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For B2B suppliers the complexities of stock administration and management have increased in line with the number of electronic and other sales channels being used. Customers expect the same omni-channel experience and service as their B2C counterparts. That was the reason why INDI, Panalpina, and Zamro opted to implement an order management system (OMS).

Sybrand Brouwer is head of, an online supplier of spare parts that split off from the parts wholesaler Kramp. “This meant that, two years ago we found ourselves in the luxurious position of being able to design our platform from scratch, without the hassle of legacy systems,” says Brouwer. “We did not want an ERP system, as they are often complex and inflexible, which is why the new platform consists of a commerce and order management system together with specialist solutions, such as a financial core package. This setup covers all our needs.”

A focus on e-commerce

The reason why INDI outsources its logistics is that the company wants to place its entire focus on e-commerce. “Others excel in logistics and stock management, and we are happy to contract that expertise,” says Brouwer. “At present we have one fulfillment partner connected to the OMS, but we hope to have more soon. We have introduced a few parameters so that the OMS checks which logistics partner fulfills the requirements in terms of availability and price when an order is placed, and then the right partner gets the right order and we are able to orchestrate the whole order flow.”

ERP is redundant

The partner fulfilling the order is invisible to the customer, Brouwer tells us. “But the client certainly profits from the efficiency levels. We are in a replacement and repairs market where speed is of the essence. If somebody orders ten products and one partner has five in stock while another has twenty, then the latter partner will get the order and the customer will receive everything ordered in one delivery.” The company chose an OMS for its logistics setup due to the scalability and flexibility it offers, and it supports INDI in the rapid expansion of its product range. “It creates an overview of the order flow and it is easy to adjust the parameters. We can add logistics partners or even manage a warehouse, should we decide to keep certain parts in-house. When it comes to costs, this solution is considerably cheaper than an ERP system, which are often also lumbering and complicated systems that require a great deal of technical know-how and customization when you want to add functions or make adjustments. The OMS allows you to do that in the blink of an eye. For example, we wanted to include an option for invoicing weekly instead of per order, and it was a piece of cake.”

Added value

Peter Szabados, Global Head of Digital Manufacturing and Logistics at Panalpina, considers the order management system as an integral component of the new end-to-end commerce that the company will be offering to its customers. “We are an integrated forwarder and logistics service provider that specializes in sea and air freight,” he says. “Competition is fierce in the logistics market, which is why we are always seeking ways to distinguish ourselves from the pack. Another reason is that we entered the market relatively late. One example is our Logistics Manufacturing Service, which aims to get products closer to the end user. Instead of the entire production cycle taking place in one location, it is undertaken in different places and the high-tech components are only collected together after the order is received, so that the product never becomes outdated. Our new e-commerce platform was put together using the same approach. It’s an end-to-end solution where all the elements are brought together to create a complete solution with added value.”

The service was developed on the basis of customer demand. “We have noted that many of our customers struggle to make the move to online selling itself or to selling outside of their regions. That is both a B2B and a B2C issue,” says Szabados. “Panalpina has a global footprint and our complete solution allows them to utilize that international presence. We work together with a number of partners in this respect, with Intershop handling the commerce platform and the OMS. We made a deliberate choice to have the same supplier deal with both of them, as the online shop is our face while the OMS is our brain. Those two facets must work properly together.”

Five categories

Panalpina had a list of five requirements when it came to the development of the end-to-end solution. “We wanted a SaaS setup, to serve both B2B and B2C, have geographical scope, an integrated package, and the option to adjust workflows.”

Szabados believes that the outcome, which is currently running as a trial version with the first customer, is appealing to five types of customers. “Firstly, there are those companies that do not yet sell online but want to do so. Then there are those that want to get involved in new markets. Thirdly, we are focusing this solution on those organizations that wish to optimize their existing setup, maybe by coordinating existing sales channels. Next up are the new companies that started out offering their products in marketplaces such as Amazon but that have now grown to an extent that they want to manage their own brand. The fifth category covers those companies that want to outsource their e-commerce infrastructure and ecosystem. The great thing is that we adopt a modular approach, which means we offer the benefit of an integrated package but you can still select a few elements. Should a customer already have an ERP system, then we’ll link the OMS to it. Of course the OMS can also run without an ERP system, allowing us to give the customer exactly what they want.”

Making the connection

Zamro is one of those companies that opted to use the OMS as a connector between the commerce platform and the ERP system, says Thomas Bloemarts, the company’s logistics manager. “Zamro is an online shop that sells tools and spare parts and primarily targets SMEs that have technical requirements. At present we already have a commerce platform, OMS and an accounting package, and we are now busy selecting an ERP system.”

Dropship suppliers

Zamro launched in February 2016 as a subsidiary of the ERIKS group, an industrial service provider. The online shop went live in the Netherlands in October, followed by Belgium and Germany. “We started off selling ERIKS products, which allowed us to build on their logistics system, making our setup relatively simple with the online shop, OMS, and financial package. But we now want to extend our range, which means we must link more suppliers to the system and have various capabilities and operational models,” says Bloemarts. “We will keep stock ourselves and use dropship suppliers, and we will need an ERP system for our purchasing and financial administration.”

Nimble and flexible

The OMS is the linchpin in the new setup, according to Bloemarts. “The system checks stock availability and sees to the order routing, as well as all customer communications such as order confirmation and order status. It is the backend system of the order administration, which is where customer services goes whenever there are order queries. The OMS allows us a degree of flexibility when it comes to linking suppliers and extending the functions. Because it is independent of the frontend, we can develop the OMS in parallel. For example, we are presently working on refining and optimizing the business rules. It was also a strategic decision to not have everything run through the ERP system, because that would have meant we were dependent on a single supplier. Moreover, ERP systems are generally not so nimble,” Bloemarts adds. “The OMS allows us to be flexible.”