Supply chain as a service (SCaaS) – the ultimate guide

To quote writer and editor Stewart Brand: “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” Wise words in this day and age when more and more aspects of manufacturing and ecommerce are being automated, computerized, and digitized.

In supply chain management, an important technological development for retailers has been the creation of supply chain as a service, or SCaaS. We’re going to unpack this concept, explaining what SCaaS is, how it works, and how it impacts businesses for the better.

 

Supply chain as a service (SCaaS) explained

An SCaaS company is basically a company that specializes in providing cloud-based, supply-chain-related software and, increasingly, other order fulfillment services. It means that instead of a manufacturing or ecommerce entity taking out subscriptions to the cloud-based software they need themselves, they’re able to access them through an SCaaS company, which they hire for that purpose. These third parties can take care of anything from inventory management and warehousing to reverse logistics, or returns. In fact, with the right SCaaS company, you’ll be able to track your entire order fulfillment process. In other words, you’ll have supply chain transparency.

SCaaS companies are great for small retailers and manufacturers, especially those that are starting out, because they save these businesses from having to pay for the software they need themselves. For more established outfits, SCaaS will become an increasingly important resource as business practices become more complex. This is especially so because SCaaS companies can also offer valuable information and advice; they can be a partner.

 

A myriad other ways an SCaaS company can be a good resource

As a manufacturer or ecommerce business owner, you can outsource your entire supply chain management or any part of it to an SCaaS provider. Almost as a bonus, these third-party providers can be useful in other, related ways. Here are a few examples:

1. Finding and getting the raw materials you need

SCaaS companies can help you get what you need at the right price because they have information about suppliers. They also know about shipping companies and shipping regulations, an expertise you can tap into to ensure getting what you need in good time.

2. Facilitating coordination between retailers and their manufacturers

To make sure retailers get their stock from the manufacturers in the right quantities and at the right time, it’s important for them to be on top of the producers’ production processes, lead times, inventory levels, and quality inspections. SCaaS companies can take care of this. They have the technology and industry expertise to provide real-time updates on the manufacturing process and lead times, ensuring that retailers are in the know at all times.

3. Warehousing

Some SCaaS providers offer warehousing. They have the technology to streamline operations from receiving and slotting to picking and packing. Add this to their inventory management capabilities and you have a more efficient and resilient supply chain altogether.

4. Shipping

In addition to being able to suggest shipping companies, an SCaaS company can work out the best logistics for you when you need to move inventory from one location to another. It can identify the kind and size of transportation you’ll need — truck, rail, or cargo ship — and the capacity of each needed. Plus, the company can work out the best routes that should be taken.

Possible challenges to implementing an SCaaS model

  • Your SCaaS’s technology might not be shared by all your partners

As good as the technology and infrastructure SCaaS companies offer is, if your internal teams and trading partners aren’t up to speed, they won’t be able to communicate with your third-party providers. You have to make sure your stakeholders’ technology can interface with the kind your SCaaS uses.

  • Not knowing how and when to use SCaaS

In the complex world that is today’s marketplace, a company has to work out what part of their supply chain it can handle itself and which sections are best outsourced to an SCaaS. Retailers and manufacturers must also be flexible enough to adapt this model as the need arises, either taking on more themselves or outsourcing more.

  • Finding a good logistics partner

This can be difficult. First you have to find a third-party provider that has the top-notch infrastructure and digital programs you need, along with the right background and expertise in your area to be a good partner. When you’ve got that down, you can figure out which areas of your business to outsource.

Benefits of using SCaaS

SCaaS can redefine supply chain management in the following ways:

  1. Agility: Access information and analytics from any Internet-enabled device and make data-driven decisions quickly.
  2. Seamless communication: Easily share information and stay connected with stakeholders through every stage of the supply chain.
  3. Scalability: Add or reduce the logistics services that are outsourced according to customer demands.
  4. Transparency: Have more control over the supply chain because information is updated consistently and available in real time.
  5. Sustainability: There’s no need for you to invest in a complex IT infrastructure.

 

In conclusion

SCaaS is a revolutionary model that’s the next iteration for supply chain management, and our Cin7 Omni system can help you determine the best ways to leverage it for your business.

How can it do this? Well, our Cin7 Omni’s inventory and order management cloud-based software seamlessly integrates with various 3PL companies, connecting your online and offline stores, warehouses, and distribution centers in one platform. Through this connection with 3PL companies, you’re able to analyze them and understand which company and services are right for you.

To find out more, click here to schedule a demo with one of our experts today.

What role does EDI play in logistics and supply chains?

Logistics was coined by the military to describe the complicated organization involved in moving troops and equipment from one place to another. Similarly within the supply chain, logistics is about getting everything from goods to equipment to people from one place to the other. Logistics is no easy matter. Things have to be in place when they’re needed, and they have to be there in the right quantity.

Vast in scope, both the supply chain and the logistics within it involve all the departments of a company and outside entities. This includes manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. A great deal of information has to be passed back and forth between all of these entities. Basically instructions, this information is about the goods and raw materials needed, the quantity they’re needed in, where they’re needed, and instructions about transportation. These instructions take the form of purchase orders (POs), invoices, shipping notifications, insurance documents, licenses, and more. For large-scale logistics operations, transmitting these documents between companies is best handled electronically, through a digital system called Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

 

What is EDI, and how does it work?

EDI enables businesses to send digitized documentation directly from the computer of one company to the computer of another company. In order to be able to do this, and to do it instantly, EDI software converts these digital documents into a standardized format that allows them to be first transmitted, and then read, by the computer system of the receiving company.

There are three stages to EDI:

  • Preparing documents, making them EDI ready.
  • Converting the EDI-ready documents into EDI documents.
  • Transmitting the converted documents to the receiving company.

Preparing in-house documents

The POs, invoices, and shipping instructions are either digitized or collected from their digital storage and converted to an electronic file that has the information needed for EDI. This makes them EDI ready.

Converting the EDI-ready documents

This is done with an EDI translator, software that puts the documents’ data into globally-recognized EDI formats. While there are quite a number of these formats, there are four that are used the most: X12, EDIFACT, TRADACOMS, and ebXML.

Transmitting the EDI documents

For this to happen, EDI messaging protocols are used. Examples of these are AS2, OFTP, and SOAP. For the EDI system to work, both sender and receiver have to be using the same protocol.

 

The role EDI plays in logistics and the supply chain

  • It saves time.

EDI software gets documentation to the relevant companies and departments within companies quickly, keeping them on the same page and the wheels of the supply chain running efficiently. This speedy communication makes it easier to forecast needs and results in better business decisions being made.

  • It makes the supply chain process more efficient.

With EDI, suppliers, distributors, shippers, and every other entity that’s part of the supply chain can communicate with each other in real time. This cuts out chances of delays happening in receiving, dispatching, warehousing, or transportation.

  • It makes it easier to monitor and track goods.

Because EDI uses a uniform format, it’s easy for relevant parties to search for information, and it’s easy to track and keep on top of purchases, orders, and bills of any kind. As a result of this, you can reduce errors in purchasing and shipping.

  • It streamlines logistics and the supply chain.

EDI is able to retrieve data from internal computer systems instantly and send it out securely. When you automate POs, invoices and the like with EDI, it speeds everything up and reduces errors, streamlining your supply chain.

EDI software integrates seamlessly with in-house systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), accounting software, your Warehouse Management System (WMS), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

 

How Cin7’s EDI helps supply chain management and logistics

Cin7’s EDI capabilities are robust, and the system has a large EDI network. A one-stop-shop, Cin7’s system will get you:

1. Automated workflow

Cin7 EDI automates order processing and shipping by:

  • Setting triggers for automation and reducing manual data entry.
  • Using an advanced messaging system that streamlines integrations with your trading partners and 3PL warehouses.

2. A one-stop-shop automated system

Cin7’s inventory management software has it all, inventory management, order management, and EDI. When businesses set up their EDI with Cin7, they can:

  • Seamlessly manage orders and scale up your business.
  • Reduce shipping costs and save time by optimizing cartons. Print Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) and generate Advanced Shipping Notifications (ASNs).
  • Keep their product catalogs up to date and track orders in real-time with a centralized and intuitive EDI dashboard. You’ll have absolute inventory control, and your order fulfillment will be at its optimum level.

3. Multiple fulfillment models

Cin7 EDI supports ship-to-store and 3PL.

  • Integrate with product distributors, 3PL providers, and commerce channels.
  • Fulfill orders effortlessly with an intuitive EDI dashboard.
  • Fulfill several orders simultaneously with a cartonization feature that picks the right box for items.

4. Prebuilt-in EDI mapping and protocols

  • Map order workflow between yourself and trading partners around the world.
  • Send EDI documents with these protocols: X12 American National Standards and EDIFACT- European Standards.

 

Summing up

We’ve shown how EDI facilitates both the supply chain and the logistics that move it along by producing and transmitting documentation quickly. EDI eliminates mistakes that can be made when people input data and ensures that different players in the supply chain are kept in sync by getting the same information, at the same time.

To learn more about Cin7 EDI, book a demo.

The strategic importance of order processing in supply chain management

For an online sales business or a manufacturing company, it’s all about the supply chain. It covers everything from the procurement of items for sale, or raw materials for the production process, to delivery of the items or products. Controlling the supply chain and keeping oversight on it is, as would be expected, supply chain management (SCM). Order processing is the central pillar of SCM; in a way, it’s the heart of the whole fulfillment process.

In this blog, we’re going to take a close look at how order processing works, and explore its importance to supply chain management.

 

What is order processing?

Order processing goes into effect the minute customers select and pay for goods online and continues until those goods are received. Broad in scope, it follows defined steps to get to that end point.

Here’s how the process breaks down:

Step 1: Orders are received

As soon as customers have filled their online carts and paid for their goods, their orders are transmitted to the warehouse or fulfillment center. Here they’re broken down into their component parts, which means product, quantity, size/color (if relevant), etc.

If the sales or fulfillment company is large enough, these order details are processed by an automated inventory management system (IMS). This sophisticated software will know if customers’ goods are in stock, and if so where they are. In essence, the system is able to determine the best warehouse to route the order to; and if some items aren’t available right away, it will give instructions to send them as, and when, they are. In addition, if a customer has put in more than one order, the IMS can consolidate them into one package.

Step 2: Items are picked

Picking describes the actual job of collecting items for an order from their storage spaces. Pickers do the job. Warehouses can be large—some are gargantuan—so getting organization into this process can be complicated. Picking can either be done on an individual-order basis, by warehouse zone, or in bulk – which means picking for several orders at the same time.

Irrespective of the method used, the whole process starts with a picking list that itemizes everything according to its storage location and sets out a route round the warehouse for the pickers to take. The aim, of course, is to cut down the picking time.

Step 3: Orders are sorted out

After picking, items are taken to a sorting area. If they were picked in bulk or by warehouse zone, this is the area where they’ll be sorted into their individual orders. This is also the time when items are checked against the original orders to make sure everything is there, is in good order, and of high quality.

Step 4: Order are packed up

Making sure the appropriate packaging is used is trickier than might be thought. The box itself should be the right size for the items and strong enough to hold them during shipping, and the padding inside should be enough to protect the contents, but light enough to keep transportation costs down. Sometimes this padding has to be specialized. If food is being packed, for instance, it might have to be kept cool with gel packs or dry ice.

After being packed up, shipping labels are attached.

Step 5: Orders are shipped

We’re now near the end of order processing. After boxing and labeling, shipments are organized by geographical location and assigned to their respective delivery trucks. Size and weight might also be a consideration when selecting transport: extra heavy items, or those that need refrigeration, will need specialized trucks. At this stage, the type of delivery a customer paid for also has to be taken into consideration. Expedited delivery, for example, will be given priority. The point is that it’s important to deliver an item at the time the customer expects it.

Step 6: Orders are delivered

Order delivery is the last step of the order processing system. The customer can choose a particular time to have their order delivered, or they can leave special instructions, like having the package be left with a neighbor. If a customer has opted for Cash on Delivery (COD), the delivery drive will be the one who collects the payment.

 

The importance of order processing in supply chain management

Order processing is the core, the beating heart at the center of the supply chain system that everything else more or less has to service. In essence, for any sales, fulfillment, or manufacturing entity, processing orders – getting them together and getting them to the right customer in time – is what they’re about. It’s true that without proper management in any area of the supply chain businesses won’t perform at their best, but when it comes to order processing, its efficiency, speed, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness are actually the determining factors of success and, ultimately, profit.

Whatever way you look at it, though, supply chain management is a complex operation. That’s why it’s a good idea to automate it.

The upsides of automation are:

  • maximized profits,
  • minimized costs,
  • improved customer satisfaction,
  • increased market share,
  • reduced workload for employees, and
  • an overall boost to the company’s brand and reputation.

 

Final thoughts on order processing and its importance to the system as a whole

Having looked closely at the complete supply chain, we can see that everything centers on the order processing part. Putting orders together and getting them to customers is, in effect, the commercial activity that reasons for the company’s existence.

Automating all or some of the areas of supply chain management with an inventory management system can be of great benefit to a company, both logistically and financially. Cin7 is one of the best.

To learn more about how Cin7 can help your business, you can book a demo from one of our experts by clicking here.

What does “awaiting delivery scan” and other USPS notifications mean?

Globally, the number of parcels shipped has increased dramatically in the past decade. In 2020, there were more than 131 billion shipped parcels, and by 2026 that number is expected to rise to 236 billion. This volume is forcing sellers and shippers to improve their services, and that includes the ability to track packages.

Tracking has become very important to online shoppers. Their eagerness to get their purchases has them checking the delivery status almost from the minute they click the “buy” button. There’s this need to see where the packages are in the system at all times, up until they’re delivered to the door.

Sometimes, though, tracking comes up with a message that indicates a glitch, though there’s no explanation what that is. One such message is the “USPS awaiting delivery scan.” In this blog, we’re going to explain this term and several other notifications of the tracking system.

 

What exactly does the “USPS awaiting delivery scan” mean?

It could mean two things:

The package may not have been scanned at the last checkpoint when it was loaded onto the mail truck. The item will be in the truck and will probably be delivered on time, but without being scanned before loading it up, the tracking page will still show the delivery scan holdup.

Another possibility is that the package wasn’t scanned by the mail carrier when it was dropped off at the buyer’s house; or if they did the scan, it didn’t register in the system for some technical reason. Either way, the package will have been delivered.

 

Other notifications on the USPS online tracking system

These are the most common ones:

1. Package acceptance pending

Getting this notice is an indication that the post office has received the package, but that it’s waiting to be put into the system. What’s happened is that a seller has taken a large number of packages to the post office at the same time, and while they’ve put a separate shipping label on each individual piece, they’ve presented the postal worker with a single itemized sheet. It’s a way to speed things up at the post office. It’s that single sheet that gets scanned. The post office knows it has all the packages, but it hasn’t yet scanned them individually. When the packages are individually scanned, the online notification will change from “acceptance pending” to “accepted.”

2. USPS awaiting item

As this term indicates, it means the postal service hasn’t received the package, or hasn’t actually put it in their system yet. The postal service “knows” it’s going to be getting it because of a tracking number on the shipping label. This tracking number shows up in the USPS system the minute the seller generates the shipping label. So, until the seller drops the package off at the post office, “awaiting item” means just that.

3. In transit

When this is the message, the package is going through the postal service system and is safely on its way.

4. Out for delivery

This is the good one. It means that the package is on the mail truck and is scheduled to be dropped off. Most likely, that will be at the regular time the mail is delivered.

5. Status not available

A message like this on the tracking page could indicate that USPS is having some technical problem, or it may just mean that the system is not updating. On the other hand, it could be a sign that the package has been lost or damaged.

 

What to do when your customers receive the awaiting delivery scan notice?

Having a notice like this on the tracking page won’t show the seller in a good light. In a way, it looks like the seller is sloppy and doesn’t care much about getting the package delivered on time. That’s negative PR that could make a customer lose confidence.Fortunately, there are ways for the seller to overcome the delivery hitch and come out looking good.

Good communication is a good start. Personal emails that keep customers abreast of the shipping situation are not only reassuring, they tell customers that you care.

Another way is by having a top-notch inventory and order management software, one that helps you get your products out and delivered quickly and efficiently. Being able to stay on top of logistics through a system like this is really important for good customer relations

If you’re in the market for a good order management system, you might want to take a look at Cin7. Cloud-based, it will streamline your entire fulfillment process and leave your customers feeling like they’ve been treated well. Part of that comes from our third-party logistics feature, which puts you in touch with these service providers when you’re looking for a faster way to deliver your goods.

Call one of our experts today, and book a demo.

A quick and easy guide to good retail management

When shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for in a store, they leave happy. And when they leave happy, the store management is happy because the chances are those customers will come back again, or better yet, give a good recommendation to one of their friends.

It takes a lot of work and planning to get to this point, of course. The store has to have the right look and be open and inviting, and merchandise has to be displayed appealingly. The inventory also has to be managed well. This means having enough of an item in stock to be able to replace it quickly in the store when it’s sold – because it looks better if everything is well-stocked – and having enough of it in storage to be able to do this. This means ordering more, knowing when to do this, and doing it early enough to cover lead times – the length of time it’ll take a supplier to turn purchase orders around. The umbrella term for all these activities is retail management. In this blog, we’re going to break down the areas that make up retail management and look at them in detail.

Understanding the importance of retail management

The word retailer comes from the Old French retaillour or retailleor, and it translates as someone who sells items in small quantities. This interpretation pretty much stands today: store owners stock goods in limited amounts, and their customers usually buy items in ones and twos.

You may be wondering why we’re going into etymology. Well, it’s to give an understanding of the scope of the businesses we’re talking about. And when you get your mind around that, we can delve into the challenges and decisions that are specific to retail stores.

The central challenge of a retailer is to give their customers a good experience, to let them know they’re welcome, understood, and appreciated. It’s how you get them to come back. This experience runs from creating a look that reflects the interests of the shoppers to streamlining the checkout. For instance, a book store will have subtle color tones, be crammed with books, have quiet areas to check out reading material, and could be playing easy-listening classical music in the background. A shop selling clothing to young people, on the other hand, mayl use bright colors to decorate their interior, should have the right mood lighting, and may be playing Top-Ten music hits very loudly.

Differences aside, there are aspects that all retail establishments have in common. First among these is internal organization. When a customer walks into a store, they should very quickly be able to work out where everything is. In our bookstore example, the works will be categorized by genre, each one having its own section; and within that each book will be placed on a shelf alphabetically. In the clothing store, it’s garment type – jeans will be on one rack, coats on another – and to make everything even easier to find, each rack will have its clothing grouped by size.

The second thing all stores have in common is salespeople. There’s an art in choosing the right sales people, but more on that later.

The third characteristic shared by retail is the checkout. paying. Nowadays, there are several options for this: cash, card, or online via an app on a cell. It should be a smooth, simple process.

Taken together, all these facets add up to what’s called retail management, and when it’s done well, it’s good retail management.

The process of retail management

If you own or manage a retail store, you’re responsible for everything that goes into the running of it, from getting the right inventory to giving customers a good experience to handling employees. We’re going to break your job description down into its component areas and take a close look at each one.

#1 Planning

Like any endeavor, the first step in any retail enterprise is to plan it out. This covers everything from interior design and layout to choosing what goods to get from suppliers.

We’ve already covered design, so let’s get down to layout. As described in our examples, depending on the kind of items you’re selling, a potential customer has to feel comfortable in your space. If you’re selling tech, that means spacing out your devices and lighting them brightly to invite those entering your store to “play” with each one; if you have a thrift shop, you’ll want your items to be thrown together in batches to appeal to your customers’ bargain-hunting instincts. It’s all part of driving foot traffic to your establishment.

Irrespective of the kind of items you’re selling, you have to give careful consideration to where you place your checkout. You’ll want your shoppers to be able to see it easily, but you won’t want it to block the free flow of customers. For these reasons, it’s probably not a good idea to place it near the entrance. Similarly, if you run a clothing store, you shouldn’t put it near the changing rooms – that would not only block access, it could look like a brazen grab for a sale and put customers off.

Keeping the interior of the store clean and tidy is also important. It’s part of making your walk-ins feel they’re welcome.

Another major consideration when working out layout is shoplifting. Arranging items so that your employees can see as many of the areas as possible is a good way of preventing this. If shoplifting becomes a serious problem, however, surveillance cameras should be installed.

#2  Choosing suppliers

When you’ve worked out your layout, you need to get your products in. You’ll probably know what kind of store you’re opening when you sign a lease for the space, so buying comes down to finding suppliers and setting up accounts with them. Then it’s a matter of working out your markups, guesstimating returns, and researching your competition. Purchasing inventory is such a crucial part of store management.

When you’re looking around for suppliers, you should be checking out the following:

  • Their selling price – best to go with someone who offers the lowest price,
  • Whether they can deliver to your store,
  • Length of time it will take them to deliver items to you – their lead time – this has to be taken into account when reordering,
  • Their after-sales service,
  • Their return policy,
  • Terms of their invoices – specifically length of time they give you to pay, and
  • How much credit they’ll give you.

It’s a good idea to find several suppliers to work with. This way, if one doesn’t have what you want or can’t deliver, you have a fallback.

Then it’s a matter of working out your markups, guesstimating returns, and researching your competition.

#3 Receiving, storing, and displaying

First thing when a shipment comes in from a supplier is to check the goods against your purchase order and their invoice to make sure you’ve received everything you’re being charged for, and you should inspect each item for quality. If anything is damaged or incorrect, you send it back.

Next comes storage. If you have a small shop, this could be a back room; but if your business is larger, say something like a box store, you’re going to need a bigger space, a much bigger space, something that’s more like a warehouse.

When it comes to displaying items in your store, several matters should be taken into account. Things that are more likely to catch a customer’s eye should be right up front, near the entrance.If some of the things you sell are heavy, they should be on shelves that are near the floor, not on high levels; items that are similar should be grouped together; and small items that could be last-minute purchases, like socks or small packets of candy, should be next to the checkout.

The placement of any discounts you’re running is also important when trying to encourage sales.  These should always be clearly labeled, preferable on their area of the shelving as well as individually on the product. Essentially, you’re building goodwill with your customers, and if an item they pick up—thinking it’s discounted—turns out not to be, they’re going to be upset. For some types of things, like clothing, however, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated area for all discounted items.

Of course, as a retailer selling in ones and twos, you’re probably going to be stocking a lot of different items in different colors and sizes. This makes keeping track of everything  a challenge. Technology can come to the rescue here, technology like Cin7’s inventory management software. Cin7 tracks inventory in real-time, letting you know exactly what you have and how much of it you hold. It can also automate your purchase orders, registering when your stock is low enough to warrant reorder and taking care of it. 

#4 Hiring and managing employees

This is important because a salesperson can make or break your retail business. Number one when checking out prospective hires is that they should like people. They have to have bright personalities and show a degree of patience. In short, they should enjoy interacting with customers, be happy to help them find what they want and be willing and able to answer any questions. Plus, they should be able to calmly listen to complaints and be willing to resolve issues. It also helps if they have knowledge of your business category. Thus, if you have a hardware store, you’ll want salespeople who know a lot about home improvement; if you have a beauty store, you’ll want salespeople who love and are up-to-date on things like make-up trends.

Your sales staff should also be adept at using your checkout, otherwise known as your point of sale system. Depending on the size of your store, you may have an employee dedicated to taking customer payments, so it’s important they be well-versed in whatever system you use.

And for you as a retail manager, once you’ve selected the right people to work for you, it’s your responsibility to keep a subtle eye on them to make sure they’re not taking advantage, and to resolve conflicts and grievances they may have. If your staff is content in the workplace, it’s reflected in the way your business performs.

#5 Service and sales

As indicated in the section directly above, your sales staff should be able to give your customers a gentle nudge when they’re undecided about whether to buy or not. That, essentially, is what a good sales person is defined by.

To make your customer experience complete, a smooth checkout is the cherry on the cake. While a point of sale (POS) can be defined as an old-time cash register, today much more sophisticated, online-based systems are the norm. In addition to adding up the cost of items, if several are purchased, these modern-day systems can scan barcodes and process different payment types, from cash to credit cards and cell-phone apps. They can also store your customer’s information – useful if there are returns or you want to send them marketing materials – and keep track of your inventory.

Cin7’s POS can do all this and more.

 

Optimize your retail operations with Cin7

To sum up, when a retail store is run well, customers have a good experience and walk out happy with the item they want, and your staff are content and put in that extra effort for you.

Then there’s control of your inventory, getting the right stock in and ensuring you have enough of it at all times to satisfy demand. That’s where Cin7 can be helpful. Cin7’s cloud-based software gives you a bird’s eye view of all your inventory, and can produce data to keep you on top of what items are selling best. Cin7 can also create loyalty programs and, as discussed, streamline your checkout.

If you want to learn more about Cin7 and how it can bring improvements to your retail business,  call one of our experts today and book a demo.

PO systems for small business: Why your business needs one

If you are like most small businesses and startups, you work as a small team and collaborate with a few trusted suppliers. Even though you may know your suppliers well, you should still establish a system of using purchase orders (PO) for purchasing items. A PO is a formal document that can be referred to in cases of payment disputes or quality problems.

Once you are using POs regularly, the next step is to invest in an order management software that allows you to manage POs and other aspects of fulfillment such as tracking orders and expenses, resupplying stock and updating inventory. Read on to learn more about POs and Cin7’s automated order management system.

 

What is a purchase order (PO)?

A purchase order (PO) is a formal document issued by the buyer and sent to the seller listing all the required goods/services in desired quantities. The seller verifies the PO, delivers the goods to the buyer, and sends an invoice for the completed order. Thus, a PO acts as a legally binding document for buyers and sellers, as both parties can track the ordered items.

Ideally, a PO lists all the required items, their types, quantity, and prices in detail. This is important in case there are problems with the order. For example, if you order 15 printers and the vendor has only sent 14, you will have the PO for validating your order. On the flip side, POs are quite essential for sellers too, as POs will act as proof for the order placed by the buyer. For instance, if a buyer argues about the order quantity, the seller can always hand over the PO to the buyer. It’s a win-win for both parties.

 

What is a PO number?

A PO number is a unique number assigned to every PO. A PO number can help both buyers and sellers track the goods or transactions. In fact, it acts as a quick reference code for businesses to verify orders.

For instance, if a customer has a query and contacts your office, anyone from your accounts department can check their order just by entering the PO number. Businesses often use the PO number to validate the invoice against the purchase order for any mismatch.

 

What is a PO system & how does it work?

A PO system helps businesses create POs effortlessly and digitally.. All you need is to fill up your goods requirements in the desired amount and enter the supplier details. The system generates the PO with a unique PO number and sends it to the supplier instantly.

The PO system streamlines the entire order management process, including purchase requisition, supplier approval, receiving goods, getting invoices, and closing the payment. In short, a PO system is not only about purchase orders but also simplifies all the processes associated with order fulfillment. Furthermore, the PO system maintains the entire business transaction record that both parties can quickly refer to. Thus, businesses can track their orders, view order histories, keep their budget in control, and buy the right amount of stock.

A PO system is essential for any product-based business, regardless of size, as it manages inventory, purchases, orders, and invoices daily. Since the PO system aids transparency and accuracy in managing orders, you will have perfect inventory control, knowing what to stock and what to cut down on.

 

Why should small businesses invest in a PO system like Cin7?

Creating manual POs, maintaining spreadsheets, and following up with suppliers over the phone can be time-consuming and energy-draining. Cin7’s Order Management System offers significant benefits to your business.

1. Save time

Cin7’s OMS saves a lot of your time by simplifying purchasing processes and minimizing manual data entry. You can save the supplier details once and directly send your item list rather than manually entering the supplier details every time. You can readily refer to all the order details and transactions in the PO system. Plus, your employees need not spend time on calculations as the system does it accurately.

2. Gain better control over business processes

Cin7’s order management system is highly transparent, allowing you to view all the business activities in real-time. Hence, as a business owner, you can make data-driven business decisions. For instance, you can compare all the suppliers, their rates, quality, and sales movements. Thus, you can negotiate better deals with the suppliers while delighting your customers with beneficial products that add value to them.

3. Prevent overstocking and understocking of goods

Understocking goods can affect your reputation while overstocking items can dent your profits. With Cin7’s order management system, you can maintain optimal inventory levels at all times. You can automate the system to send POs to suppliers when inventory falls behind certain limits. Can replenishing goods get any easier? Thus, you can ensure you have the right amount of goods at the right places.

 

Summing up

Giving your employees a feature-packed tool like Cin7s order management system will allow them to work more efficiently as the software streamlines the entire backend process of managing orders. Additionally, Cin7 integrates with accounting software like Quickbooks and Xero, and you can import all your business data into it and keep track of your business’s finances. Thus, you can gain real-time insights into your business and intervene earlier to grow your business faster. Talk to Cin7 experts today to learn more about Cin7’s features and functionalities.

Cath Kidston

Cath Kidston is known for an extensive product line of nostalgic, hand-painted floral print fashion, bags, kids wear, and home furnishings. Founded by fashion designer Cath Kidston and headquartered in the British Isles style capital of London, the company began by selling its unique and distinctive prints in their first retail store in 1993.

The company grew from success to success, and by 2011, there were 41 physical Cath Kidston shops and franchisees, selling vintage and British-influenced fashion apparel and accessories. On top of their own branded outlets, they also sold wholesale to high-end retailers like John Lewis. In 2010, a majority stake in the company was sold to private equity investors, and the company grew even further. In 2014, there were 136 Cath Kidston retail outlets all over the world.

But the last few years have been challenging for Cath Kidston, as they have for so many businesses. By early 2020, facing several commercial challenges including the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cath Kidston closed 60 of their UK and Japanese retail locations. For most brick-and-mortar businesses, that would mean the end. But for Cath Kidston, it was a new beginning.

What made Cath Kidston’s story different? They credit their successful pivot to ecommerce – powered by Cin7 inventory management software.

Replacing an incumbent solution

Sébastien Poinçon is the Head of IT at Cath Kidston. His long list of responsibilities include evaluating third party software and maintaining the various app integrations that keep Cath Kidston’s retail business running. He oversees corporate and business systems, operations, support, network infrastructure, and store systems, and generously agreed to share with us the remarkable journey the company has been on.

After closing their physical locations, and letting the waters calm, Cath Kidston took stock, and made the decision to relaunch the brand – this time as a direct-to-consumer (D2C) ecommerce business whilst still maintaining its B2B franchise and wholesale operations.

“It was a massive shift for us, to operate on a smaller scale,” Sébastien says.

With this change in focus, Cath Kidston had to find an alternative to the complex and expensive enterprise resource planning software (ERP) they’d been using.

In addition to being costly and cumbersome, the ERP system lacked any technical documentation which made integration difficult. “It resulted in low user adoption across the organization,” Sébastien explains. “We needed a product that was more flexible and that was specifically built to support multichannel online sellers.”

He began searching for an inventory and order management solution that could help guarantee a successful transformation into a full-fledged ecommerce business – and they found it in Cin7.

Leveraging Cin7 to transform a business model

Cin7 was critical to Cath Kidston’s ability to rebound and transition into ecommerce, which today accounts for 85 percent of their sales.

After Sébastien and his team compared Cin7’s cloud-based feature set to competitor offerings, Cath Kidston implemented the software in April 2020. They chose Cin7’s powerful feature set to manage the company’s sales, inventory, and fulfillment, both for ecommerce, and in its remaining global brick-and-mortar locations. 

Cin7’s wide array of over 700 built-in integrations to other applications specific to retail and fulfillment were the secret ingredient in Cath Kidston’s remarkable transformation. “The ease with which Cin7 connects to the Salesforce Commerce Cloud platform is the most beneficial aspect of the software for us,” Sébastien says.

The move to Cin7 has also allowed the Cath Kidston team to do cross-channel stock reconciliations, making sure that the inventory count across retail, wholesale and online outlets stays consistent. Cin7 has also allowed them to connect to their main fulfillment warehouses in the UK and Hong Kong, for true end-to-end visibility.

What’s more, Cin7 has given the business something every product seller needs – a trustworthy source of inventory truth. With their previous ERP software, Cath Kidston could never be truly confident in the integrity of their inventory data.

“It was one of the major challenges we had with our previous vendor,” Sébastien explains. “But Cin7 has significantly improved our stock accuracy and has really helped us to consolidate our visibility into stock levels. Now that we have a handle on inventory management, we have seen improved process efficiencies.” 

The path to future growth

Cath Kidston’s future plans include expanding their online marketplace presence, and increasing their wholesale business to include a drop-ship model with UK retail powerhouse John Lewis. They plan to adopt additional Cin7 features such as built-in EDI connections to start selling to wholesale customers like Marks and Spencer.

Perhaps most exciting is Cath Kidston’s plans to begin opening new brick-and-mortar stores again, with Cin7’s proprietary point of sale (POS) module in use across all of their stores.

Cath Kidston’s smart approach has paid dividends. The market no longer sees them as a discount fashion retailer, and their mission to upgrade their products and offer more innovative selections has been well-received by customers. With increasing revenue, and Cin7 on their side, Cath Kidston’s future looks bright.

“Cin7 has really helped us,“ says Sébastien.

Don’t miss out on the extraordinary inventory visibility and increased efficiency that Cin7 brings — schedule a demo today with one of our experienced sales consultants.