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The rise of outsourced logistics has created an array of growth opportunities for Logistics Service Providers (LSPs). While many new customers are happy to hand over that part of their business, they still have a need for high-level transactions updated back into their ERPs.
For LSPs, quickly onboarding new customers and supply chain partners into their systems isn’t just important in solidifying those new business relationships, it’s fundamental to delivering on the increasing expectations of what good outsourced supply chain management looks like.
The key is the ability to rapidly integrate new partner and customer systems together and map the business processes. If done well, it will become a strategic tool in winning other new contracts and building additional credibility in the market.
Why? Because the exchange of data between systems is just as important as the movement of goods in the chain as it provides visibility to clients as well as maintaining the integrity of their ERP systems.
But integrating with some of the world’s largest shipping lines, logistics operators, warehouses, local customs brokers and transport companies is easier said than done.
Understanding the intricacies of supply chain integration
Onboarding requires careful navigation of a combination of highly customised enterprise systems, connectivity methods (SFTP/FTP, AS2, API, VAN, etc), EDI message formats, unexpected relevance of data fields and, most importantly, their implied or explicit meaning.
Each message or individual data element may indicate that an important transaction has occurred, goods have been moved or that there’s been a change in status or responsibility. These messages translate into significant business outcomes and must be viewed and understood in the same manner by the integration team.
What’s more, your customers don't care about these specifics. They just want to be connected and have the ability to see that their product is going to arrive on time and on budget, without any headaches.
Take the pressure off your team
Engaging your in-house IT team to integrate new partners and customers into your systems can be problematic. For one, they’re often already stretched with other business-critical issues and may not have the experience or understanding of the nuances of your new customers and what business (and system) implications can result.
Delays and mistakes can then occur, which is not a great look to new customers.
So how can you transform this often painful, but necessary, function into your secret weapon?
Ultimately, it comes down to having the right combination of technology, people and experience which, typically, can only be found outside of your organisation.
Turning integration into your supply chain advantage
Just take Crossfire’s customers as an example. Some of our largest customers, such as Mainfreight and Qube Logistics, opt for a blended model (internal team + Crossfire team). Others, such as Toll NZ, Netlogix and Foodstuffs, outsource the entire integration function to Crossfire so they can support their growth and ability to deliver above and beyond customer expectations.
Not only does it provide access to in-depth experience and expertise that may not exist in-house (or you may just be struggling to find new staff in the current IT talent squeeze), it also reduces the risks, complexities and cost of managing it internally.
Engaging an integration partner also means you can offer guaranteed service levels to customers, removing the risk to your business and transforming system compatibility issues into a strong connectivity capability offering.
Previous ‘impossible’ deadlines and process complexities can then become opportunities for your business to differentiate from your competition who, just like you, can also be caught up in the day-to-day operational side of supply chain management.
Integration expertise matched with supply chain experience
Extensive industry knowledge means external integration experts, like the Crossfire team, don’t need to be hand-held. They can confidently handle discussions with your customers and create a seamless experience for them, which enables your in-house team to focus on what’s really important - running your business.
Doing it once and doing it right
A robust integration is also critical in preventing business disruptions further down the line. If shipments are delayed and that message hasn’t been delivered to your customer’s ERP, it has the potential to damage your business’ reputation, and theirs, not to mention disrupting the ability to make effective decisions.
Your business also needs the confidence that supply chain integrations are set up to match business processes and that the system handling your data is robust, constantly monitored and proactively supported.
You wouldn’t ask your GP to do open heart surgery, so why gamble with one of the most important functions in your business by solely relying on your in-house IT team?
Get an edge with Crossfire
Crossfire’s integration platform has been specifically designed for supply chain businesses. With over 30+ years of experience in the industry, our experts work on supply chain integrations every single day, meaning that we know how to get it right, first time.
Check out some of our customers here or get in touch with us for a chat about how we can help your business today.
When not integrating systems, Henry can be found spending time with his family and a range of outdoor pursuits including sea fishing, snow skiing and cycling.