Systems Integration: “a Good 3PL Partnership, Starts with a Strong Integration”

systems integration

written by: Jim Hepp, Director, IT

As a third party logistics provider we work as an extension of our customers teams, treating their product as our own. Because the nature of our business requires intimate access to our customers business, one of the very first aspects we discuss is integrating with their systems. There is a common phrase in the industry that a good 3PL partnership, is only as good as your integration.  This is something that we keep top of mind with every new integration and over the years, we have learned what it takes to create mutually successful 3PL partnerships.

An integration is so much more than just communicating back and forth with the customer and their team. It’s ensuring that the functionality that is built flows into the MD Logistics warehouse management system (WMS), Red Prairie. At the end of the day, the best integration is one that requires minimal effort to allow the flow of information between all parties. Files come in and out, just as they are supposed to. However we have often found, this isn’t the case upon initial contact with a customer. To build the most successful working relationship and system integration, we’ve found the best formula is a mix of the following.  

Early Involvement. In our experience, we’ve found that the earlier our integrations team is brought into a new customer onboarding, the better their integration is. To be successful, these conversations need to happen early, so expectations can be both realized and met! The speed at which our IT team is brought into the conversation also dictates the speed to which we can fully integrate.

Business Support. Involvement and support in the integration process should not just be limited to the IT department. We like to get involvement or buy in from all teams who support the business. It’s equally as important to have operations teams from both sides involved in the process to ensure we are building the correct ‘bridges’ to support their specific goals and reporting requirements.

Specialized Teams. Here at MD Logistics, we don’t just have an IT team, we have an IT department comprised of multiple, highly specialized teams of individuals. This specialization allows our team members to be experts in their field. The two teams within our IT department are comprised of our Integrations Team and our WMS Team. This dynamic, coupled with the culture at MD Logistics, allows for collaboration between these two teams of specialized experts to ensure that the functionality that is built, works with and flows into our internal WMS.

Flexibility. As a 3PL, being flexible is a very integral part of our business and success as a provider. When we are building an integration, it’s important to extend that flexibility into our process, building connections that are able to evolve as our customer’s needs change.

Remain Nimble. As a company, MD Logistics was built on nimbleness. In any integration, our mindset is “how can we work to make our customer’s jobs easier?”. This nimbleness allows us to build to our customers standards for integration, using their specs and supplied documentation to build the bridges from our systems, to theirs. As a practice, we work to make the necessary integrations to our customer’s existing systems. As a 3PL, that’s part of our job and the level of service we supply to every integration we work on.

Secure Connections. Like with anything else in today’s world, securely protecting our customer’s and their data is a vital aspect of the integration process! As a standard practice at MD Logistics, we don’t offer public integration services. Each integration we perform is specialized and built specifically for the customer based on their business needs, but also to ensure we are properly protecting the information that is being sent. Files sent to MD Logistics, must come from an approved address or  the system will reject the files. This process is built into every integration to protect our customers information and ensure there are secure connections for all parties involved.

An integration between a 3PL provider and their customer is so much more than an IT department building a digital bridge connecting the two groups. Completing an integration with a customer is building a working partnership between the two entities, solidifying that “a partnership is only as good as your integration”. Over the years, we’ve realized there are a few pertinent elements to achieve a successful integration and use those as the foundation to every new customer relationship.

Connect with us. Collaborate with us to create a supply chain solution, one that includes a successful integration and lasting partnership. Connect with a MD Logistics supply chain expert, today!