In today’s automated world, retail and manufacturing companies control their business processes with several different software applications, each of which performs a specific function. For instance, there are applications for accounting, supply chain management (SCM), and inventory management (IMS). While they’re separate and perform their own clearly defined tasks, it’s vitally important for them to communicate with each other and for the data they use to be passed between them. Simply put: If your SCM can’t pass its data on to your IMS, information about your stock would have to be input manually.
When these different applications are able to communicate, you have application integration.
Application integration sounds simple enough, but there are four basic ways it can take place.
Called data level integration, this method puts the data stored in each application into a single, separate database. This separate database is called an enterprise database or an enterprise database repository. To create this centralized system, the data stored in each individual application are extracted, cleansed, and reformatted to be consistent with whatever standard the enterprise database uses. From that point, individual applications can tap into the central system to get the data it needs.
This method is the lowest-cost application integration due to the minimal amount of programming needed to set it up and the speed with which that can be done. Data level integration only takes the data an application stores, not the coding of the application itself.
Known as application interface level, this method doesn’t have a centralized database that stores everything. Instead, data extracted from one application are converted into a standardized format and then loaded directly onto the target application. Hence, application to application.
Application interface level is currently the most popular method for data sharing because most application codes now provide interfaces. Cin7’s IMS, for instance, offers over 700 integrations, and new integrations are being added regularly.
Here, it’s not data that are shared, but business functions. This may sound precarious, but the actual business functions are not included in the code that’s passed along. An evolving way of exchanging data, method level is promising because it’s compatible with technologies like Java RMI, DCOM, and Cobra. A big drawback, however, is that the application code has to be changed before it can be used.
User interface (UI) is about having the different applications designed in such a way that users (human) can log on to their company’s network and bring up the data they need from any computer in the network. Application codes don’t have to be changed for this method to work – a factor that makes the cost minimal – but that also gives it less flexibility.
When it comes to inventory management, application integration is essential. Having the ability to input data from other applications into IMS software or passing the data it stores into another system, and being able to do so accurately and quickly, is vital to business operations. The benefits are:
Inventory optimization, or having the right amount of inventory, means carrying enough to fill orders and prevent stockouts, while not having too much of it.
If your inventory management software is integrated with accounting and ecommerce applications, you’ll have a clear idea of the quantity of items you should be warehousing as well as information about which actual items you should stock. You’ll also be alerted when you need to reorder. This means less worry about overstocking or understocking.
Information about how well certain goods have sold in the past and predictions about how well they’re expected to do going forward informs decisions that are made in the present. In order to get this information, reports and forecasts have to be accessed from several applications in real time.
When this information is available to IMS systems, better decisions can be made about which stock to carry. Additionally, application integration with a variety of systems makes audits more accurate. You’ll be able to verify that the stock listed in your books is a real reflection of the goods you have in storage, and you’ll have complete information about items that are in transit.
There are more than 700 integrations in Cin7’s software, but they can be categorized into the following business operations:
Accounting software records and manages your financial transactions, everything from purchases and sales to operating costs and payroll. Cin7’s system can integrate popular accounting software like QuickBooks Online, Xero, and QuickBooks.
Cin7 can integrate with ecommerce platforms that include Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, and others. If you’re selling through any one of them, IMS integration will give you oversight and let you know how your sales are going. If you’re selling items through more than one of these ecommerce platforms, Cin7 will allow you to integrate their data and accounts into a single platform on your system.
Electronic data interchange (EDI) is the system through which documents like invoices and purchase orders are transferred electronically. There are several electronic standards to choose from for these exchanges, but whichever one is used, both sender and receiver have to be using the same one. Cin7 can facilitate most of them. Some larger retailers like Scheels, Sears, Sephora and Walmart have their own EDI systems, and Cin7 can be synced with them also.
EDI suppliers are organizations that provide EDI-compatible solutions and technologies to other companies. Two of the leading suppliers are Synnex and Tech Data, and Cin7 can integrate seamlessly with both.
If the website you’re selling your goods through is charging you commission for each sale, you’re on a marketplace. Marketplaces are a good way to get your product out and make a name for yourself, especially if you have a new company or are small in size. To keep on top of your business in these marketplaces, you’re going to have to integrate them with your inventory management system. Cin7 can do this for all the major marketplaces, including Amazon, Etsy, Iconic, and eBay.
When you sell online, you need a payment gateway to process payments. You also need to integrate this payment gateway with your IMS. More than just getting paid for your goods, integration with your IMS streamlines their flow and ensures you have enough in stock. To make this easy, Cin7 can integrate with payment interfaces like PayPal, Dejavoo, EVO Payments, and others.
Sales and marketing software uses technology to get your advertising to the right audience. That means customizing and posting it on social media and other pertinent sites. To facilitate this, Cin7 inventory management software integrates with Customer Relations Systems (CRMs) such as Salesforce, Mailchimp, Senter, and HubSpot.
The very nature of ecommerce involves shipping. Goods that are purchased online have to be physically transported to their buyers. If you hire a third-party to take care of this shipping, you still have to keep track of the items and maintain your records. Cin7’s software can integrate with shipping partners Shippit, GoSweetSpot, Shiptheory and many others, ensuring you’ll always have the information you need at your fingertips.
The supply chain covers every step in the fulfillment/manufacturing process from purchasing and inventory management to sales and deliveries. To organize all this in the best possible way, Cin7 integrates with supply chain planning apps like StockTrim, Streamline, and Easy Insight.
Sometimes a company uses another organization, a third party, to provide the application integration software (API) that allows different applications to speak to each other. To enable this, Cin7 can communicate with Syncware, Hyperspace HQ, and Pipe17.
Logistics is the physical act of moving items and people from one area of a business to another. If you’re parceling out your warehousing and transportation to another company, you’re using third-party, or 3PL logistics. Some of the companies that provide 3PL include JAS, JD Smith, Quiet Logistics, and Ship Depot. Cin7 lets you integrate your systems with any one of them.
In summary, application integration refers to the process of connecting two or more applications so that the data each holds can be exchanged. When it comes to IMS systems, this ability to share data makes the entire inventory side of the business operate efficiently, and ensures that there’s enough of it all times in the right quantities.
Cin7’s inventory management software lets you integrate with all the relevant apps, making sure you have all the information you need to keep your inventory at optimum levels.
If you want to learn more about Cin7, book a demo by clicking here.
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