EXTOL Automates EDI

With Release 4.0 of its EDI Integrator, EXTOL Inc. (Pottsville, Pa.) introduces several new features to its electronic data interchange (EDI) management software package.

This latest release--available since May 15--includes the following enhancements: external file lookup, advanced auto-map, user-defined menus, document re-sending via EDI, document sending via fax or e-mail, application view and Expedite/400 interface.

According to Tony Baran, CEO of EXTOL, research conducted with his company's customers identified three areas of concern in the EDI market. These include the amount of technical effort required to transform files into an EDI format, the speed of the mapping process when new customers are added and help with day-to-day operations.

With the first two needs of the customers in mind, EXTOL developed the external file lookup and advanced auto-map features. External file lookup is designed to allow files to be retrieved for external lookup using the same method as keyed-interface files. Any number of keyed files may be referenced during translation, and all fields in an external file record become available for mapping with a single lookup. External file lookup also is capable of field-to-field mapping and supports complex key structures.

According to Baran, the external file lookup feature should eliminate a lot of interface programming and give users the ability to extract all the data they need from the database. "The benefit of external file lookup is that it is able to read records from any file in your system and transforms the data from the files into the EDI format," Baran says.

Advanced auto-map, an enhancement to the original auto-map feature, is designed to enable the automatic building of new maps. With each new trading partner a company obtains, maps have to be built, Baran points out, adding that the process of building these maps can often be time consuming. Built with artificial intelligence, advanced auto-map uses sample data and completes the trading partner setup process automatically. Even without sample data, the advanced auto-map function can still create a map for any specified document, as long as the document allows for all segments and elements in the specified standard.

"It reviews all areas and data and suggests a map for your new trading partners," Baran says. "This eliminates between 80 percent and 100 percent of the work a company would have to do for a new customer. And another thing is that if you’re not completely satisfied with the new map, you can adjust it."

User defined menus are another feature that should attract attention. These menus allow for the creation of a customized menu structure for commonly used processes and the ability to send EDI via X12.58 standards securely over the Internet.

In addition to these three primary features, EXTOL has added several features to help its users with day-to-day operations, such as document re-sending via EDI and document sending via fax or e-mail.

"For example, if a company sends a business partner a fax, they usually receive a functional acknowledgement back from the partner saying they received the product," Baran says. "But if you don’t get a functional acknowledgement back, our product can signal the system to send the fax back automatically or alert someone in the company that they did not receive a functional acknowledgement back."

For EXTOL, Release 4.0 continues its growing trend of focusing on its AS/400 customers’ needs. "We have put much time and effort into adding numerous enhancements to this new release, so all of our customers can get the most out of our product," adds Dennis Bonagura, president of EXTOL.