Data Transformation Drives Billion-Dollar Food Logistics Business

Dot's ability to accept a variety of data formats opened new revenue streams and enabled business growth.

Dot Foods solves a distribution puzzle that’s plagued traditional food supply chain models. The Midwest-based organization buys full truckloads (FTLs) from nearly 1,000 manufacturers and consolidates their products in about a dozen distribution centers across the country. Dot then resells those products as more manageable LTL quantities to distributors, who often cannot accommodate FTL-type quantities.

It’s a valuable service that helps manufacturers and distributors access new markets and increase efficiency, and it’s a foundational offering that’s enabled Dot to grow into the $7 billion-dollar food logistics organization it is today. But one thing that enables Dot to provide 127,000 products and deliver them to distributors in all 50 states and more than 25 countries is its ability to handle all types of electronic data communications from its trading partners.

How Dot Foods Handles EDI, Non-EDI Communications

Dot Foods uses leading any-to-any data transformation technology to accommodate its customers’ growing data requests and accept non-EDI formats. The technology, part of the Cleo Integration Cloud platform, converts a document into a format (usually EDI) that can be accepted by its internal system, which means its partners and customers don’t have to use EDI to do business with Dot. And with the platform’s auto-mapping tools, the food redistribution giant can easily integrate that converted data into its existing applications and processes for a fully automated business workflow.

“The main scenario that Cleo has improved,” said Sean Ketcham, Dot Foods’ senior e-commerce analyst for customer integration, “is the phasing out of much of our manual order entry. … We realize the benefits of not wasting time doing busywork or keying (in data) when it doesn’t need to be done.”

Here are two examples of how Dot can take any document type and convert it to EDI for easy ingestion into Dot’s systems and workflows:

Spreadsheet to EDI

A Dot sale rep receives from a customer a purchase order as a spreadsheet. Dot sets up a hot folder for each customer map that’s built into the Cleo Integration Cloud’s data transformation engine, and the sales rep drops the spreadsheet into the respective customer’s hot folder. File monitors running continuously grab anything that is moved into one of these folders. The Cleo solution then takes the spreadsheet, processes it through to Dot’s database, and pushes it into the sales rep’s EDI screen, where the sales rep can simply accept the file and process the order.

Fax to EDI

Dot paired Cleo’s data transformation solution, Cleo Clarify, with optical character recognition (OCR) software to automate orders via fax. Dot uses the OCR software to scan faxed orders, export them into a fixed-length flat file that has a map built for it in Cleo Clarify. Dot then uses tables in Cleo Clarify to process more than 700 customers using just one map. Now, instead of orders for these 700 customers having to be manually keyed in, they automatically show up for the sales department to process, just like an EDI file.

Ecosystem Integration for the Modern Business

It’s critical for high-volume organizations like Dot Foods to support an expanding number of systems, applications, and trading partners in its business ecosystem, and the ability to accept a variety of data formats opens new revenue streams and enables business growth.

With Cleo Integration Cloud, Dot gained not only robust data transformation capabilities and simplified integration of EDI and non-EDI formats but also a powerful platform that provides:

  • Application-to-application integration
  • Web-to-application interfaces
  • Business process automation
  • Data mirroring
  • Web communication portals

“The most amazing part of it all,” Ketcham adds, “is that we’ve taken the need for custom programming out of the process.”

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Read the full case study on how Dot Foods meets its customers’ increasing data demands and automates 80 percent of its order processing.

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