How our SaaS TMS & Ecommerce Inventory Module helps you take control of your Distribution
Many of us are aware of the profound impact that the evolution of Transport Management Software (TMS) systems have had on the productivity improvement of many industries and businesses. Like most new technology, often the benefits have a trickled down pattern of development. That is, the first companies to take up these new innovations, (and therefore enjoy the benefits), are the larger companies before they eventually trickle down to the smaller companies.
Luckily the move to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) helps to accelerate the uptake of for smaller businesses as less time, resources, and money needs to be invested to get started, than traditional ‘on premise’ software systems require. SaaS TMS systems, being cloud-based and with API connections, also enable a single platform for managing your distribution across stores, markets, and carriers.
The other macro boom that business is experiencing, accelerated by the pandemic, is the boom of the ecommerce distribution model as an alternative to the traditional retail model of selling and distribution.
We are now at a stage where these macro trends are converging so that distribution software such as Transport Management Systems (TMS) and Inventory or Order Management Systems (I/OMS) can provide small to medium businesses (SMB) with extremely cost-effective solutions to automate and manage the task of order fulfilment and distribution easily. This article will provide a brief overview of the key components of how this software can help automate SMB distribution, thereby eliminating costs, and helping SMB scale their business to match the growth that can come from an effective ecommerce implementation.
Do you still need a Warehouse Management System?
A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is a normally considered a complicated and expensive software system that manages and controls all aspects of inventory, including product storage, picking and order fulfilment for delivery. These types of software systems are considered as mandatory for large organisations, and even many medium sized businesses, but are typically considered as too expensive and complicated for smaller businesses to deploy and maintain. As a result those SMBs are often left to cope with manual systems or basic ERP systems that lack the inventory control that is required for a ecommerce distribution model.
To be clear, when we refer to the inventory module of the system, we are not referring to software that will replace WMS systems that are already deployed for larger or medium sized business. Rather the software we are talking about here is focused on the process of order fulfilment automation with an integrated TMS. Certainly, larger businesses that already have a WMS in place can easily integrate WMS systems to sync and maintain inventory records across the supply chain platforms they use. For SMBs however that don’t have a WMS, (and are focused on ecommerce distribution), our integrated Inventory Module can operate like a WMS and provide paperless automation as does a traditional WMS.
Quick & Easy Store Connections
The cornerstone of a modern ecommerce distribution system is the webstore and / or online marketplaces. Examples of these include:
- Woo Commerce
These are the types of online channels that a company will offer their products to their customers to caputure them where they like to shop and thereby increase and optimise their sales, and the delivery of their orders. Fortunately, to connect to web stores such as Shopify it is a quick and simple three step process of adding your credentials inside our Transport Management System.
Once this connection has been made, your customers can see live freight rates and delivery timeframe choices (cheapest / fastest) at check out and these confirmed orders will flow directly into the TMS On Hold Queue for shipment once the order is picked and ready for shipment. However, before we discuss the shipping automation opportunities lets go back to the beginning of the inventory management process.
Omni Channel Order streamlining into TMS / Inventory Module
Many companies that distribute goods via an ecommerce model also have B2B sales, including branches and /or warehouses, and 3PLs , (as well as above-mentioned online stores and marketplaces), and therefore they require systems that can handle an omni channel approach. That is, customers’ orders that may come via their online channels, but also from more traditional order taking systems such as via an EDI connection to a warehouse, or by phone, or email.
This is where the inventory module can automate all orders. With our TMS / Ecommerce system it is possible to build your own web-based portal that displays all your “Available To Sell” (ATS) stock on a user-friendly internal web portal that can be used for your B2B orders or independents. These customers – just like your customers using the online stores – will automatically see up-to-date stock available for sale with their prices, freight rates and delivery options, so thatthese B2B customers can order quickly and easily. You can of course still import orders that come from phone and email via more traditional methods if you wish. Now all the orders from either the B2B or B2C customers flow into the one On Hold Order Queue, freeing up the time of your staff in processing the various order types.
Pick and Pack App
From here, using a mobile phone app, warehouse operators can scan pick and pack all items. The TMS will also automatically tell your warehouse operators which box size(s) to use to optimally pack the goods, thereby further reducing your freight costs, and can include pack lists and return labels in the box for the recipient (if required).
The embedded Inventoy Module enables the selection of stock from the cheapest or closest warehouse if you happen to have multiple warehouses, or even via a vendor’s warehouse. So, the Ecommerce TMS provides foolproof order fulfilment; optimising freight costs and delivery options; reducing the number of returns and customer service queries by ensuring the right order goes into the right parcel of the best or most compact size, and cheapest and / or quickest delivery option is selected.
Streamlining the Dispatch process
Now your orders have been picked and packed by the warehouse, it’s time to ship the orders. As mentioned, all orders have automatically flowed into the order queue, where they can be automatically priced by the cheapest carrier option using your carrier API (where available; carrier dependent). All that is required is to scan your order bar code on the pick slip or carton and this will automatically open the shipment in the TMS order queue and print the required freight labels for shipping.
Your receivers are notified by email or SMS Alert to confirm that the order has been shipped, with full carrier tracking notification and emails to follow as delivery milestones are achieved.
Obviously, the scenario outlined above is a brief summary of the distribution process available with our TMS / Ecommerce system with Inventory Module and there are many more features available that may be of interest, but today we are focusing on the automation highlights available. Of course, for those organisations that are not ready for full automation and integration, a more manual shipping process is still available.
Our TMS Ecommerce system with Inventory Module can be scaled up as needed so that best practice distribution techniques are at your fingertips whether you are a small retail business just starting out or a more established business looking to simplify your order fulfilment and shipping process.
The availability of a fully integrated IMS and TMS software package delivered in the highly convenient and cost-effective cloud-based SaaS platform allows SMBs the opportunity to compete with the large organisations for a comprehensive order fulfilment and shipping processes.
If you want to learn more about our SaaS Transport Management Software with Ecommerce Inventory module to see how it can optimise your freight & warehouse costs, improve your order fulfilment processes, and get you on a level playing field with the big guys in your industry, please contact us to discuss and to arrange an online demonstration.