Our customers always want want to know: “Does your system integrate with our carrier?” But they leave out the important question of…. How does this work?
Most carriers offer two approaches to integration:
The Traditional Method
This is a desktop computer installed in the warehouse. There is a different one for each carrier. This type of system has been in use for years and, by definition, is not integrated with your system at all. Although your warehouse management system may integrate with this desktop software and automatically print a label when an item is scanned your warehouse system is communicating with the desktop software only. IE there is no communication with the live systems hosted by the parcel carrier.
The main problem with this approach stem from the fact that your warehouse system is not actually connected to the parcel carriers internal systems and cannot have a live “conversation” with these systems. So live information such as delivery slots, pricing and live quotes based on a package content and its destination cannot be obtained for any prospective system. This approach does allow you to auto print a label, which is useful, however going forward the approach will soon start to look dated.
Another problem is the desktop software is often rather dated and can only be installed on an older operating system (Eg windows XP). Parcel carriers are often not updating these old systems as they are starting to invest resource in new types of system. These older systems present a security risk to the business if warehouse operatives are able to browse the internet on these systems as older browsers are often installed.
Diagram showing dis-connection between Parcel Carrier Systems and Warehouse Management System.
Something New: Server-to-Server Communication
A step-up from that is connecting your warehouse management system to the carrier directly.
This is vastly superior to entering data in two different system. It opens up a whole range of possibilities including:
– Live pricing lookup for shipments. You can use this to quote a customer shipping cost over the phone or on an ecommerce website at the point of sale.
– Ability to manifest shipments – in the traditional desktop model there is no direct communication between systems, therefore manifests must be manually created at the end of the day.
– Ability to generate labels in multiple locations and not just at a single machine where the software is installed in the warehouse.
– Reduce support costs. The traditional approach requires the installation of a computer in the warehouse.
The take away message is that your system should integrate with your parcel carrier as there are time-saving and cost-saving reasons to do that. Many carrier including Royal Mail, TNT have built interfaces that let your warehouse management shipping connect to their delivery systems, hence this is now something you should look for when selecting a system.