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.

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