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Edge Integration: Leveling the Supply Chain IT Playing Field

iStock 000019549761XSmallFor years innovation and integration in supply chain software was limited to the Global 1000. They purchased multi-million dollar ERP and supply chain apps,  drove integration between trading, partners, demanded EDI connectivity, vendor managed inventory (VMI) , etc.. The ability for small and medium businesses to profit from these strategies was limited. It was simply too costly. Smaller companies simply had to react.  However, cloud computing, e-commerce, and edge integration are changing the game in the most profound way.

Over the last 10 years, e-commerce has created literally millions of online retailers, many that have revenues in the tens of millions of dollars.  There was an interesting post on this topic by Scott Wingo on eBay’s results, showing eBay’s size in multiple retail categories, which is further proof in the growth of “small eRetail”. 

So what does this have to do with technology and supply chain? What is Edge Integration?  It used to be that to get to scale companies would first have to buy an expensive ERP, hire IT staff to manage it, buy lot’s of hardware, then find it very costly to extend and modify as they needed it to support their constantly evolving supply chain.  Today companies get going with essentially no software, turning to solutions like salesforce.com, NetSuite, SPS Commerce and OzLINK.

Fast forward, the small e-commerce player is now, up and coming. Vendors like Ibex, and GoPro create unrivaled customer loyalty and great brands. The large retailers such as Target and REI want those consumers, their customers are demanding these brands. The small e-commerce company gets a great revenue growth opportunity. Now comes the challenge: to support the revenue growth while controlling costs, trading partners need to integrate systems. The large retailer has huge in-house IT teams, the growing e-commerce company is running everything in the cloud, but has limited IT resources. They have different applications, processes and scale.  Enter Edge Integration.

Edge Integration is a new paradigm designed to make application integration accessible to small and mid-sized companies.  Edge Integration is different than traditional enterprise application in three ways:  (1)it  leverages the cloud to enable more rapid time to value and flexibility, (2) it supports Edge Applications, which are mini applications that handle business logic and functional gaps when integrating two or more applications, and (3) Edge Integration can be implemented in an agile manner, allowing companies to start with a smaller investment, get payback in days, then expand, essentially funding the next pain point with the savings from the previous project.

All of this is fine theory, but how does it work in practice. Is this proven? The following represent specific success scenarios where Edge Integration has established success.

  • Integration with supply chain partners such as customers, third party logistics providers, and suppliers.
  • Connecting a company’s cloud applications to on premise applications which are not available in the cloud.
  • Within a company when a specific role such as AP clerk, Order Entry admin, shipping operator must use multiple applications to get their job done.

Finally, let’s close the loop and provide a concrete example that addresses these three scenarios and relates perfectly to the growing e-commerce company above. The situation:

  • The vendor is running NetSuite, serving large retailers such as Target, Walmart, etc.
  • These retailers demand electronic connectivity, including ASN’s (Advanced Ship Notices), which are not supported natively in NetSuite.
  • They need to integrate the warehouse process. However doing without automation will add costs, create errors and result in chargebacks.

The Edge Integration solution can:

  • Use an OzLINK “Advanced Pack” edge application as an extension to NetSuite.
  • Integrate the shipping software and NetSuite. using OzLINK
  • Integrate NetSuite and EDI service providers including SPS Commerce.
  • Empower the vendor to support their customers’ requirements with minimal time and money.

To see a YouTube demo on Edge Integration, go here.  Additionally, there is a live web-cast “Myth Busters: Creating ASNs with NetSuite is Manual and Error Prone” on August 16th. Register here.

What are the best opportunities for you to apply Edge Integration in your supply chain?

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