A practical guide to integration

There’s been much talk recently about disruptive technology and its role in supply chain operations around the world. Perhaps you’ve been considering investing in new technology to improve your efficiency, reduce labour costs and get ahead of the competition. A key benefit of today’s cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings are their ability to integrate with a business’s already existing technologies. But how do you integrate new technology into your business, what are the benefits, and if technology is so ‘in-demand’, why aren’t more businesses embracing it?

To help you answer these questions, we’ve put together a practical guide to integration.

In software, integration is a term used to describe how a network of systems connect and communicate with each other. It allows two or more systems to have a conversation. The dialogue of these conversations is essentially the flow of data between them.

When a freight and logistics network – including shippers, carriers and the receiver – is connected effectively, the result is optimal visibility and certainty over the freight task. An example is the ability of a carrier independent dispatch system to have a two-way conversation (integration) with multiple transport providers. In one direction, from shipper to carrier, goods are consigned and manifested, and in the other direction, carrier back to shipper, tracking statuses are provided as the freight hits certain milestones within the supply chain.

The results include timely and accurate manifests with transport carriers, visibility on tracking statuses and accurate reporting for relevant stakeholders. However, it’s not possible to achieve any of this without effective integration.

Benefits of integration

When integration is adopted and systems interact seamlessly with each other, you start to see exciting transformations in your business. Some of the measurable and cost-saving results include:

Improved flow of data

Integration improves the flow of data by removing the requirement for manual effort and the possibility of human error. It also creates automation, aggregates data for analytical purposes and provides visibility for all stakeholders.

Fast and frequent data

The communication between systems is fast and frequent, and computers have the ability to perform this function 24 hours per day. Again, this reduces labour requirements and manual input errors.

Quality and quantity of data

Integrations produce a great quantity of data, and that is critically important to the efficiency of your business, your ability to react and your ability to make informed decisions.

Optimal visibility and certainty

The above integration benefits combined can create enhanced visibility and certainty. When this is achieved, it allows you to provide a better experience for your customers. Learn more about why visibility and control are now must-haves, not just nice-to-haves

If integration brings great benefits, why are businesses slow to adopt it?

Integration can be an overwhelming concept for many organisations.

If it isn’t an area of strength for your business and you aren’t up with the tech lingo, integration can be confusing. Perhaps you’ve tried to integrate systems in the past, but it didn’t work or your system was slow or outdated. If integration isn’t facilitated correctly, it can be a timely and costly exercise with backward results and can take a toll on team morale.

In some cases, integration can require a lot of customisation which can also be off-putting, particularly if in-house IT resources aren’t available and budgets are tight.

If we look at the shipping and logistics industry as a whole, collectively it has been slow to change, and an ‘old-school’ way of thinking has been steadfast. Times though are changing.

Since the explosion of consumer-grade public cloud services into the market, better customer experiences are now expected and demanded, and seamless integration between systems is what makes an exceptional experience possible.

By observing trends such as the Amazon Effect, we’ve learnt that to stay competitive and survive in the market, your customer service must be a key focus.

Now is the time to start embracing technology and integration.

Types of integration

There are several methods of integration available on the market, but they differ in complexities and capabilities, and they require varying degrees of input. Like any product, some are more effective and cutting-edge than others, and the appropriate method will be dependent of specific requirements from the end-user.

Modern SaaS platforms cater for handling both cutting -edge methods of integration such as REST APIs and Webhooks as well as legacy system integration methods such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and other file-based communications.

Learn more about each of these methods and how to implement them

We’ve also put together an essential checklist for success to help you overcome the challenges and prepare your business for new technology implementation.

Effective integration doesn’t have to be time-consuming or costly if you get the right advice and your integration is done correctly from the outset. Essential ingredients include proper scoping with the right technical resources and reliable system documentation from the respective service providers and software vendors. The benefits and rewards integration can bring to your business are extensive, and as we’ve explored, you’ll see a better flow of information and reduce your labour effort.

MachShip’s cloud-based platform is the simplest, yet most complete freight management system you’ll ever need. Contact us to book your free demo and explore the benefits integration could bring to your business.