Labor. The mere mention of this word causes eyes and ears to perk up with anxious owners excited for adding new members to their team. It might also speak to the one of the many challenges of the Great Comeback from the onset of the pandemic. Companies worldwide have needed to adapt to an economy with fewer available people in the workforce. Technology, which used to be a point of fear, can help with business workflow improvements.
We know that shop management and e-commerce systems can greatly offset a down labor force, but what specific factors are making the most impact? One of these factors will be explored here: Integration. Systems that are interconnected in such a way to maximize communication and minimize human errors often mean a more efficient process overall.
THE BIG 4
Integration is a term that can be used rather casually, and you might be nearly numb to seeing it on various 3rd party system sites. Some will call attention to apparel suppliers and other service providers they are integrated with, while others might simply have it noted under a benefits list. Regarding apparel suppliers, it is less important to understand how they are integrated and more important to know what specific benefits you will receive from integration. This starts with the Big 4:
- Product Information – While this might not seem like a big deal, having the latest styles available and managing any discontinued items can help keep things fresh and avoid headaches.
- Account-Specific Pricing – Anyone can pull in a generic Case Pricing feed, but those with a stronger integration can enable you to log in with your credentials and access your account-specific pricing. In addition, maintaining an updated feed of your pricing helps with any changes. These benefits ensure accuracy and avoid the need for manual edits.
- Inventory – This one is so important, we could have a whole separate article on it alone. Systems can easily pull in an inventory “snapshot” but this will come with a built-in delay, adding frustration to your ordering process. The best systems offer a more “real-time” view, which will greatly reduce ordering items that are no longer available. Keep in mind that no product is ever 100% secured until it is pulled at the warehouse and placed into your box.
- PO Submission – Instead of keying data into one system and then duplicating that via a web order, systems with strong integrations (including “live” inventory) can reduce this redundancy and have you electronically submit an order directly. This is different than simply emailing a well-organized PDF, which someone still has to key in, and thus could be impacted by delays and entry mistakes.
The Big 4 are essential integration benefits that will help drastically improve your workflow, but there are some other “bonus” benefits that can also help. Shortly after you place an order there is a warm blanket kickback which comes in the form of an Order Confirmation, letting you know that what you sent was received. PRO TIP: Quickly review order confirmations to catch and correct any errors.
The second is that equally powerful notification, the Shipping Confirmation. This information confirms the goods have been processed for shipping and will include related tracking details. Invoicing is also available to help with processing into your preferred accounting system.
Last but not least is a relatively new offering with our Direct API integration feed, which is the LPN service. This stands for License Plate Number and these number/barcodes offer the majority of the information found on the shipping labels/packing slips that come with every bag or box. Why is this important? A 3rd party system can develop their platform to use this data for help with reconciliation, status updates and other features. The LPN data also does not expire or get reused, so this can help with fast scan retrieval of goods you have stored away.
WHERE TO BEGIN
So, you are sold on Integration benefits but you’re not sure where to start. That is where our team can be of service. We specialize in staying current with the industry’s product and service providers to help offer unbiased counsel for companies like yours.
Please reach out anytime to our newly-developed email: firstname.lastname@example.org to connect to our Integration team when you’re ready, or schedule a Tech Talk if guidance is needed.