How do you know if a logistics system will be able to love your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system forever? Four tips from the ERP system consultant who loves matchmaking.
Lisa Billgren, senior ERP system consultant at Orango, helps us sort out what to look for when choosing software that will be able to manage deliveries from within your ERP system.
“Fundamentally, it is a bit like choosing a life partner,” says Billgren. “It must feel like you will be able to grow old together. The logistics system should be able to help you grow as a company in a business sector where nothing will stay the same forever and change is the only constant.”
1. When it is Right, it is Easy
It should not take a lot of work to “become one” with a logistics system.
Therefore, make sure to ask if the logistics system comes with a finished integration module for your ERP system, or if the supplier will need to customize a non-standardized solution and bill you for many consulting hours.
So, first and foremost: Before acting on the attraction get a feel for the logistics system, make sure it has a ready so-called “connector” for your ERP system. A connector that will make the system and your company click.
2. It Understands You and What You do
Ok, but then what? Once you are together?
A logistics system can be beautiful and can come with a lot of talent, and at the same time, be built to also “really connect” with you. The value in the union, however, is found in how you will work together amid the bleakness of everyday life.
Ask, therefore, how the logistics system will help you deliver in practice.
If it is Built to be One With You:
- You would never have to leave the window you normally work in to perform a task, even if you, of course, should be able to access the delivery information from other devices such your smartphone or an external computer, should you wish. But having to always move back and forth between windows and systems is like living separate from your partner.
- Then, everyone in your company would be able to access the delivery and shipping data. An important point with a well-integrated “soulmate” is that everyone knows “who you are.” You will get a new kind of transparency that will mean it no longer matters which department anyone works in. Everyone that needs to be able to answer questions about the deliveries should be able to access the shipping information quickly.
- Then you have a system that likes to think for itself. You would not have to fill in addresses manually if the customer’s order information has already been entered into the order system. If the logistics system is well integrated, it will be able to automatically create a shipment with the right carrier product based on the rules you have defined in the system.
- It would come with features that support your ambition to make your customers happy. This means that in addition to the most basic features, such as sending EDI files, creating bookings, and printing shipping labels—there must be enough cloud storage space to handle large amounts of shipping data and a feature set that you do not know you need until your business demands it. This brings us to point three.
3. Growing Together
If the logistics system lacks a standardized integration module for your ERP system, as specified in point one, and requires a customized solution to work for your company, it is almost like it is choosing to have a “complete makeover” for you. That may be flattering, but looks do not last forever.
You should, therefore, ask the supplier what would happen if the number of shipments were to multiply, for example.
If the integration has been customized for your company, it will take more consulting hours to upgrade your current connection when you need it. It is a hassle, expensive, and unpractical. You should, therefore, check and see if the system can be upgraded with just a click of a button.
This symbolic “click of a button” does not only mean that the logistics system supplier automatically, and without interruptions, opens up for a larger shipping flow when the need for it increases, it also means that other new features can be added just as easily.
4. Before You Pop the Question
This is thankfully not the case, but what if you were only allowed to ask one single question before you had to choose to take the chance or pass on it? What should it be? We suggest that this should be that one question:
How does the system consolidate shipments going to the same recipient?
How the consolidation feature—if there is one—works, illustrates how compatible the logistics system’s DNA is with the DNA of the ERP system’s platform.
- With a consolidation feature, you can merge shipments going to the same recipient. That is a useful tool when the order volume increases and you start to receive several orders from the same retailer at different times in one day.
- If you want to consolidate packages without a feature for it, you will have to sort packages manually, and you will also have to wait to print shipping labels for these packages until as close to the time the shipment is picked up as your stress pulse allows.
- A well-integrated logistics system can not only consolidate packages and thus print shipping labels for packages that should be sent as one shipment continuously during the day, without manual intervention, but does so elegantly via your ERP system. This means that you decide what kind of packages, up until what time of day, with what carrier products, etc., should be consolidated. Then the system will handle the rest on its own, 24/7.
When is it Wise to Consolidate Shipments and how is it Done?
Download the PDF Automatic Consolidation in Practice and learn when it is financially and environmentally wise to consolidate shipments going to the same customers.
And Then They Lived Happily Ever After
Logistics is the New Black. This makes logistics management a strategically important piece of the puzzle. It also turns the question about whether a solution is “the one” integration for your ERP system (or your warehouse management system or e-commerce platform) into a story about the love of integration. It is a story about longing for automation, simplification, and time savings that make it possible for your company to spend time doing what it does really well.
You should therefore never just trust only the word of the digital logistics system supplier. Set your demands high and ask the right questions. Life is too short for bad integrations.
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