Application integration and the significance it has for inventory management software
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.
Different ways application integration can be performed
Application integration sounds simple enough, but there are four basic ways it can take place.
Data level integration
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.
Application interface level
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.
Benefits of application integration for inventory management software
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.
Making good financial decisions
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.
Types of integrations available on Cin7
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
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.
Supply chain planning
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.
A complete guide to ecommerce fulfillment services and their processes
If you are thinking about putting some or all of your sales business online, you probably have many questions about order fulfillment. What’s the best method for your company? How do you make your warehouse or stocking facility perform at maximum efficiency? How do you ensure that orders go out on time? In this article, we will help you answer them.
What is ecommerce fulfillment?
Ecommerce fulfillment services cover the entire process of getting an item that’s been ordered online to the customer. Ecommerce fulfillment encompasses everything from receiving the online order to retrieving the goods from their place in the warehouse to boxing and labeling them to shipping and delivering them. Whether your company is business to business (B2B), business to customer (B2C), or direct to customer (D2C), if you’re selling your products online, ecommerce fulfillment is the name of the game.
Steps in the ecommerce fulfillment process:
The first step in fulfilling a customer’s order is to collect the items from their storage locations in the warehouse. This is called picking, and it is carried out by a warehouse operator, or picker. There are two basic ways picking can be done: single order and batch. With the first, orders are taken care of individually, with all items from a given order being picked at once; with the second, a number of one particular item is pulled from its storage location at the same time and then those items are divided into multiple orders. Batch order picking means having to sort items into their individual orders after the initial picking stage. While it requires this second step, if there are a lot of orders to fulfill and many of them have the same item, it’s a cost-saving method. The picking method you choose will depend on the size of your warehouse and the number or orders you have to fulfill.
If you have a large warehouse—and they can be gargantuan nowadays—you also have to make sure that your operators are taking the shortest route as they’re picking. This means listing the items in the right picking order. Thus, if item A is stored close to item B, but item C is way across the facility, it would be logical to list their picking order as A, B, C.
All these considerations are taken care of with a pick list. Created by warehouse managers, a pick list is laid out by item location, name, and quantity needed. Pick lists tell the operator, or picker, first where to go, then what to look for, then how many to pull from storage.
After this, the items are sent to packing.
Once the items for an order have been collected, they’re placed in a container. It’s important to make sure that the items aren’t damaged during delivery, so packing has to be done with care – and padding.
After the items have been boxed up, a shipping label is created. This label contains:
- Name and address of the fulfillment company,
- Name and address of the buyer – where the package is going to,
- The weight of the package, the entire thing including goods and packing,
- Unidirectional code, which is a machine-readable code that can be swiped from any direction,
- A postal barcode,
- Method of shipping – standard, express, or priority,
- A routing number, and
- A tracking number – this is the number customers use to track their package online.
This label is then attached to the package, and the whole thing is weatherproofed with plastic wrap.
The package is now ready for shipping. This involves collecting the box and getting it to the buyer’s address. A freight carrier like FedEx or UPS will usually be hired for this, but if the seller is small enough and only has local deliveries, they might take care of it themselves. On the other hand, if a company opts to sell their goods through a major online retailer like Amazon, shipping services are part of the deal: Amazon has its own shipping setup.
The final step is to deliver the package to the customer’s door. There, the delivery service may find specific instructions, like being asked to leave the package with a neighbor. Overall, the most important aspect of this last stage is to get the goods delivered on their promised delivery date. Doing this promotes good will – and repeat business.
Ecommerce fulfillment models
There are three models you can choose from:
Fulfillment by the seller
When a company is small or doesn’t have many online orders, it can take care of its own fulfillment. If that’s the case, it probably has its own dedicated shipping department, which, depending on the number of online sales it has to organize, might be a small area and not have a dedicated staff. This fulfillment model also works well if the company specializes in unique and valuable items that need extra care.
This system stops working, however, when:
- The number of orders suddenly shoots up; if this happens, the self-fulfillment system won’t be able to cope and it will collapse.
- The company doesn’t have a system in place to ensure that all stages of fulfillment run smoothly.
- The cost of fulfillment is much higher than it would be if using a third-party shipping partner.
2. Fulfillment by a third party
Third-party logistics, or 3PL, stands for an outside company that’s hired to take over all or part of fulfillment.
If a company handles picking and packing in-house and has a large number of packages to deliver to different locations, it’s a good idea to have 3PL take care of those final stages.
Additionally, 3PL companies can provide facilities for warehousing, and they have staff to do the picking and packing tasks as well. The services you choose to use will, of course, determine the fee you pay.
3. Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
When it comes to 3PL, the biggest player is undoubtedly Amazon. A complete online marketplace, Amazon is the go-to site for looking to buy something with a click from the comfort of your home, and it is often the first destination for those searching for a particular product. With FBA, Amazon takes care of everything from warehousing to delivery, and it charges two fees: one for storage, and one for the actual fulfillment process.
There are pros and cons to FBA, and the company offers alternatives like Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) and Seller-fulfilled Prime (SFP). With FBM, the seller lists their products on Amazon’s online marketplace, but takes care of fulfillment itself. SFP is the same, except that Amazon’s shipping policies are used and the Prime badge can be shown against the products on the website. Each of these Amazon services has its own fee structure.
How Cin7 can simplify your ecommerce fulfillment
It doesn’t matter which fulfillment model you use, Cin7 inventory management software can be your perfect partner. Its integrated order fulfillment module gives you a clear, overall picture of your entire fulfillment process, including getting goods from your supplier and racking, or warehousing, them. Plus, you can operate your account from a mobile device.
But what if you use a 3PL model for fulfillment services? Well, Cin7 has a solution for you too. The software has 3PL feature that allows you to get real-time information about your inventory anytime, from anywhere, no matter what stage of the operation it’s in. Because it’s cloud based, you can access the system from any device.
Ecommerce fulfillment service starts when an online order is received by a company, and ends when that ordered item is delivered to the customer. We’ve laid out the steps that are involved in detail and explained the three basic fulfillment methods. While each of these methods is a little different, they all have the same goal: getting your products to your customers in the quickest way possible.
If you’ve been hesitating to set up an ecommerce store because you have concerns about the fulfillment process. keep in mind that Cin7 can provide top-notch services to help oversee and manage your fulfillment, and that it can make the whole process stress-free. Talk to our experts today and book a demo. You’ll be glad you did.
ModaConcrete | TerraFlame
A lot of new businesses have only one of two ambitions: either a nice solid start, or to set the world on fire. Lenny Vainberg wanted both — and not only is he pulling it off, he’s sharing his experience and formula for success.
Lenny is CEO of ModaConcrete™ | TerraFlame, a brand he acquired from a private equity firm a few years ago.
“We bought a brand, and essentially built a factory and set up a supply chain in Baja, Mexico to produce our products,” Lenny explains. “We adapted a factory that was set up to produce architectural precast and tooled up production to manufacture the most popular TerraFlame products. Later, we reintroduced the precast production as an online business supplying architectural precast to the trade. We now have two brands: ModaConcrete and TerraFlame coming out of the same factory, serving two divergent but complimentary markets.”
“TerraFlame,” Lenny says, “is the leader in clean-burning gel fuels, and fuel burning appliances. Our Pure Gel Fuel is the ‘razor blade’ which is available in select retail stores, online retail and through our subscription plan. You basically pop our fire fuel can into our fire bowl or fireplace and enjoy. Each TerraFlame fuel can generate 3 hours of warm, ambient , golden flame for about three hours and costs about $6. And they are food safe, which makes them perfect for Smores.”
ModaConcrete™, on the other hand, sells architectural precast concrete products that are designed to create fashionable and beautiful hardscape environments, sold and fulfilled factory direct to trade and design / build channels.
The TerraFlame brand designs and markets clever consumer products, while ModaConcrete overlaps from home owner to the trade. Both brands produce great products, but the real innovation is in what Lenny has done to grow the company by a truly astonishing margin in the two short years.
“The key is to build a capable and scalable systems foundation as early as possible”, he says, “a functional ERP for supply chain, manufacturing and inventory management.” Tying it all together is Cin7.
Cracking the cool consumables market without going up in smoke
When Lenny bought the company, it had a couple of “really cool” products that were getting good traction in retail. But, beneath the surface, big cracks had formed.
The products might have been good, but revenue was nowhere near the level they’d expected it to be. It was difficult to fully understand the true product and operating costs with little visibility between manufacturing and fulfillment. Compounding the problem was that the operations were in a very raw state. Before Cin7, the company didn’t really have any inventory management — not even the basics.
“There were no systems,” Lenny says. “It was napkins and spreadsheets and nobody knew what was going on operationally. They were looking at things without understanding the true cost of goods, because they really had no way of doing that. And filling more orders, means throwing man hours towards more manual entry. None of it was scalable.”
ModaConcrete and TerraFlame needed to find a hard fix — fast. And from previous experience, Lenny knew exactly what they needed. The only problem was that the kinds of ERP systems he’d worked with prior required significant time and capital resources, a huge investment for a company at this early stage.
“We needed to find some kind of effective ERP system that we could use to not only manage our inventory and manufacturing, but also integrate our EDI and forecasting,” Lenny says.
They considered a few other options — Lenny’s previous company had run a substantial NetSuite instance, with its own internal development group. But being new and running on a relative shoestring, the company didn’t have the time or budget to support that kind of deployment. Eventually, his search led him to Cin7.
“When we found Cin7, and started seeing the capabilities and features, we were very surprised and impressed with the functionality and the breadth of what the system could do.”
Today, ModaConcrete and TerraFlame are using Cin7 from the beginning to the end of the product journey — and it all starts with manufacturing.
ModaConcrete has a solid foundation in Cin7
About 60 percent of ModaConcrete and TerraFlame’s business is products that they manufacture in-house, so visibility is critical. And before Cin7, “it was Quickbooks and spreadsheets,” Lenny says. “People would eyeball everything from mix design to sell through and that was it. There was no inventory control, no BOM management or production management, no raw material tracking, nothing”
To manage the manufacturing, ModaConcrete and TerraFlame are using the Bill of Materials (BOM) functionality of Cin7.
“We’ll design a new product, test it, create 3D models of it, develop the mold set, then it’s on to filling, casting and finishing the parts,” Lenny says. “We have several product types and about a dozen different concrete mix designs, depending what the products are for — and we set up those mix designs as BOMs in our system.”
Essentially, every raw material that goes into making a new product is measured and tracked in Cin7 via the Bill of Materials. When the raw materials are combined into a product, that too is tracked in Cin7, where the new product can be added to inventory even as the materials used to make it are subtracted. This simplified manufacturing process management is standard in the Cin7 software.
ModaConcrete is also making use of Cin7’s Made to Order functionality. One of their bigger sales channels is B2B sales direct to trade stores, construction companies, and job sites. Customers can visit ModaConcrete.com and select from a range of products, sizes, shapes, and colors.
This order information goes into Cin7, which tells the manufacturing operation exactly what to produce. Behind the scenes, ModaConcrete has ‘blanks’ ready to be modified into the exact items the customer wants, and once items are finished and shipped, the customer gets notified that their order is on the way. No matter whether a customer is big or small, Made to Order means they get exactly what they’re after, every time.
“Understanding Cin7 Made to Order has enabled us to build up preliminary stock to convert into finished goods a lot faster than trying to make them from scratch every time,” Lenny says.
For a manufacturer, operating with this level of inventory control has huge advantages. Material costs can be carefully managed, and forecasting requirements gets vastly easier. Operations know where everything is, how fast it’s being used up, and when products will be ready to be sold. Manual inventory tracking tasks are reduced, and relieved of operational overhead, staff can get on with the job of actually making and shipping products.
For ModaConcrete and TerraFlame, this was an increase in visibility by many orders of magnitude. Now, they have a clear understanding of costs from manufacturing to finished goods to shipping. “Now you can see what your true cost is, and based on that, you can make intelligent decisions on what you’re going to do,” Lenny says.
Native EDI unlocks the freedom to scale
The other big item on Lenny’s agenda was EDI. First created in the 1960s, Electronic Data Interchange is a technology that allows the automated, computer-to-computer exchange of business information. It might be old, but it’s still one of the most-spoken languages of business — and if a company can’t speak it, it’s missing out.
Cin7 is one of very few inventory management systems with native EDI integration capability, and it’s the secret weapon that’s allowed ModaConcrete and TerraFlame to grow as rapidly as they have, with their wares now available in all the biggest US retail outlets, including Target, Costco, Williams Sonoma, Amazon and more. It’s been a huge leap for the company, compared to how things were done before.
“When we bought the company, we were barely doing 300 orders a week over multiple platforms, and as you can imagine, everything was manual,” Lenny says. “Every order required at least four manual touches. Staff had to download the order from each partner portal, enter it into Quickbooks, enter it into the warehouse ship requests, manually create the label, and then enter shipment tracking back into the portal, to close out the order process. The previous thinking was that scale required more people to work faster and harder to keep up with the paper pushing.”
But all that was about to change. Once the company implemented Cin7, integrated ShipStation, and set up barcode scanning and labeling at the factory, things got much more efficient. They had a better system, instead of trying to make a broken system work harder. And after activating Cin7’s EDI capability, things went to another level again.
‘I’d say that we multiplied our throughput by seven times. Specifically the same small team that struggled to supply 300 orders per week, can comfortably handle up to 2000 orders per week today,” Lenny says, casually. “And now we’ve got that EDI rolling, we won’t bring on a customer unless they’re EDI capable and integrated with our system. We rarely accept non-EDI integrations or orders.”
It’s a bold step, but it’s one that puts them head and shoulders above similarly-sized product companies — and on the same playing field as the biggest companies in the United States.
“There’s not a lot of companies with less than $10 million in revenue requiring EDI compliance with their trading partners in order to drop ship for them, just because most of them don’t have those capabilities,” Lenny says. “But it’s these capabilities that are most important, because they give us the ability to scale. I think that’s the most important thing that came from Cin7.”
Right now, ModaConcrete and TerraFlame are managing 16 EDI connections, end to end, in Cin7. They’re managing Costco, Wayfair, Lowes, Home Depot, all the major Internet retailers, as well as some brick and mortar retailers. They’re also managing inventory in four different locations, across two different product lines, and two direct to consumer websites, as well as a third party Amazon presence. It’s all being done with Cin7.
“It gives us the ability to operate on the level of a much bigger, more capable company, despite being a small operation,” Lenny says. “We have a 10 person team in-house in Southern California where we do sales, marketing, and web strategy. And we have 60 people at our factory in Tecate. Cin7 enables that 10 person team to look and operate as a much more sophisticated company, when it comes to our trading partners.”
We’ve got control over the business. We can see what’s going on. We can order a lot more effectively. With Cin7, we have our inventory under control, and we know where things are
Lenny Vainberg, CEO, ModaConcrete & TerraFlame
With Cin7, ModaConcrete and TerraFlame’s future is bright
Pare back the varied and complex ways in which Cin7 is being put to use at ModaConcrete and TerraFlame and the reason for its success becomes clear: implementing Cin7 gave them the ability to see exactly what was happening in the business. It’s simple, but powerful.
“We further integrated Cin7 to Power BI to gain visibility into our business and trends, which allowed us to adapt to real time conditions and make notable adjustments to our operating strategy: from pricing to demand planning,” Lenny says.
“We’ve got control over the business. We can see what’s going on. We can order a lot more effectively. With Cin7, we have our inventory under control, and we know where things are.”
Now that the business is starting to function smoothly on Cin7, Lenny says they haven’t looked back. In fact, they’re looking to the future. What was meant to be an interim solution before stepping up to something bigger has become much more: the engine that’s powering their extraordinary growth.
“Originally, we thought it’d be an interim step, but now we look at it as a long-term solution for the company,” Lenny says. “Cin7 has enabled us to grow the business. When we pared it down, I’d say our real starting point was $500,000 in revenue when we started in ‘19. We are on a path to cross $10M this year, and look forward to new ways to expand reach and production in our model.
Lenny says he’d recommend Cin7 to any businesses looking to follow a similar trajectory. With its inventory management capability, combined with EDI support and simple integration to other best-of-breed software solutions, Cin7 doesn’t just equal legacy ERP solutions — it outclasses them.
“Cin7 gives you entry level NetSuite or SAP-level functionality, but with a much lower barrier to entry and a much more cost effective price point — and very powerful capabilities in the long run,” Lenny says. “And, because you are interacting with your accounting system as part of a hybrid solution suite, you are able to bring up your ERP without pulling everything down and starting from scratch.”
“I’m a big fan of Cin7, definitely.”