ODYSSEY: The Leader in Defense Commerce Solutions Blog

3 Reasons To Use VSM Automation

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Oct 9, 2019 @ 12:10 PM

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Any contractor who has done work for the DoD is well aware of the DLA’s Vendor Shipment Module. VSM is a web-based application used by the DLA to manage shipment arrangements by providing Transportation Control Numbers for each shipment. It provides labels for small parcel services such as UPS and FedEx, as well as necessary paperwork for large shipments that require transportation carriers, and also allows the government to negotiate favorable rates with carriers. But for a defense contractor, especially those using automation for Mil-Std-129 labeling and WAWF transaction submissions, using the VSM website can be problematic and time consuming. Luckily, there is an alternative available.

There is technology available today that allows defense contractors to simplify the process of working with VSM. Called VSM Automation, the technology effectively streamlines VSM processes for defense contracts. If you’re on the fence about incorporating VSM Automation into your business, here are three reasons why you should:

Set it and forget it

VSM Automation eliminates the need for a contractor to interact with the VSM application, or transfer VSM information into other systems. The technology also allows contractors to prepare shipping labels and create invoices with minimum data entry. Contractors can receive shipment acceptance electronically, without entering data into the WAWF web site.

Make shipments easy

All required data can be directly accessed through a VSM Automation platform. Shipper labels from UPS, FedEx, DHL and others can be easily generated from the same interface.

End-to-End Integration

VSM Automation, especially those systems approved by the DoD, offer automated server-to-server integration with the purchasing, receiving and payment agencies of the DoD. All processes, including bidding, accepting contract awards and fulfilling orders from government agencies is managed in a single streamlined workflow. The improvements in operational efficiency, cash flow and government regulation compliance are immediate.

Odyssey is the market leader in VSM Automation, having released the first Direct VSM Integration available in February 2019. It is the only provider offering an integrated, cross-departmental workflow process utilizing an efficient and effective cloud-based platform. Odyssey is the preferred platform for hundreds of DoD commercial suppliers, non-profit government partners and federal agencies.

Contact Odyssey today to learn more about how our technology can assure your government contract work goes smoothly.

Topics: WAWF, VSM, MIL-STD-129, DoD, department of defense

Government Contracting 101

Posted by James Lusk on Mon, Sep 16, 2019 @ 14:09 PM

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If you’re reading this, the chances are good that you’re either considering pursuing, or have recently entered into a government contract. If that’s true, then it’s easy to understand why. In 2017 alone, the Department of Defense spent approximately $294 billion on goods and services. With about half of those supplies being non-combat related, a wide array of companies from different industries have taken on government contracts. If this is your first contract, you should know that government work is unlike any other. While steady and profitable if done correctly, there are many pitfalls to government contracting that could potentially jeopardize your margins if not successfully navigated.

Below are several lessons you should learn before entering into that first government contract.

There are many rules. 

The DoD has standards governing almost every aspect of the business you have been contracted to complete. There are specific, multiple and disconnected systems (DIBBS, VSM, iRAPT/ WAWF) that suppliers are required to use for bidding, invoicing and asset tracking. And every step in the process introduces the potential for human error, which could negate your hard work.

Maintaining compliance is a big deal. 

Following every standard down to the letter is the key to a successful government contract. Suppliers who fail to meet a standard can be issued a Corrective Action Request (CAR), with four levels of CARs depending on the severity of the infraction. High level CARs require corrective actions that can result in reductions of payments, cost disallowances or even suspension of payments. Combine these with other consequences of noncompliance, such as rejected shipments or potential penalties, and it is easy to see why nonconformities can be so dangerous to your bottom line.

Technology offers a solution. 

There is software available today, developed specifically for government contractors and approved by the DoD, that allows you to take the guesswork out of maintaining compliance and focus on the work at hand. This software reduces requirements for manual data entry (and the accompanying chances for human error), integrates data from DIBBS, VSM and iRAPT/ WAWF, reduces liability in the labeling process, and even alerts you of new contract awards so you can begin working on fulfillment.

Besides supplying the technology, Odyssey’s experience can help you stay ahead of the constantly changing government compliance standards so you can execute your contracts efficiently.

Contact Odyssey today to learn more about how our technology can assure your government contract work goes smoothly.

Topics: WAWF, dod compliance, VSM, iRAPT, DoD, department of defense, DIBBS

What You Need to Know About ASTM D3951

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Aug 1, 2019 @ 11:08 AM

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Most military suppliers likely cringe at the mention of packaging specifications like ASTM D3951. Being a supplier for the Department of Defense can be very rewarding for a manufacturer, as the defense industry is a secure and steadily growing multi-billion dollar industry. However, the heavy regulations that govern nearly every aspect of packaging and labeling can cost suppliers enough time and money to make that DoD contract seem far less attractive.

In the Past, This Drove Packaging Out-Of-House

In the past, these stringent regulations on packaging and labeling caused most suppliers to outsource the work to 3rdparty packaging houses that specialize in DoD packaging and labeling. While this adds an additional cost, making the work less profitable, for many suppliers it was necessary to avoid having to deal with the mountain of specifications for physical packaging.

So what does the newest incarnation of these packaging specifications, ASTM D3951, mean for suppliers today?

It’s Likely Not What You Think

What many suppliers might not know is that things have changed. ASTM D3951 is the newest document defining standard practice for commercial packaging of supplies and equipment for DoD contracts. It represents a fundamental shift away from the endless standards for every aspect of packaging. Under ASTM D3951, the DoD’s new relaxed guidelines for packaging place trust in the suppliers’ knowledge of the product they manufacture, and the best way to package it so it will arrive safely.

What Does This Mean For Me?

ASTM D3951 removes one of the obstacles that forced suppliers to outsource their packaging. The other obstacle, labeling, is now the main reason many continue to pay packaging house fees to fulfill their DoD contract work.

With Odyssey’s labeling solutions, suppliers can ensure compliance with all government requirements with just a few clicks. So there’s no longer a reason you can’t bring all your packaging and labeling work in-house, and increase margins for your DoD contracts.

To learn more about how Odyssey can help you cut operating costs and ensure compliance, get in touch with the experts at Odyssey today.

Topics: dod compliance, DoD, labels, department of defense, packaging, ASTM D3951

3 trends to watch when working with the Department of Defense

Posted by James Lusk on Mon, Jul 31, 2017 @ 10:07 AM

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In today’s world of constant technological advances, every industry is experiencing major changes- and ours is no exception. Many companies have welcomed these changes with open arms, adopting new technology and software to help grow their businesses and remain relevant. These companies have experienced more streamlined processes, ultimately resulting in greater efficiency.

With the industry and its requirements constantly changing, we’re always keeping up with trends and making sure that our partners are aware of the changes. It’s important that suppliers to the Department of Defense keep up with these advancements and adapt their strategies as needed.

We’ve put together a list of some of the most important trends you should be aware of when working with the DoD.

RFID compliance is a key focus

About 12 years ago, the DoD made the commitment to implement knowledge-enabled logistics through fully automated visibility and management of assets in support of the warfighter. How? Using RFID technology. Today, the DoD continues to push forward with its vision.

The Department of Defense just launched the distribution portion of its clothing and textiles program and is relying heavily on RFID technology to get the job done. The DoD rewards companies that submit data accurately and in accordance with their RFID requirements. The reward is faster payment, as well as a higher ranking in the rating system, which provides a better chance at winning future contracts. DoD suppliers cannot ignore that RFID compliance is a major focus for the DoD and will continue to be, moving forward.

High-volume contracting vehicles are moving toward Electronic Data Interchange

Most of the high-volume contracting vehicles, such as FedMall, General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), are moving toward Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI is commonly defined as the electronic interchange of business information using a standardized format. The process allows a company to send information to another company electronically, rather than with paper. Many business documents can be exchanged using EDI, but the two most common are purchase orders and invoices.

The bottom line is that electronic conversations are much more efficient. However, many small businesses don’t have this capability. And while some companies aren’t experiencing the stringent label requirements, you can bet they are coming. It is important for small businesses to use a platform that is easily adaptable and is also able to provide them with EDI services.

UID continues to be a driving force

As UID compliance continues to be a driving force for the DoD, it is mandatory that all suppliers with items over $5,000 in value be UID compliant. However, compliance can act as a major obstacle for many companies. Because UID labels and marks are serialized and highly specialized, it is complicated for suppliers to meet the DoD’s requirements. For example, it is difficult for suppliers to complete certain tasks on their own, like creating marks, managing serial numbers and properly inputting data into iRAPT, formerly known as WAWF. To add another layer of difficulty, UID serial numbers should be integrated into the MIL-129 R exterior labels.

Without a software solution like Odyssey, many companies have no idea where to begin, and they often end up wasting money and labor using outside vendors. UID compliance won’t be going away anytime soon, so it is important for suppliers to find long-term, fully scalable solutions for their DoD needs.

DoD suppliers are constantly challenged by evolving transactional military requirements and changing technology. We believe that today’s DoD commerce requires an IT platform that can make sense of requirements and provide an automated environment to easily react and respond in real-time.

Odyssey is a DoD solutions leader and the trusted platform for hundreds of DoD commercial suppliers, non-profit government partners and federal agencies, helping them transform their DoD commerce. You can learn more about how we can help your business here.

 

Topics: DoD approved software, dod compliance, RFID, Passive RFID, DoD, UID compliance

How DoD Suppliers Can Benefit from RFID Technology

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 @ 15:06 PM

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is commonly defined as the use of radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object. Suppliers to the Department of Defense (DoD) know that RFID is a transformational technology that enables automated visibility and assessment management. The technology has changed the way we do business forever and has improved and automated supply chains everywhere.

 There are numerous benefits associated with RFID for both the Department of Defense and its suppliers. According to the DoD, “RFID is a means to facilitate accurate, automated data capture in support of business processes in an integrated DoD supply chain enterprise.”

Every day, suppliers come to us for exactly that reason: to complete their DoD commerce needs in a single, automated DoD-approved software platform. By streamlining supply chains and improving business functions, suppliers will see better business results.

Below is an infographic explaining the top 5 benefits of RFID technology for your company and other DoD suppliers.

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Overview:

Efficiency

Due to wireless scanning, RFID tags can provide information much quicker than barcodes or other systems, and multiple tags can be read at once.

Accuracy

The automated technology requires no human intervention. This lessens the risk of human error that typically comes with manual data logging and product replenishment. Our partners have transformed their DoD commerce by streamlining the entire work-flow process into a review environment, rather than using manual data entry.

Real-Time Updates

Gone are the days of receiving numbers that are days or weeks old. RFID technology tracks and provides real-time data about inventory and products. Using Odyssey’s dashboard, your entire team can view real-time updates and communicate within the platform.

Easier Item Location

Less time spent locating inventory means more time focusing on other important tasks, such as production, fulfilling orders and selling to your customers.

Better Decision Making

Utilizing real-time data and insights leads to better decision making, commonly known as data-informed decision-making (DIDM). Business owners and managers can turn the data they acquire into actions that improve their business.

The Odyssey cloud platform is a DoD approved software that provides one integrated location for all DoD commerce tasks, to be handled in-house, using passive RFID technology. You can learn more about our company here. If you’d like to talk about how Odyssey can help streamline your business operations, feel free to contact us

Topics: DoD approved software, RFID, Passive RFID, DoD, automated data entry, supply chain

How Manual Data Entry is Hurting Your Business

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 @ 10:06 AM

 

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If you sell goods to the Department of Defense, you know that it takes a great deal of time, effort and attention to detail to ensure that your products are compliant with the DoD’s requirements and that you get paid. Many suppliers will turn to free government websites as a temporary solution to complete DoD commerce tasks, but they quickly find that collecting and manually inputting data can be time-consuming, labor intensive and monotonous. Not to mention, it isn’t a long-term solution.

Growing companies typically reach a point when their manual data entry process can’t keep up with their business needs. However, some companies still rely on manual data entry, despite its inherent drawbacks.

Let’s look at some of the top drawbacks of manual data entry.

Inaccuracy

Manual data entry has been proven to produce more errors than automated entry. According to software company Opin, manual data entry has, on average, an accuracy rate of 96 percent, compared to the 99.963 to 99.995 percent accuracy rate of automated data. Odyssey’s software automatically validates each RFID and UID to ensure its DoD compliance and prevent errors.

Slower Turnaround

To put it simply, automated applications are much faster than manual entry. The automatic data is streamlined, freeing up employees and business owners to complete other tasks. This allows companies to produce more and larger projects in less time. Odyssey’s SaaS platform uptime of 99.9% is efficient and reliable, helping your company meet deadlines, but free government websites are often inefficient and can even crash in the middle of your order.

Decreased Productivity

One of the main complaints we hear from business owners who are considering switching to Odyssey is that they want to focus on the work that really matters. Manual data entry often distracts employees from more important tasks, reducing their productivity levels and costing your company money. Automated entry software allows your employees to find higher value tasks to perform.

Overall, manual data entry is a slow process, prone to errors, reliant on employee’s accuracy, and expensive to scale as your business grows. Businesses are constantly looking for ways in which data entry and capture can be automated in a cost-effective manner.

Odyssey’s services take care of all DoD commerce tasks, allowing your goods to get to the DoD and for you to get paid. We designed these services with the DoD supplier in mind, and we want to help you move toward a streamlined process.

Below is a quick overview of some of the benefits of Odyssey and automated data entry.

  • Odyssey provides one integrated location for all DoD commerce tasks.
  • Odyssey manages receipt and insertion of all data, providing ongoing customer support.
  • Odyssey’s software automatically validates each RFID and UID to ensure its compliance and prevent errors.
  • Odyssey’s SaaS platform uptime of 99.9% is efficient and reliable, helping your company meet deadlines.

We help companies streamline their DoD commerce processes every day. Don’t let manual data entry slow you down. Contact us today.

 

Topics: DoD approved software, dod compliance, manual data entry, DoD, automated data entry

Why You Should Care About Data

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 @ 13:06 PM

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Data has become critical to our lives over the past 30 years. It has changed the way we are educated, entertained, and even how we do business. The sum of all the data created, captured, and replicated is rapidly increasing and will only continue to do so.                                                           

The amount of data created worldwide will increase by tenfold by 2025, according to a recent white paper published by International Data Corp (IDC). The paper, titled “Data Age 2025”, says that because of the major increase in data, organizations will have to prioritize which portions to manage and how. Organizations that don’t manage the data correctly could lose revenue, provide poor customer experiences, and suffer operational inefficiencies.

“As data grows in amount, variety, and importance, business leaders must focus their attention on the data that matters the most,” says IDC. “Not all data is equally important to businesses or consumers.”

The white paper predicts that virtually every organization will somehow be impacted by the increase in data. There are a few key trends organizations can expect to see by 2025.

Enterprises will create the bulk of the world’s data

Data Age 2025 predicts that one of the biggest shifts will come from new data sources, as enterprises will soon replace consumers as the primary creators of the bulk of the world’s data. The study says that organizations will create 60 percent of the world’s data in 2025. To provide additional context, in 2015, they created less than 30 percent of data.                                           

Data will evolve from business background to life-critical

Once inaccessible and mostly underutilized, data has now become essential. When defining “life-critical”, IDC says:

“Data usage is being analyzed by its level of criticality as indicated by factors such as the need for real-time processing and low latency, the ad hoc nature of usage, and the severity of consequences should the data become unavailable (e.g., a medical application is considered to be more consequential than a streaming TV program).                                                                                            

IDC estimates that by 2025, nearly 20% of the data in the global datasphere will be critical to our daily lives and nearly 10% of that will be hypercritical.

Data is mobile and in real-time

It is increasingly more important for data to be instantly available whenever and wherever anyone needs it.  Businesses everywhere are transforming their digital platforms to meet these requirements. In fact, IDC says that real time data will grow at 1.5 times the rate of overall data creation and by 2025, more than a quarter of data created in the global datasphere will be real time.        

These predictions and insights could impact virtually every organization, but they are especially important for suppliers to the Department of Defense (DoD). For example, our industry maintains a vast amount of information like Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Item Unique Identification (IUID) to effectively track and ship products, meet DoD requirements and complete transactions. Because of the advances in technology, data is more crucial than ever to remain competitive. 

Our clients rely on us to provide accurate, real-time data every day to keep their businesses running and prospering. With the data that our DoD-approved software provides, our partners can:

  • Make better informed decisions
  • Increase productivity and efficiency
  • Reduce the number of errors made
  • Lower operating costs

These trends will only continue to drive the world of data in the years to come. By collecting and analyzing the right data, DoD suppliers can save time, money and resources getting the job done. Executives and data professionals should keep a close eye on these trends and adapt their strategies as needed. We wrote about this a little more in depth in April when discussing 2017’s biggest data trends. You can learn more about our data-driven services here.

 

 

Topics: DoD approved software, RFID, UID, DoD, department of defense, data

Smart Devices Shifting From Consumers to Businesses

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, May 16, 2017 @ 10:05 AM

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Consumers are adopting smart devices at a rapid rate, welcoming them into their homes, cars and everyday lives. These devices have changed the way we think, live and interact with one another, and there are no signs of it slowing down. However, while we often correlate smart devices and technology to products we use in our personal lives, they are more relevant than ever to businesses today, especially in manufacturing, logistics, industrial, shipping and tracking industries. Companies must notice these trends and recognize the advantages in investing in smart technology. 

What is smart technology?

Smart technology connects multiple devices or networks via wireless protocols, allowing objects to operate interactively and autonomously. Any type of equipment, instrument, or machine that has its own computing capability is considered a smart or intelligent device.

Harvard Business Review explains it well:

“All smart, connected products, from home appliances to industrial equipment, share three core elements:

  • Physical components (such as mechanical and electrical parts)
  • Smart components (sensors, microprocessors, data storage, controls, software, an embedded operating system, and a digital user interface)
  • Connectivity components (ports, antennae, protocols, and networks that enable communication between the product and the product cloud, which runs on remote servers and contains the product’s external operating system).”

You may be familiar with smart, connected products like smart refrigerators that can sense what kinds of products are being stored inside them and keep a track of the stock or FitBits and other wearable tech that offer personalized data, like heart rate, step count and calories burned. However, it’s no longer just about the “smart home”. It’s also about the “smart office” and “smart warehouse.” 

How are businesses using smart technology?

Data Collection

With more devices connected than ever before, companies have greater access to data regarding consumer behavior, patterns and interests. Companies are taking advantage of the increased amounts of data by making decisions, like product recommendations, effective advertising and sales decisions, based off their findings. Greater access to data is proving to be valuable as studies show that executives want their companies to focus more on data, and less on intuition.  We wrote about data and the Internet of Things in January.

Inventory Tracking and Management

The ability to view, track, and monitor inventory continues to improve through smart devices and technology. A smart supply chain is updated in real-time, so your company can track inventory, remain aware of shipping issues and keep track of what stock needs replenished. Additionally, RFID tags are able to hold and communicate even more information about an object, such as temperature, weather, traffic, damage to the object, etc. This will reduce the number of lost items, better identify inefficiencies and help companies make more informed decisions. Learn more about the benefits of RFID technology for businesses. 

Automating Manual Processes

One of the main complaints we hear from business owners who are considering switching to Odyssey is that they want to focus on the work that really matters. They are too distracted by the inconsistencies and headaches of multiple tools and manual processes. With smart devices, everything is connected, automated and streamlined, freeing up employees and business owners to focus on tasks that add value. This allows companies to produce more and larger projects in less time. Automatic processes also reduce the number of errors that are normally seen during manual processes. See how your company can squash errors. 

What are the benefits for companies?

Many businesses have found that smart technology improves their bottom lines through:

  • Informed decision making via data collection
  • Automating manual processes, freeing employees up to focus on value-adding tasks
  • Lower operating costs
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Reduced number of errors 

Because of the advances in smart devices and technology, everything is connected. Odyssey has adopted this growing technology to create integrated, cross-departmental work-flow processes that utilize an efficient and effective cloud-based platform. Today’s Department of Defense commerce requires an IT platform that can make sense of requirements and provide an automated environment to easily react and respond in real-time. Our DoD-approved software helps to make our partners’ work easier and more efficient by:

  • Improving resource utilization
  • Reducing errors
  • Enabling streamlined commerce and DoD compliant measures
  • Creating a more efficient process, saving companies time and money

We take pride in staying on top of the latest and most effective technology. Learn how your company can benefit here. 

Topics: DoD approved software, dod compliance, RFID, DoD, business technology, smart device, automation

Seamlessly Manage IUID Tasks in One Platform

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, May 3, 2017 @ 10:05 AM

The Department of Defense is consistently changing and updating requirements for military marking, shipments, storage and more. These new standards often add to an already long list of requirements and processes that must be managed.  Companies must engage in asynchronistic activities, log into multiple unrelated software programs and coordinate with outside suppliers, just to complete a DoD transaction.

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Imagine how efficiently your company could run if all that redundant work was eliminated by a single, end-to-end product.  Odyssey is a cloud-based, fully integrated IUID compliance and transactional software solution and is DoD approved.

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UID activities generally fall into two main tasks:  Events and transactions.

Events

  • UID Mil-Std 130 N marks
  • Receipt of previously marked assets
  • Pedigree building or embedded IUID relationships

Transactions

  • UID data into required exterior labels
  • Advanced ship notice and invoice submission
  • Managing lifecycle events within the registry

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Even though these tasks are separate from one another, and each uses its own specialized software and data pathways, you, the supplier, are tasked with entering and integrating data for each one to complete a successful DoD transaction.  Odyssey unifies this process, allowing you to engage in successful IUID mandated commerce from a single end-to-end solution.

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Now you can seamlessly manage the following, all in one DoD approved platform:

  • End level UID creation
  • Assets previously marked with UID
  • Embedding IUID for parent/ child pedigree assembly
  • Government furnished property
  • UID compliance requirements mandated to occur through the IUID registry

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Odyssey’s technology also eliminates keystroke or typographical errors. Our approach is based on automation, rather than redundant data entry. Its flexible, low-impact implementation won’t obstruct your unique set of assets, requirements and workflows.

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Hundreds of organizations, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, have already standardized on the DoD approved Odyssey platform.  Success and longevity demands a compliant, transparent and repeatable process.

 

Watch the full video demonstration here. Schedule a no-obligation, personalized demonstration today, here.

Topics: DoD approved software, UID, MIL-STD 130 N, IUID, DoD, Odyssey DCS

DoD Shipment & Invoice Submission Made Easy

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 @ 15:03 PM

We know that completing Department of Defense transactions in iRAPT can be difficult. However, we also know it’s a necessary part of doing your job.  This can prove challenging for many DoD suppliers. With Odyssey, you no longer have to log into iRAPT and work manually to complete a successful transaction.  

 The iRAPT Console’s “Transmit iRAPT Documents” feature makes it easy to submit required shipment and invoice information to the DoD.

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Here’s how it works.

Click on “Transmit iRAPT Documents”. 

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Select the document ID you would like to submit.  Choose the appropriate pay mechanism, like “Combo” or “Fast Pay”, and associate your invoice number to the transaction. From here, discounts, fees and attachments can be initiated.

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You can also create a receiving report for review that doubles as a government approved packing slip.

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When you are ready to submit, use the iRAPT Console’s point-and-click submission to send your transaction directly to the government database iRAPT.

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You can email the data directly to your QAR from Odyssey or log in to iRAPT, and it appears as if you manually entered it yourself. 

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In the world of DoD commerce, time and accuracy matter. Odyssey’s iRAPT Console is the most efficient and effective way to complete your DoD transactions.

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Learn more about our iRAPT Console here. You can also watch a full video demo here.

Topics: DoD approved software, iRAPT, DoD, department of defense, simple, easy to use software