Cloud Shipping Helps Users Tap the Full Potential of Cloud ERP
Sometimes a technology change sparks a major shift in how a specific type of application software is built; the cloud does that for shipping software. For the last decade, most shipping or transportation management software has worked much the same way: importing/exporting order data from ERP systems, calculating shipment cost withrate sheet data, capturing tracking numbers, and printing labels and paperwork. The offline/on-premise formula for shipping software worked fine in the past but in a world running on ubiquitous connectivity and managed cloud platforms, it’s no longer enough.
As the move to cloud ERP systems accelerates, businesses in shipping-intensive industries are looking to a new type of “cloud shipping” software built with a modern architecture and designed to help shippers realize the full potential of running their entire business on cloud-based systems. Like its ERP cousin, cloud shipping software shares many Software as a Service (SaaS) fundamentals such as on-demand availability, continuous deployment of new features, and faster implementation. However, the domain-specific challenges of shipping have inspired developers to create features such as carrier networks, broadcast quoting, and native ERP integration that deliver new and unique value from the latest cloud technology. Here is what to expect from the next generation of shipping software built for the cloud.
Fewer Errors with Connectivity Instead of Static Data
Old shipping software architectures have a hard time dealing with today’s complex maze of shipment pricing rules based on constantly-changing data and contract terms. If shipping software doesn’t have the latest fuel surcharges, contract terms, discounts, and other data updated regularly, shipment pricing errors occur and can go unnoticed for weeks or months at a time. Cloud shipping software eliminates these types of pricing errors by using real-time carrier connectivity instead of internally-stored data or pricing algorithms. For many busy shippers, this one new architecture improvement can save thousands of dollars per month by tightening the accuracy of every quote and shipment.
More Carrier Choice without Lock-In
On-premise shipping software locks users into whatever carriers are supported in the installed version. The most extreme example of lock-in is “free” carrier-provided software that supports the shipping services of only one provider. Cloud shipping software uses multi-carrier workflows and introduces a new “carrier network” concept, treating provider access as a plug-and-play resource that can be activated or deactivated at-will. As business needs change over time, the power to easily add or change carriers can help shippers win new customers, improve profitability, and even negotiate better rates with existing carriers.
More Complete and Sophisticated ERP Integration
Shipping software built before the Internet uses outdated, batch-oriented interfacing technologies such as flat-file transfers or ODBC, limiting older systems to support primarily shipping execution. Because cloud shipping software uses web services for real-time connectivity with ERP systems and carriers, more interactive, more native, and more seamless integration use cases can be supported. For example, cloud shipping software now supports fast, ERP-integrated freight quoting in sales orders, transfer orders, purchase orders, or on e-commerce websites. Another innovation manages time-consuming ERP update transactions as asynchronous tasks, shifting them to the background so users can move on to the next shipment.
“NetSuite Cloud ERP users process millions of freight quotes and shipments per year, using Pacejet Cloud Shipping to connect with LTL, Parcel, 3PL providers in real-time”
Easier Piloting of Innovative Shipping Services
Proving out new, innovative and potentially cost-saving shipping services can be difficult with the upfront costs and complexity of upgrading or modifying installed software applications. When shipping services are managed as a network of connections, as with cloud shipping software, it’s far easier to pilot new services before committing. For example, users could activate new services from a regional parcel carrier in a cloud solution without software upgrades, pilot the new services with a subset of customers, and commit to larger volumes only after service levels, cost, and reliability are proven.
Instant Scaling Across Sites, Busy Seasons, or Busy Hours
New cloud shipping software applications are better at scaling on multiple dimensions than the previous generation of software. Cloud solutions add sites and workstations with automated provisioning, instead of requiring new software installs on every shipping station across multiple sites. In contrast to the fixed hardware configurations used with most shipping software, cloud shipping applications run on sophisticated PaaS (Platform as a Service) infrastructures using new technologies like “auto scaling” to spin-up new computing resources during busy seasons or even during afternoon bursts of shipping activity.
Mini Case Study: Pacejet Cloud Shipping with NetSuite Cloud ERP
Pacejet Cloud Shipping for NetSuite is a good example of how next-generation shipping software supports a more complete, cloud-based enterprise system for shipping-intensive industries. NetSuite users process millions of freight quotes and shipments per year, using the Pacejet carrier network to reach LTL, Parcel, 3PL providers in real-time. NetSuite users turn new carriers on and off constantly via Pacejet, to pilot new services or try out a new carrier who offers better service or pricing. Some NetSuite “shipping users” are really sales reps, activating real-time freight quoting to add the cost of shipping to a sales order. And advanced integration, iteratively improved over 6 years of continuous deployment, today supports a diverse set of businesses with workflows that automatically process hundreds or thousands of shipments per day.
The next generation of cloud shipping software applications provides an entirely new set of order fulfillment tools that are faster, more connected, and more scalable than last-generation software applications. Better ERP integration, more carrier choices, and faster innovation will widen the gap further as more businesses move their operations to the cloud. Businesses in shipping-intensive