Case Study Brother International Managed EDI Services

Brother International outsources EDI management to Coliance using IBM Sterling B2B Integrator, enabling Multi million euro savings

To protect its retail customers from supply-chain risks, Brother International must communicate with its trading partners 24/7. By switching to managed EDI services from IBM Business Partner Coliance powered by IBM® Sterling® B2B Integrator, Brother International unlocks millions of euros in cost-savings while ensuring always-on EDI services

The challenge

Brother International places high-volume, high-cost orders with more than a hundred suppliers. To mitigate supply-chain risks, the company looked to streamline its electronic data interchange (EDI) processes.


By outsourcing its EDI services to IBM Business Partner Coliance, Brother International takes advantage of IBM Sterling B2B Integrator technology to unlock ongoing optimization and efficiency.

Brother International strives to equip businesses with the printers, scanners, supplies and accessories they need to serve their customers effectively day after day. Since it was established 50 years ago, the company has consistently led the way with innovations in documentation, digitization and collaboration, leading to growing demand for its products.

Basil Fuchs, Head of Business Engagement at Brother International, explains, “Brother International is the European arm of the global Brother Group, representing 27 percent of an overall annual turnover of EUR 5 billion. We’ve built a successful business by adopting a customer-centric strategy—our motto is ‘at your side’. The move to digital and the rise of home working due to COVID-19 offers opportunities for Brother International to grow further.”

To reliably deliver high-quality products to its customer base, Brother International must manage a complex supply chain effectively. With more than a hundred suppliers and fluctuating market demand to contend with, the company aims to ensure that it can communicate with its trading partners 24/7.

“We have a relatively small IT team to support a diverse business, and pride ourselves on delivering an exceptional customer experience,” says Fuchs. “Our goal is to insulate our customers from any disruption to our supply chain—such as that caused by the pandemic—and adapt fast to changes in the marketplace. Reliable trading partner integration is absolutely essential to achieve those goals, but electronic data interchange [EDI] is not one of our core competencies. To liberate our IT team to focus on service innovation, we decided to boost the reliability and cost-efficiency of our EDI capabilities by moving to a managed services model.” 

For 18 years, Brother International has trusted IBM Business Partner Coliance to manage EDI on its behalf using IBM Sterling B2B Integrator. In that time, the two companies have developed a close relationship, with Coliance continually finding new ways to deliver value to Brother International using IBM Sterling technology.

“Coliance understand our business and how to get the best out of IBM Sterling for Brother International,” comments Fuchs. “Coliance has end-to-end responsibility for all EDI processes, allowing us to leave this essential part of our B2B integration process in their capable hands so that we can concentrate onvalue-added customer services.”

Using IBM Sterling B2B Integrator, Coliance integrates complex EDI transaction flows for 135 suppliers in a single gateway. Coliance supports Brother International business units across Europe, with suppliers mostly located in the Asia-Pacific region. Each month, an average of 15,000 transactions flow through the EDI system.

“EDI transactions are some of our most critical trading-partner communications, as they often pertain to high-volume, high-revenue orders,” says Fuchs. “Coliance integrated IBM Sterling closely with our SAP ERP systems, further streamlining and automating vital processes.”

By taking advantage of the newest releases of IBM Sterling B2B Integrator, Coliance delivers ongoing optimizations for Brother International. For example, this work allows Brother International to support the latest communication protocols out of the box, including new standards such as Pan-European Public Procurement Online (Peppol). IBM Sterling B2B Integrator also offers built-in APIs, enabling rapid development of new data-driven services. 

Since moving its mission-critical EDI workloads to the IBM Sterling platform managed by Coliance, Brother International continues to drive up the efficiency of its trading partner integration processes. Recently, the company commissioned Coliance to optimize its EDI landscape by decommissioning itsvalue-added network (VAN). The project was completed in record time and delivered huge savings.

Fuchs recalls, “To avoid any interruption to our EDI services, we set Coliance a tight deadline of just six months to onboard all 135 of our suppliers to the new platform, and they succeeded. Without Coliance and IBM technology, the project could have taken us as much as two to three years. Instead, we made the deadline and achieved savings of millions of euros.”

Brother International uses EDI insights from Coliance to demonstrate its performance against stringentservice-level agreements with its distributors. By combining data available within the IBM platform with the company’s self-auditing processes, Brother International can provide clear, trusted evidence to helpanswer queries and resolve disputes.

“Through IBM Sterling, Coliance can show when orders were placed and whether the correct stock items were requested,” says Fuchs. “That allows us to avoid penalties for missed or incorrect orders, adding up to significant cost-savings.”

Thanks to IBM Sterling technology, Coliance helps Brother International seamlessly accommodate thousands of EDI transactions each month, even in times of supply chain disruption. As a result, the company can respond fast to both challenges and opportunities, sharpening its competitive edge.

Fuchs concludes, “The combination of Coliance expertise and IBM Sterling technology helps us to ensure that we can exceed our customers’ expectations time after time. For example, when the pandemic disrupted our supply chain, fine-grained control over EDI gave us the insight and agility we needed to overcome the challenge. Our supply chain is core to the Brother International business, and with Coliance and IBM, we know that our EDI processes are in safe hands.” 

Brother UK provides technology solutions and services to businesses in multiple sectors and of varying sizes, specializing in documentation, digitization, collaboration, identification and mobile products. The company is part of the international Brother group, and is headquartered in Manchester, UK.

“Without Coliance and IBM technology, the project could have taken us as much as two to three years. Instead, we made the deadline and achieved savings of millions of euros.”

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