COVID-19 rapidly accelerated eCommerce, with 10 years of e-commerce adoption compressed into a three month period. With more customers than ever relying on digital purchasing, B2B organizations are now confronting increased pressure on their existing systems for order management and inventory visibility. And while the digital approach for B2B purchasing started during the pandemic as a crisis response, it’s here to stay. Only about 20% of B2B buyers hope to return to in-person sales, meaning that B2B organizations need to lay a modern digital foundation for the new normal. B2B customers also increasingly expect the same personalized, frictionless buying experience that they experience in B2C markets, with visibility into their orders and real-time fulfillment options.

The majority of B2B organizations still rely on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems alone, which function in siloed environments, and regard inventory, orders, and fulfillment as separate units instead of one connected workflow or view of data. With this approach, B2B organizations often face slower production, delivery, and service, leading to inefficiencies and increased costs.

With so much complexity to maneuver, and the need for a customer-first approach, manufacturers and distributors need to consider digitally transforming with an order management system (OMS). A modern order management system empowers B2B organizations to enhance automation, accelerate operations, and reduce errors — all while optimizing the supply chain and the customer experience.

B2B organizations can implement order management technology to remove friction and create value for themselves, their supplier network, and their customers. Here are some great examples:

1. With their drop-ship activity trending upward, one technology distributor struggled with taking ownership of their inventory. Products were shipped direct from their supplier warehouses, but the company couldn’t see past their own warehouses into those of their extended supplier network. With this lack of visibility into what was available-to -promise, they couldn’t deliver the best B2B omnichannel experience for their customers. And, they needed help allocating orders more effectively. With their legacy system, they fulfilled orders on a “first come, first serve” basis, rather than prioritizing based on customer SLAs or competing priorities. On top of that, the technology distributor also faced challenges with the tedious, manual internal bidding process for manufacturers.

To automate the bidding process so they can quickly detect the best sourcing option to maximize customer satisfaction and optimize costs for themselves, the technology distributor now leverages a modern OMS. This solution helps increase inventory visibility, provide dynamic sourcing and fulfillment options, ease collaboration, and create a transparent workflow. They’re able to prioritize SLAs with real-time visibility into exactly what inventory is available-to-promise and utilize dynamic sourcing to investigate the tradeoffs of shipping from their own warehouses versus from those of their suppliers to fulfill customer orders at the lowest cost and highest service level.

2. An automotive company’s aftermarket business produces vehicle parts and equipment after the sale of a car from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) — distributing their parts to online retailers and independent distributors. After orders came in through their electronic data interchange (EDI), order administrators at the manufacturer completed manual tasks, called their warehouses to ensure they have enough inventory, checking the capacity of trucks to ship out products, and checking for account holds. To make things more complex, all this data sits across multiple systems. With no upfront validation, it made it challenging to keep up with SLAs and deliver their inventory efficiently to customers.

By using an OMS, inventory is consolidated into one environment to provide a single view of available-to-promise inventory, better validating each order. The 4000+ locations in the fulfillment network are all on the OMS platform to help efficiently fulfill orders and provide multiple fulfillment options at the lowest cost to serve. The OMS also plugs into their EDI — automating the order workflow and reducing manual touchpoints during order processing to enable faster and more efficient delivery to customers.

3. A third-party logistics organization began expanding their services offering to pick, pack, and ship orders for small and medium retailers, but quickly realized that their existing technology wasn’t built to scale with this shifting model. The complex manual processes involved in managing the inventory of their customers required automation. As they grew this new component of their business and scaled to hundreds of customers, they needed an OMS that could provide multi-channel fulfillment capabilities and deliver frictionless customer experiences.

Leveraging multi-tenant architecture in their new order management system, they can more effectively manage the orders and inventory of multiple autonomous customers in one place. With quick implementation in under 8 weeks, they start creating immediate value as they onboard customers to their new services offering.

4. With the start of COVID-19, and a spike in online ordering, a heavy duty vehicles aftermarket parts distributor urgently needed to develop an eCommerce system that could handle their B2B ordering. Their existing system relied on a rudimentary online catalog, and once orders were placed, an employee had to make manual decisions about fulfillment and delivery. Reliance on manual efforts created room for error and limited optimization. Their custom ERP lacked inventory consolidation and a connection between data sources to truly see what was available-to-promise.

The distributor sought out an order management system that could power their new eCommerce system with added inventory visibility and scalability. With this solution, they can reduce manual touch-points in the order fulfillment process by using automation to find the most efficient fulfillment option within their distribution centers’ delivery radius. In an industry where timeliness is critical, they are now able to find optimal delivery nodes and ensure on-time delivery — even on the same day.

“Historically our business has had to run B2B fulfillment processes manually because of our legacy systems. With IBM OMS, we have the capability in a consolidated platform to provide realtime inventory visibility and optimized order orchestration for our ecommerce channel which will result in a better customer experience” –Mohit Jain, CIO at Fleetpride

With growing complexity and customer demands for B2B organizations, order and inventory management solutions, with precise, real-time inventory counts and the ability to help better manage SLAs, are the answer for B2B organizations looking to transform their business. IBM Sterling Order Management empowers B2B organizations to increase automation, accelerate operations, and reduce errors — all while optimizing the supply chain and delivering on customer promises.

See how Parker Hannifin turned supply network complexity into a competitive advantage with IBM Sterling Order Management

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