Advancing e-Business among Textile and Clothing SMEs in Greece and Hungary using UBL and ebXML
The companies involved, their business and the eBusiness network
"The heart of the NNS pilot beats at NOTA S.A, a pure SME company in the textile /clothing sector with real data exchange needs in order to harmonize its e-business processes with the support of ebusiness technologies and standards. NOTA was the perfect candidate for our project since, unlike the majority of SMEs in the industry, it has a very good record on data exchange and interoperability issues. NOTA was the first Greek company to implement –back in 1994- a full scale EDI project based on EDITEX and up to today, has been actively involved in a significant number of European R&D projects. In addition, NOTA presents a product offering (underwear / nightwear) that is significantly different compared to standard apparel, thus significantly enhancing the eBIZ project coverage.
To cover the upstream scenarios, a NOTA key supplier was asked to join the pilot. Helkon Ruhaipari Kft has a long and well-established business collaboration with NOTA. There is a strong business case for electronic business among the two companies. Helkon, which is based in Hungary, also reinforced the geographic coverage of the eBIZ TCF project.
To cover the downstream scenarios, the pilot project partnered with two retailers delivering NOTA’s products to the final customers. NOTA’s owned stores are managed by a separate legal entity B&D Masselos Senc, which provides the pilot with a good application test bed. Ch. Mavrommatis Ltd operates two large and specialized lingerie retails stores in South Attica.
The four companies described above constitute the application test bed of the NNS pilot and are complemented by NTUA SIMOR (pilot coordinator), which has an extensive experience in business process reengineering and information systems integration in the apparel industry. In the NNS pilot, a consulting company based in the Netherlands, Sonnenglanz Consulting, acted as IT facilitator. This company has over six years experience in several very large scale ebXML production projects and is actively involved in international e-business standardization. The company previously collaborated with NTUA SIMOR in the area of electronic business in the home textiles (interior textiles, textile floor coverings and curtains) industry."
The documents being exchanged
The NNS pilot adopted the eBIZ architecture and deployed a solution based on the eBIZ profile of Universal Business Language (UBL, an XML standard), ebXML Messaging (ebMS, a robust messaging protocol for electronic business) and the GLN and GTIN identification standards. The pilot involved deploying low-cost, commercial-off-the-shelf ebXML messaging endpoints at the locations of the industry partners and configuring them according to the business processes in the eBIZ architecture, using ebXML standards. UBL import and export functionality was developed for the ERP systems used by the industry partners, and scripts were written to integrate the communication product and the ERP systems.
"The pilot confirmed the applicability of the eBIZ architecture, and provided feedback to the eBIZ architects during the project.
The NNS pilot is all about e-business among small and medium-size companies. This means that any solution must be low-cost and very easy to install, configure and use. It should support outsourced (remote) management, and provide very simple and robust interfaces. In NNS, a simple UBL file drop and pick-up were used along with content-based routing, providing a simple interface for SMEs that is even easier than email. The configuration is robust, can handle intermittent connectivity and does not require a fixed IP address or URL.
Finally, the NNS pilot confirmed the economic benefits of electronic business. The pilot confirmed a strong reduction in processing time for orders. Extrapolating from the limited exchanges in the pilot, NOTA could save up to twenty thousand Euros annually by processing customer orders electronically."
Planned future activities
"The NNS pilot has been a small-scale project with a limited number of participants and a small number of documents exchanged. As the project has demonstrated the benefits of e-business, the industry partners are looking into expanding the range of partners and documents exchanged. Based on the results and experience of the NNS pilot, the IT partner is developing a service offering for the textile and clothing industry, which aims to offer very low-cost, robust exchange of UBL documents using ebXML messages.
The NNS partners strongly believe that the eBIZ findings can be replicated in other industries and that initiatives and EU projects similar to eBIZ TFC could be set up to promote e-business in these industries. The overall concepts and approach of the eBIZ project (e-business collaboration, standardization, integration, interoperability, process automation) can be transferred to other industrial sectors, provided that the particularities of the industry specific business and exchange models are well documented and taken into account in e-business architectures for those industries."