Effectively manage cross-company collaboration

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Laptop with map on the screen standing on the desk in a warehouse

Many companies are involved in logistics today – from placing procurement orders for raw materials and precursors to shipping out the final product. Close collaboration is essential for each one of them to plan effectively. Modern IT solutions help by improving communications and providing visibility into all the orders.

Precise information is half of the planning. That is why, for cross-company collaboration to be effective, key data has to be shared with as many process stakeholders as possible at an early stage. Ideally, the data should be shared using structured, seamless communication. It should:

  • Create a single point of truth
  • Connect all relevant data sources
  • Define binding workflows
  • Use a common communications hub
  • Automatically integrate with your own processes

These guidelines will enable the kind of cross-company collaboration that gives companies more certainty for planning.

Single point of truth

Cross-company collaboration needs clarity

When multiple companies collaborate, they need clear structures to work efficiently. One good option is for them to exchange all their information through a communications hub. It serves as the focal point of the collaboration and is linked to all the stakeholders and their data sources. One popular example from everyday life is an app that allows families to share a shopping list. It allows the entire family to shop at different locations without purchasing the same item twice. The first person to pick up an item crosses it out on the shared list. That tells everyone else that the item is no longer needed. The app serves as a central repository of knowledge – the single point of truth, to put it technical terms. It stores the current status that applies to everyone. This is an important principle in cross-company collaboration.


Define workflows

Another principle that has proven to work: Defining standard texts and fixed processes for redundant operations. This allows a typical sequence of steps to be controlled and documented with just a few clicks. It is a far cry from a random combination of emails, calls, texts and direct messages. It is made even more efficient by linking the workflows to business transactions. For example, to the shipment being transported by two carriers. Or to warehouse and complaint processes. The links immediately tell employees what process is involved. This approach also allows the use of chatbots to automatically extract structured information for order processing from email communication, for example, and thus combine processes. It can even be used to build self-service portals. If users have access to linked information that they can search, they will not need to contact customer service.

Push mechanisms

Actively distribute information

Proactively distributing information using the push method also simplifies communication and reduces service employees' workloads. Typical push notifications are emails that go out automatically when a predefined status occurs or call-back URLs, which are essentially communication channels for responses. They only carry information if there is a change. This enables everyone to respond faster. The best way to use the push method is by integrating it into operational systems such as the shipper's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or a forwarding agent's transport management system (TMS). That eliminates the need to change systems in order to receive progress updates. If this creates bilateral connections, the various players can even communicate directly with each other. All that has to happen is for them to reference the same records electronically.


Working together in a hub

Modern-day IT infrastructures now effortlessly support cross-company collaboration, even without shared databases. All it takes is a communications hub to act as a node between everyone involved in the process. By connecting their data sources to the hub via application programming interfaces (APIs), the collaboration partners can seamlessly and efficiently exchange data and improve the reliability of their planning.

Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert

As a design guru, the software developer delves into logistics service providers' requirements like no other. He is passionate about exchanging information securely and efficiently and thus speeding up the physical logistics process.

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