Is Electronic Data Interchange hurting your supply chain?

It’s time to switch to an API

If your logistics company was around when the film Wayne’s World hit theaters, odds are you have, or have had, an Electronic Data Interchange.

EDIs came into widespread use in the 80s and 90s as a way for companies to transfer information back and forth. The technology was amazing in much the same way that a mojo (fax machine) used to be amazing in the 1970s.

EDI is a relatively static way of sharing data. Information is stored and then forwarded. It was a great invention, until someone built a better mousetrap.

That mousetrap is the Application Programming Interface, or API. An API allows a computer database to communicate with other databases in real time.

No more lagging. No more missed connections. All the information you need, when you need it.

APIs help you…

Manage inventory
If you’re a multi-channel retailer, an API can link together software that you use in your online and offline stores so that you have one master inventory.
Reorder products 
There are APIs that will connect your inventory directly with your supplier and automatically create purchase orders for you.
Remarket out-of-stock items 
Some third-party apps can help you avoid lost sales due to sold-out items by allowing customers to quickly sign up for a back-in-stock alert.

 

If your company has kept up with the times, your TMS is probably communicating with a plethora of APIs.

But let’s say you have stuck with the times. Odds are, your TMS has an ungodly number of API hookups. Things have gotten so convoluted that you couldn’t possibily take on another carrier with yet another API hookup.

Too much of a good thing?

APIs are great for business. But if your company has spent the last decade Frankensteining API after API onto your TMS, you may be approaching an API saturation point.

In a perfect world, you’d get a brand-new TMS that is optimized for API. In the meantime, an API integration platform may the the fix you’re looking for.

Middleware firms like MuleSoft and Akana provide API mapping tools that allow you to build a platform for managing all your API integrations.

The logistics-focused API platform Project 44 allows you to tap into a broad network of carriers whose separate APIs are routed through Project 44’s master integration.

Basically, you get wide array of APIs but only have to deal with one integration into your existing TMS.

When you look at the players in the logistics industry — that’s a lot of APIs to connect to,” says Project 44 CTO Wally Ibrahim. “Everyone that connects to us benefits from the APIs that have already been set up. We act as a hub in the center.”

Here’s a nifty graphic to illustrate that point:

Project44 Freight Management API

The soft costs of EDI

Ibrahim has a pretty dim view of EDIs. They’re fundamentally flawed, he says, which is why Project 44 doesn’t work with them.

“It’s like asking a fireman to set your house on fire,” he says. “They’re just not going to do it.”

Ibrahim estimates that as many as 20% of EDI communications are lost. That means if a 3PL is handling 500 shipments per day, someone is picking up the phone and making a call on at least 100 of them.

If each call averages 5 minutes, that’s 500 minutes, or an entire 8-hour shift that is lost to EDI inefficiency.

Even worse, if poor EDI connections cause sales reps to lose faith in the system, they may start calling on every shipment, just to make sure pickups aren’t missed.

Given all the advantages of API, its clear where the logistics industry is headed. Ibrahim expects API to be the new standard within the next two years.

“Anyone that wants to keep up with the times, and cut their costs drastically, will move to API.”

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