsoft Windows NT is the first product to be fully compliant with both global and domestic EDI standards.

EDI accelerates, simplifies, and reduces the cost of exchanging business documents, such as orders, invoices, and shipment schedules.

Since the mid-1980s, there have been repeated government-backed attempts to introduce and expand EDI use in Japan, but small and midsize firms here have shown little interest since traditional, proprietary EDI systems require the use of expensive leased lines or wide area networks.

A recent survey by the Japan Electronic Data Interchange Council (JEDIC) found that 56 percent of Japanese companies who had considered but rejected adopting EDI did so because of the large initial software and hardware investment and high operating costs.

With the continuing stagnation of the Japanese economy, however, interest in EDI's potential to reduce routine paperwork and enhance business efficiency has revived.

Especially, small and midsize firms are now looking to Internet-based EDI as an alternative that requires a much smaller initial investment and offers low communication costs and easy implementation.

Even many large corporations with traditional EDI systems, including Sony, NEC, and Daiei, are experimenting with or have announced plans to introduce Internet-based EDI.

A major stumbling block to building a global EDI system for Japanese firms has been the question of messaging protocols.

Western enterprises typically use one of two global EDI standards: EDIFACT (Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport) or ANSI (American National Standards Institute) X12.

Japan, however, has developed its own domestic protocol, commonly known as the CII (Center for Informatization of Industry) standard.

According to the Electronic Industries Association of Japan (EIAJ), some 4,200 Japanese enterprises in 19 industries were using CII-standard EDI as of summer 1998, double the number of users in 1996.

Japanese companies wishing to deal via EDI with both domestic and foreign business partners, therefore, have been forced to install separate systems with additional software to "translate" between the disparate standards.

"As organizations expand globally, electronic commerce solutions must support a wide range of international standards and business practices," said Takahiro Shuda, a Sterling Commerce regional director. "GENTRAN:Server is the first Japanese-language product that supports the standard protocols of EDIFACT, ANSI X12, and CII in one product," he emphasized.

Koichi Kato, personal & business systems group director for Microsoft Japan, said his company is "encouraged by Sterling Commerce's plan to bring GENTRAN into the emerging Japanese market."

The combination of Windows NT Server and Microsoft Site Server has become the leading platform for Internet-based business-to-business electronic commerce (EC) in Japan, according to Kato.

Japanese GENTRAN:Server for Windows NT thus enables multinational corporations to conduct secure EDI and EC transactions with Japanese as well as foreign suppliers, customers, and business partners, without the need to install specialized translation programs.

The Japanese-language version of GENTRAN:Server is being distributed by Sterling Commerce Japan and its partners Kanematsu Electronics and Kawasaki Steel Systems R&D Corp. (KSD).

A leading systems and network integrator and reseller of EC solutions, KSD has included the English version of GENTRAN with its own product and service offerings since 1997, and worked with Sterling Commerce Japan to localize the product.

According to Osami Tanari, general manager of KSD's network systems department, "We have found that offering GENTRAN:Server has actually increased sales of our other systems integration services."

By providing, in a single Japanese-language package that runs on Windows NT, all the translation, management, communications, process control, and audit functions needed to link disparate intra- and inter-company business applications, GENTRAN:Server for Windows NT may help to jumpstart Internet-based EDI in Japan.