As a college-educated computer scientist, Bastian Späth understands how IT solutions are developed from the ground up. For more than 15 years, he has spent every workday collecting requirements, finding ideas, developing designs, setting up projects and getting them safely across the finish line.
Key account integration: service all the way to the customer’s system
Large shippers have very specific expectations of their freight forwarders. They place many orders and thus have to track a large number of shipments. Therefore, when working with service providers, it is important for them to receive accurate progress information without having to do their own research.
Working with large shippers offers logistics service providers considerable potential for synergies. But they cannot leverage this potential until they integrate their processes with their customers' operations. This requires service providers to receive all orders automatically right in their transport management system (TMS) via interfaces. From there, they can provide real-time transport status information to their customers at any time as long as all other relevant data sources are also connected to the system. The TMS has to act as a single point of truth in communications for integrating key accounts.
Key account integration with automated processes
It is extremely important to make integration as simple as possible for key accounts. They automatically expect to have all the interfaces they need. They are, after all, used to having information actively pushed to them. That way, they always know the current status in real time and can adapt their downstream processes as needed. To make this happen, logistics providers' IT platforms use callback URLs that report any change in status to their customer's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. New information is then sent directly to the shipper's planning platform, where it is available for downstream processing.
Predefined workflows automate coordination
Since large customers generally structure their processes heavily, it only makes sense for them to use structured workflows to communicate with their logistics service providers. The workflows contain predefined rule-based responses to status changes that can be executed automatically. They include:
- The typical business transactions.
- A predefined sequence.
- Standard texts in communication.
They are exchanged over bilateral connections and thus always reference the same data records.
Provide order information transparently
For particularly customer-friendly service processes, logistics companies provide their key accounts with more than just current status information. They also maintain additional data such as rates, order documents, and statistical analyses automatically using existing interfaces. They enter as much data as possible directly into the customer's ERP system. From there, they provide quick, order-related access to analyses carried out in the service provider systems. This includes transport statistics and business intelligence analyses, which are generated and provided in the form of dynamic reports on the freight forwarder's service portal. All of the logistics provider's relevant data sources are connected to the system via application programming interfaces (APIs), web services and event sourcing platforms. Service providers can even define the depth of information that key accounts can retrieve in their service portal's rights management tool.
Deep integration unlocks synergies
When logistics service providers integrate deeply with their key accounts' processes and vice versa, both parties benefit from a fast, seamless exchange of information. Service providers can unlock synergies in trip planning with early order information. For large shippers, data integration with active information sharing provides an opportunity to plan downstream processes early and proactively. Together, the two parties achieve operational benefits that make a long-term business relationship the most efficient option.