Custom ERPs Uncovered: Navigating Integration Complexities with the IBM i (AS/400) Power Series

Discover a breakdown of the challenges IBM i Power Series users face when using a custom ERP and how to solve them

In 1988, IBM introduced the AS/400 server. Today, despite advancements in technology, the IBM i (AS/400) Power Series continues to be a pivotal choice for many businesses. In fact, a recent IBM i survey conducted by All400s found that 49.32% of users operating on the IBM i platform do not plan on migrating off at any time. This underscores the strength and reliability of the IBM i (AS/400) Power Series, making it a cornerstone for businesses seeking robust and reliable computing solutions.

When it comes to the parcel shipping industry, many businesses choose custom Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions to tailor their operations to specific needs. Custom ERPs provide flexibility, allowing companies to fine-tune their systems to address unique requirements that some off-the-shelf solutions may not meet.

However, this customization journey, especially when paired with the robust IBM i Power Series, brings about challenges. Specifically, when businesses integrate custom ERPs with carrier systems, they encounter complex tasks, such as creating interfaces for customer interactions.

The Challenges of Custom ERPs and the IBM i Power Series (AS/400)

Let’s dive into three challenges that shippers face, exploring the difficulties of integration complexity, time-consuming customizations, and the natural tendency for errors.

Challenge 1: Integration Complexity

A significant challenge comes from the complexities of blending custom ERP systems, particularly those also operating on the robust IBM i Power Series, with carrier platforms. Shippers find themselves faced with the demanding task of crafting custom interfaces to establish seamless communication between their proprietary systems and the diverse array of carrier technologies. This integration complexity not only requires a substantial investment of time but also introduces the risk of errors, potentially disrupting the entire shipping process.

Challenge 2: Time-Consuming Customizations

Another difficult challenge arises when creating custom interfaces for businesses to interact with carrier systems, especially when using custom ERPs on the IBM i Power Series. Making and using these customizations is not only time-consuming but also demands a meticulous approach to ensure accuracy. Shippers struggle with the need for quick and error-free deployments, often facing delays and strained resources as they aim for a seamlessly integrated and efficient shipping workflow.

Challenge 3: Proneness to Errors

As shippers work through the intricate process of connecting their custom ERP, specifically designed for IBM i Power Series, with carrier systems, the potential for errors becomes a large concern. The manual nature of writing these interfaces leaves room for unintentional mistakes, risking problems like inconsistent data, communication issues, and operational inefficiencies. Addressing and rectifying errors post-implementation further compounds the challenges, highlighting the need for a more streamlined and error-resistant integration process.

Overall, the introduction of custom ERPs introduces an extra layer of complexity, requiring businesses to create custom interfaces for multiple carriers to integrate with the carrier system. Furthermore, changes or updates in carrier APIs, a common occurrence, may cause delays in aligning the ERP system with the latest requirements. This can lead to inefficiencies, hindering a business’s operational effectiveness. Businesses must understand that traditional or manual methods are no longer sustainable in our fast-paced and competitive environment. Embracing innovation and streamlined processes becomes crucial for navigating the challenges posed by integration complexities in the shipping industry.

A Multi-Carrier Shipping Solution

Once your parcel shipping volume starts to increase, the need for automation becomes increasingly evident. Among the leading solutions is multi-carrier shipping software (MCSS), an option that smoothly integrates with custom ERP systems. MCSS stands out for its ability to seamlessly integrate with custom ERP systems, presenting a streamlined alternative to the often complex and manual processes involved in supply chain workflows.

Streamlined Integration Process

One of the unique features of automated multi-carrier shipping software is the ability to simplify the integration process with custom ERP systems, especially those operating on the robust IBM i Power Series (AS/400). Unlike manual efforts that may require additional work to seamlessly connect with diverse carrier systems, MCSS is purpose-built for shipping-related functions. This eliminates the need for custom interfaces, simplifying the integration. Embracing this automation isn’t just a strategy – it’s a necessity for businesses relying on the IBM i (AS/400) Power Series and custom ERP systems.

Real-time Adaptability to Carrier Changes

Top-tier multi-carrier shipping software solutions don’t just optimize shipping operations – they adapt in real-time to changes in carrier APIs. This agility ensures that businesses using MCSS can quickly align their ERP systems to meet updated carrier requirements, minimizing delays and disruptions in shipping operations.

Enhanced Operational Efficiency

The introduction of automated multi-carrier shipping software brings significant efficiency benefits for parcel shipping businesses. By integrating seamlessly with a business’s ERP system, MCSS acts as a centralized hub, automating decisions for various shipping processes. This unified platform enhances visibility and streamlines tasks such as returning shipping rates, label generation, and shipment tracking across carriers. The result is an improved responsiveness that contributes to an enhanced customer experience (CX) for both the business and its customers. The automation aspect not only mitigates manual bottlenecks but also substantially reduces shipping costs and errors, freeing up valuable resources that can be redirected to other critical core business functions.

In summary, choosing automated multi-carrier shipping software is a must for businesses dealing with the challenges of custom ERPs and IBM i Power Series (AS/400).

Varsity Logistics Automated Multi-Carrier Shipping Software for IBM i (AS/400) Power Systems Users

Are you ready to say goodbye to those time-consuming manual processes? Say hello to Varsity Logistics! As the leading provider of automated multi-carrier shipping software for businesses using IBM i (AS/400) Power Systems and with over 30 years of proven experience, Varsity stands out.

Designed for retailers, manufacturers, 3PLs and healthcare companies, Varsity’s parcel shipping software is a seamlessly integrated suite of advanced supply chain modules. These modules are built to simplify every aspect of your parcel shipping operations, from order entry to shipment tracking and reporting.

Varsity’s parcel shipping solution automates each step of the shipping process, ensuring efficiency at every step. To learn more about how Varsity Logistics can transform your shipping operations, contact our team of shipping experts or request a demo. Your streamlined and automated supply chain begins here!

What to Know Before You Invest: 7 Key Questions About Shipping Software

Shipping software is an important supply chain investment – do you have all the answers?

Rising transportation costs, labor concerns, and ever-changing customer demands for faster and free deliveries make shipping one of the most critical and costly areas of the supply chain. Because of this, the role of shipping software to gain efficiency and stay competitive has become increasingly pivotal. From optimizing resource allocation to ensuring consistent customer satisfaction, the right shipping software can make a significant impact on the cost savings you find as well as the overall success of your business. 

This leads us to the question: How do you ensure that your shipping software is a good fit? Before embarking on the journey of selecting the perfect shipping software solution, it is important to take a step back and consider your answers to a series of valuable questions. We’re sharing seven questions you should ask before deciding if a multi-carrier shipping software (MCSS) solution makes sense for your IBM i/AS400 system.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Shipping Software

Shipping software is an important supply chain investment. Here are the top things to consider before choosing a multi-carrier shipping software solution for your business.

1. Are we doing too many things manually?

If your business is using separate, carrier-supplied systems and website searches to find the best shipping rates, you can likely add automations to your process with a new shipping solution. By fully assessing the manual effort required, you can determine the potential cost savings a MCSS solution could provide. Shipping software improves accuracy and reduces errors, avoiding costly consequences that can arise from manual tasks.

2. Are our shipping costs accurate?

It is important to audit your shipping invoices to ensure they match your contract rates, so you avoid overpaying. Cost auditing can also reveal inefficiencies and bottlenecks in your current shipping operations, allowing you to pinpoint areas where redundant tasks may be causing unnecessary costs. When you identify the areas of cost savings, you can better allocate your budget for a more efficient operation.

3. Do we have good visibility of shipments once they leave our facility?

Now more than ever, customers have high expectations for shippers to meet estimated delivery dates and provide updates throughout the shipping process. Top-tier MCSS solutions integrate seamlessly with your carriers and have options to allow real-time tracking and status updates for your customers. MCSS visibility also helps reduce risks, like supply chain delays or disruptions, which can prevent substantial financial losses for your company.

4. Do we have an efficient number of shipping staff?

Evaluating your labor force can help you allocate your resources effectively, especially in today’s labor-constrained warehouses. Industry-leading MCSS are single, fully integrated systems that seamlessly connect with your existing carriers and ERP or WMS systems, replacing inefficient carrier-provided systems. Using advanced shipping solutions can save your team time and effort, allowing them to dedicate it elsewhere. This results in improved productivity and a competitive advantage.

5. Can we scale up as needed?

Scalable shipping software integrates seamlessly with your existing software systems, ensuring that as your business scales, everything scales together cohesively. MCSS gives you the ability to automate carrier selection to find the best rates for your customer’s needs from the start, and as your business grows, you can add modules or features such as auditing, pick/pack integration, and custom filings. Investing in scalable shipping software is also a way of future-proofing your business operations, avoiding costly frequent software upgrades and keeping up with shifts in customer expectations.

6. How accessible is our shipping data?

The ability to analyze and evaluate transactional and historical data is essential for operational success. Choosing shipping software that allows you to easily view and/or export your data is the key to monitoring day-to-day shipping operations, ensuring accurate order processing and optimal resource allocation. Historical data gives great insight to performance evaluation and customer behavior, leading to data-driven strategies for future success and effective cost management.

7. How quickly will our investment pay off?

Estimating the time to achieve ROI helps align your investment with your financial goals and business strategy. This allows your company to effectively plan and allocate resources. Leading shipping software solutions, like Varsity Logistics, see their customers recoup 5-15% in overcharges and realize an ROI in just a few months. The combination of benefits that MCSS provides, like streamlined processes, automated rate shopping, batch processing, and reduced shipping errors, lead to immediate bottom line cost savings for your business.

Learn more about Varsity Logistics multi-carrier shipping software for IBM i/AS400 systems

Interested in learning more about the long term cost savings and increased operational efficiency with multi-carrier shipping software? Varsity Logistics offers a robust, industry-leading freight and parcel shipping solution for IBM i/AS400 systems that integrate seamlessly into your existing business infrastructure.

Contact our team of shipping professionals to discover how Varsity Logistics can step-up your shipping operations and revolutionize your supply chain game.