About FIDX

News March 2006

E-Business Task Force Sets New Goals

In May 2000, AHFA’s Board of Directors requested an E-Business Task Force be formed to conduct a thorough analysis of information technology in the home furnishings industry and to pursue initiatives to move the industry forward. The group marked its five-year anniversary recently with a self-evaluation that revealed both progress and new challenges.

E-business clearly has established a foothold in the home furnishings industry. Thanks to a single set of data exchange standards, hundreds of retailers, manufacturers and suppliers have adopted an electronic infrastructure resulting in reduced costs, improved productivity and enhanced customer responsiveness. And this infrastructure has made possible many more advances in electronic communications and electronic transactions all through the supply chain – advances that could fundamentally change the entire furniture shopping experience. The remaining challenge? Spreading the word.

“The benefits, solutions and reduced costs of E-business, are, in fact, accessible and affordable to retailers and manufacturers of every size, along with their suppliers and partners throughout the supply chain,” says David Purvis AHFA’s vice president of information technology. “Our industry now has the capability of delivering a superb customer service experience with every furniture purchase. The question is, why are so few really taking advantage of that capability?”

AHFA’s E-Business Task Force helped unite various industry segments, including the Furniture Industry Data Exchange (FIDX), the National Home Furnishings Association and the Home Furnishings International Association. FIDX became the primary work group, bringing together the various industry segments to adopt ANSI Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards and the Uniform Code Council (UCC) barcoded 128 shipping label, and to develop industry-specific XML standards.

“Without AHFA’s involvement, I feel we would still be floundering to establish industry standards,” says Talmage Fish, recently retired vice president of information services for Hooker Furniture. “Furthermore, a diversity of incompatible standards would have been developed by software companies and maybe by various industry segments.”

FIDX examined many standards before attempting to create something unique for the furniture industry and its complex special order requirements. Now the industry has Universal Product Code numbering conventions for handling the huge number of variables in custom upholstery orders, as well as conventions for multiple cartons per product and multiple products per carton.

All of these furniture industry standards and conventions can be found in one location at www.fidx.org. The standards are open, non-proprietary, free of charge and platform independent. The development of these standards and the efforts of the groups involved have reduced the “cost of entry” to EDI and E-commerce from more than $100,000 to only a few thousand dollars.

“We estimate that processing a paper purchase order costs our company $40 to $50. Processsing an EDI purchase order reduces the cost to less than $2,” states Fish. “And all of this (purchase order) information, when communicated electronically, is error free and timely. It also saves unnecessary data entry time and delays caused by paper handling that occur with traditional methods of doing business.”

Companies that fail to implement basic EDI will likely find themselves at a growing disadvantage as others begin moving to the next level and implementing new forms of EDI throughout the supply chain.

“We’re increasing our level of electronic transactions with our logistics vendors, from the trucking companies to the container shipping companies,” says Keith Orrell, director of information systems at Bernhardt. “It’s all about the supply chain now.” Electronic communication with dealers and electronic order processing only put a manufacturer “on par” with other leading manufacturers, says Orrell. “It’s just what you’ve got to do.”

In 2006, AHFA’s E-Business Task Force intends to dismantle the myth that the home furnishings industry lags behind on the technology front. “There are dramatic improvements that can be made,” Purvis explains. “Online catalogs, more effective use of bar code labeling, serialization and online order tracking are all at our fingertips now. These tools not only make huge improvements in the business process, they can significantly change the way American consumers experience the furniture buying process.”

CONTACT: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">David Purvis, 336/884-5000 ext. 1036