Lightwell, a provider of B2B integration technology and services, has improved how it fulfills orders with better visibility into available inventory, it said during a B2B Next workshop today.

Many B2B suppliers continue to rely on their ERP systems for order fulfillment, even though they are not well equipped to handle order management.

One of the biggest drawbacks to using an ERP system for order fulfillment is lack of visibility into available inventory, says Chris Halvorson, vice president, supply chain integration for Lightwell Inc. a provider of B2B integration and her technology services.

ChrisHalvorson-Lightwell

Chris Halvorson, vice president, supply chain integration, Lightwell Inc.

“When you don’t have real-time visibility into inventory, a lot of times you have to say no to filling an order when you actually can,” Halvorson told an audience at a pre-conference workshop at B2BNext 2019 today in Chicago. “ERP may sound a lot like an order management system in some cases, but in reality, it doesn’t do all that true order management does.”

The workshop, “Adapt to the New Normal: Deliver the Perfect Order with Fulfillment at the Heart of the B2B Customer Experience,” was sponsored by IBM Corp.

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Self-service is another function order management systems provide that ERP systems cannot. Having the capability to provide self-service features, such as order tracking, can free up sales and customer service staff to perform more duties.

“You really don’t want your sales reps or customer service staff answering questions about order status or tracking when a buyer can get that information through an order management system,” says Pawan Gupta, principal, strategic advisor order management and supply chain for Perficient Digital, a consulting firm that help companies create better digital user experiences. “Freeing sales reps from that task allows them to focus more on selling and customer service agents to provide buyers with product information that can enhance the buying experience.”

B2B2C sales is another area where suppliers can leverage order management systems to increase sales. Halvorson and Gupta both said they are getting more interest from suppliers about how to open a B2B2C channel. Both recommend that suppliers thinking of doing so should start small, offering a few products or equipping a single division to do so to make entry into the channel more manageable.

“Define your vision first and what you need to do to accomplish entry into this channel and whether you can execute it,” Halvorson says. “The big bang theory is not as attractive as it appears.”

Finally, buyers need to keep in mind that in order to create a delightful buyer experience, they must understand how their order management system connects to all their other software applications, including the ERP system. “To fill orders more efficiently, you need to be able to share data between all systems,” Halvorson says. “A bad buying experience is something a customer will remember and tell others about.”

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Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.

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