Light effects through a city
home > White Papers > Linking WMS and EPOD: Striving towards an integrated supply chain

Linking WMS and EPOD: Striving towards an integrated supply chain

Supply chain integration presents an interesting opportunity for logistics providers to optimise their operations by enabling their systems to collaborate throughout the supply chain.

Providing potential to unlock advantages such as quality control, increased visibility, more efficient operations and gaining a competitive edge, supply chain integration delivers a streamlined and inseparable process focused on synchronisation.

Here, we discuss the integrated supply chain and how it can benefit through combining WMS and EPOD software.

What is an integrated supply chain?

An integrated supply chain consists of a network of suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors that coordinate seamlessly with each other to implement the goods warehousing and distribution processes as efficiently as possible.

The digitisation of processes is a key factor in how an integrated supply chain operates. It is based on the digitised processes which synchronise operations between companies involved in the design, manufacture, and marketing of a product.

The efficient transfer of data and information between logistics facilities and production centres is facilitated through the implementation of warehouse management systems (WMSs).

Find out more in our white paper: beginner’s guide to the supply chain.

What is an integrated supply chain process?

Synchronisation is the key element to determine whether a supply chain process is integrated or not.

A supply chain is considered integrated when the different operations performed within it are synchronised. These components could include:

  • Raw materials
  • Procurement
  • Product design
  • Manufacturing
  • Warehousing
  • Distribution

According to the UK Government, “Digital manufacturing is gaining traction in the EU and globally. It emphasises the idea of consistent digitisation and linking of all productive units in an economy and will lead to better-integrated supply chains, interconnected systems and stronger coordination.”

An integrated supply chain promotes product traceability - the monitoring of the life cycle of goods, including production, processing, and distribution. With synchronised operations, the different links of the supply chain know where each raw material, semi-finished good, or final product is located as well as the conditions in which each process was performed.

Integration could involve the acquisition or merger of other companies to expand their services, as well as the development of new lines of business covering more stages of the supply chain. This strategy can be applied in two ways:

Horizontal integration

The development of capabilities in the same link of the supply chain. An example of horizontal integration would be a soft drink distributor that acquires a regional competitor to expand its market and has more control over prices.

Vertical integration

The acquisition or merger involves several levels within the supply chain. Vertical integration involves the purchase of another business or developing in-house capabilities within the company to expand its service offering. This type of integration could occur, for instance, when a software business acquires a UX (user experience) company to reduce costs and control more levels of the supply chain.

Benefits of supply chain integration

Having an integrated supply chain brings with it a host of benefits including:

  • Improved communication
  • Increased collaboration/ sharing of processes and operations
  • Cost savings / higher profit margins
  • More efficient logistics, production processes and coordination
  • Product traceability
  • Access to information
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved customer service/ staying on top of demand

How to integrate your supply chain

Organisations that decide to take steps towards integrating their supply chain are moving one step closer to unlocking its many rewards.

To enable innovation, businesses within all industries require several key elements to work together, which is achieved through an integrated supply chain. These are described as: “Strategic product innovations, streamlined transportation systems, a resilient supply chain and agile financial and operational planning.”

Process digitisation creates coordination between the various levels within a supply chain. This facilitates the transfer of information between the warehouses and production centres which the product passes through.

By implementing a digital program such as warehouse management software or an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, costs can be lowered, and any unnecessary stages of the process removed.

Benefits to managers

An integrated supply chain involves sharing information flows in operations such as supply logistics, production line planning, inventory management, order distribution, and the sale of the product or service. The visibility that supply chain integration delivers is beneficial to businesses and production and logistics managers alike.

Integration between the various levels of the supply chain provides managers with real and up-to-date information on the state of the products or the storage conditions, empowering them to make decisions that improve the quality of the entire logistics service.

Software for supply chain integration

To benefit from an integrated, efficient supply chain, deploying warehouse management software is an absolute must.

These programs work by automating the transmission of data between the links of the supply chain, resulting in fewer errors in the stages of a product’s life cycle.

A warehouse management system (WMS) is an extremely valuable tool for integrating the supply chain. The WMS is connected to the other software programs involved in the logistics management of a product - whether those of the company or another organisation — to improve sharing of information and automating tasks.

Digitising operations with warehouse management software such as those offered by approved TouchStar partners makes it possible to sync information with other programs used in the supply chain, such as:

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • A manufacturing execution system (MES)
  • A transportation management system (TMS)

Not only do these serve and deliver their own functionality, but they help to facilitate the exchange of information between the levels of the supply chain, promoting product traceability and more effective operations.

An integrated supply chain for efficient warehousing: Combining EPOD with WMS

More and more business operations are investing in digital solutions that allow the integration of all links in the supply chain.

Through effectively sharing information with the rest of the links within the supply chain, the risk of error across all elements is greatly minimised. With all links able to seamlessly communicate with each other together with the benefits we discussed above being witnessed, it is clear to see why more companies are investing in digital solutions to integrate their supply chain.

Against a backdrop of increased pressure and faster order shipments, it is imperative that businesses and customers alike ensure a satisfactory delivery experience.

What is electronic proof of delivery (EPOD)?

Electronic proof of delivery (EPOD) consists of a digital record of all the information related to the delivery of an order, which is vital for streamlining the last link in the supply chain. Electronic proof of delivery is increasingly being used in logistics and brings with it a host of advantages.

How does electronic proof of delivery (EPOD) work?

An electronic proof of delivery (EPOD) system works in the following stages:

  • Data import: Data is entered into the system, such as order ID, tracking number, order description, delivery address, sender’s name, recipient’s name
  • Order synchronisation: Once the data has been imported, the software synchronises the orders to be delivered so that they are reflected in the delivery driver’s PDA or smartphone app
  • Electronic signature: When the carrier arrives at the destination, they finalise the delivery by having the recipient sign for the package digitally. In addition to signature capture, most EPOD devices can take a picture of the package as evidence that it has been delivered in good condition
  • Information transfer: After delivery of the package, the app automatically generates a delivery notification for the recipient and the sender. Both parties are informed that the delivery was successful, and they receive the document with the customer’s signature together with all shipping details

Find out more about how EPOD systems operate and synchronise with other software: How does EPOD fit with modern delivery systems?

Advantages of EPOD

Electronic proof of delivery delivers countless advantages to the logistics sector, including:

  • Productivity: The use of EPOD systems speeds up delivery times and timely data management
  • Additional information: Details included in an acknowledgement receipt in paper format are limited compared to the possibilities of electronic proof of delivery
  • Cost reductions: Digitisation cuts storage and personnel costs associated with paper records
  • Efficiency /reduced errors: Manual management of data related to each shipment could lead to errors and/or loss of documents
  • Traceability: The EPOD system also provides information related to shipment status, making items and responsibilities fully traceable
  • Customer satisfaction: Traceability helps businesses quickly identify any possible incidents. This improves communication and can lead to better customer satisfaction
  • Sustainability: EPOD systems eliminate the use of paper and work in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way

Find out more about the benefits of the electronic proof of delivery (EPOD) system here.

Role of WMSs in electronic proof of delivery

Every form of delivery logistics is a business function fundamentally responsible for providing end customers with an effective, error-free service. A warehouse management system, such as that provided by TouchStar partners Chess Logistics Technology and Minster WMS, is the nexus between the installation and the carrier.

The WMS is charged with supplying logistics providers with all information relating to the order to ensure efficient deliveries: the shipping label, corresponding delivery note, and tracking number. The WMS collaborates with the main transportation agencies in each location, and all of them can use electronic proof of delivery in their order shipments.

EPOD: An enabling technology

Electronic proof of delivery is the last link when it comes to having real-time visibility of the entire supply chain. Although there are businesses that still work with acknowledgements of receipt in paper form, there is a clear trend towards electronic proof of delivery to digitally manage the shipping process and enhance logistics information flows.