Why Supply Chain Integrations are Like Medicine, Not Vitamins

You may have heard CTOs and CIOs talk about things in their tech stack as either vitamins or medicines. So why is a “back office” supply chain integration, like connecting to an overseas agent or automatically updating milestones with a carrier, like medicine and not a vitamin?

Medicine and vitamins with white text on black background reading "why supply chain integrations are like medicine, not vitamins."

You may have heard CTOs and CIOs talk about things in their tech stack as either vitamins or medicines. Vitamins are nice-to-have tools that improve an existing solution. You can happily get by without it . . . you probably wouldn’t even miss it much if it disappeared.

Medicine, on the other hand, is something you NEED, either to survive or to relieve something that is causing you major pain.

So why is a “back office” integration, like connecting to an overseas agent or automatically updating milestones with a carrier, like medicine and not vitamins?

Many IT departments come at this problem from the perspective of a “time study”. The logic is, if it takes my team X hours and I pay my team Y dollars, then if the cost of the project is less than X * Y, then it’s worth doing.

Ten years ago, this was the right approach.

Nowadays, the value of high quality, automated integrations is much broader than just saving keystrokes. The real business value of doing supply chain integrations comes from increased visibility, customer service, agility, and scalability. The direct labor savings is a miniscule part of the strategy picture.


Supply chain visibility enables you to track all moving pieces of data across your supply chain, something many have access to already. Even better, an integrated supply chain simplifies viewing and collecting data for your business and customers.

Rather than checking multiple systems for many different types of data, you’ll have real-time visibility into one dashboard with information from across your entire supply chain network.

Stakeholders across your organization will also have access to a shared view of the same information. All departments can then align their processes and planning in advance, increasing efficiency and collaboration across the company.

Most importantly, your customers expect REAL-TIME visibility. When a shipment moves, they want to know about it, and they want to see those updates as soon as they are available.

No matter how fast your team is, you’ll always be behind the curve if you’re relying on people to manually update systems (check out our CEO Brian Glick talking about “swivel neck syndrome” where your team is constantly swiveling their neck from one screen to the other to manually input data).

It’s even more important when you have 100 customers who want you to update their systems directly or pass on real-time information about the status of their shipments. Without smooth integration from the data source, through your systems, and out to your customers, you’ll fail on data quality metrics every time.

Master Your Supply Chain Visibility

Customer Service

The riskiest and most painful period for logistics service providers in any customer relationship is the time between them wanting to use your service and the day you're integrated into their systems. Even during the pre-sales phase, integration is one of the biggest questions on every buyer’s mind.

During this window, the customer is very skeptical about whether your solution will work. IT-related delays can lower trust, provide an opportunity for incumbents to win business back, and lower your Net Promoter Score. With supply chain integration and faster onboarding through the expanding Chain.io partner network, your customers will have a much faster experience, helping them to stay informed and on top of managing their supply chain.

Using Chain.io to establish your supply chain integration also allows you to free up internal resources so your team can focus on a better customer experience. When your IT team isn’t spending their time creating connections between software that wasn’t meant to communicate, they are able to serve your clients and team to ensure business runs smoothly.

Supply Chain Agility & Scalability

The software space within the supply chain is expanding exponentially. In a post-COVID world that exposed the delicate and fragmented nature of supply chains, a lot of dollars are pouring into the creation of niche software solutions that solve specific problems. Since one company cannot be the best at everything, more niche options are good for the industry but it exacerbates the problems of integration.

When using an integration product like Chain.io, connecting your existing software to your partners is as easy as pointing and clicking. Since the way you send data and the way your trading partner needs to receive it may be very different, Chain.io uses a canonical data layer in the middle that understands your data and transforms it into your trading partner's requested format. This lets you send data in a single format and share it with multiple partners in different formats.

The same works in reverse. If you have multiple providers feeding you the same information in different ways, Chain.io consolidates it into a single data stream, which your applications can consume.

Leveraging pre-mapped solutions lets you build on top of the knowledge and hard work of the entire industry instead of building everything from the ground up, giving you the ability to grow your business without worrying about an extremely manual integration process for each new client.

Integrating Your Organization

When we look at the vertical integration strategies at the world’s largest freight forwarders, they're making huge bets that a seamless end-to-end experience is the path forward. And since one system or software cannot be the one-stop-shop to manage your entire supply chain, building integrations to make these systems talk is inevitable. It’s necessary. It’s the medicine that will keep your business healthy.

How Chain.io Can Help

Chain.io is natively integrated to the industry's leading technology platforms. With our hot pluggable component architecture and bite-sized modular solutions that target specific problems, you can assemble integrations between your internal systems, the latest SaaS platforms, your customer's legacy systems, and more to achieve rapid value. Plus, our integrations are priced in a way that allows you to start small and grow.

Discover all of our integrations here. If you’re ready to learn more, book a demo with our team today!

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Hasnain Millwala, Solutions Engineer at Chain.io.
By Hasnain Millwala
written on June 1, 2022

Hasnain is a Solutions Engineer at Chain.io.

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