Posted by Aimee Cruz

Real-Time Rating Solution

ShipHawk is an API-driven transportation management system, or “TMS” for short. ShipHawk’s suite of APIs automate shipping and fulfillment by making complex, real-time, data-driven decisions.

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Real-time, data-driven shipping solutions can have a positive impact on your business's bottom line. The ability to choose shipping carriers based on real-time information, allows you to make better decisions to keep your costs low and your customers happy.

The ShipHawk Shipping API gives you the ability to find the best carrier for the job at hand. Although the packing and shipping APIs can be integrated into all of your business systems (ERP, eCommerce, WMS, CRM, etc), ShipHawk’s simple and beautiful interface puts you in control of a large network of service providers, giving you instant access to multiple carriers for cost effective decisions.

ShipHawk works with all carrier types including parcel, small freight (LTL), white glove services, and contract truckload providers. With over 200 integrated carriers and major 3PLs, you can find the right one based on what is most important to you - whether it’s cost, service level or other criteria.

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Easy integration with 3rd party software gives you the flexibility to connect to virtually any system your business uses including: eCommerce applications, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, Order Management Systems (OMS), Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Cloud-based business services.

ShipHawk is driven by API technology which is quickly replacing dated solutions like EDI and becoming recognized as the best option for real-time information exchange between business partners. This is true across many industries, and especially relevant where transportation and shipping are concerned.

Understanding EDIs and APIs

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What is an EDI?

Electronic Data Interchanges, or EDIs, are used to exchange data between systems in a standardized electronic format. EDI should be thought of as a set of standards rather than a transmission method. These standards have been widely adopted and include several variations to address specific needs in business-to-business communication.

First integrated with Freight Control Systems in the early 1970’s, EDI has been the standard go-to technology for business-to-business transactions for several decades.

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How do EDIs Work?

To use EDI, data must first be prepared into an electronic file format that can be read by EDI translation software. Next, the translation software converts data into one of the standard EDI formats. Finally, the translated data is ready to send via one of several options:

Point-to-point, where information is sent through a single connection between two business partners with in-house infrastructure

An EDI Network Services Provider (also referred to as a Value Added Network, or VAN) who will manage the complex process and communication protocols

Web EDI which allows data to be passed between business partners using a standard internet browser

EDI Outsourcing (also referred to as B2B Managed Services), which makes use of external specialists who will handle the entire EDI environment and day-to-day operations

Who Uses EDIs?

For the last 30 years EDIs have been used in a widely diverse group of industries and applications such as education, travel, supply chain management, tax reporting and insurance providers. EDI has also been the standard used in shipping and transportation logistics.

Most commonly the business documents exchanged via EDI are advanced shipping notices, invoices, or purchase orders. Documents pertaining to inventory, customs, payment or shipping status, are also exchanged regularly.

What is an API?

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Application Program Interfaces, or APIs, facilitate the exchange of data by integrating with company software intentionally left “open” for this purpose. Using a standardized interface, APIs serve as a point of entry, or gateway to access server side assets. APIs also act as filters, allowing only specified data and information to be shared.

API technology became an enterprise solution around 2000. Early adopters of the technology include Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software service provider Salesforce.com.

How do APIs Work?

APIs allow programmers to access shared data and deliver it in a customized way to an end user. Detailed tasks are performed by applications telling the API what to communicate to the server.

APIs begin with defining assets that are to be shared between business partners. These assets can be data points, snippets of code, or other relevant information. In shipping, shared information would include carrier services and rates.

Next, the API acts as both an entryway and a gatekeeper, letting only predefined, authorized data points and information to be shared between systems.

Finally, developers use API data calls to build applications that accomplish a wide range of tasks that enable businesses to run more efficiently. End users would likely be more familiar with the resulting API-driven application, rather than the API itself.

API applications can be located in-house or in the cloud - or in a combination of both places. They are the fastest and most seamless way to access data between systems.

Who Uses APIs?

APIs are everywhere! Some of the most popular APIs are well-known social and visual platforms. Developers use APIs from giants like Facebook, Google Maps, and LinkedIn to build compatible applications for end users.

Businesses use APIs to improve internal functions - for example integrating Salesforce and Quickbooks so the programs share relevant information.

APIs can also connect businesses to outside vendors. In the world of shipping, APIs can be used to retrieve real-time carrier costs and capabilities.

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Shipping APIs vs EDI Solutions

On the surface, EDIs and APIs seem similar since they are both designed to facilitate the transfer of data from one system to another, but in reality that’s the only thing they have in common.

Although EDIs have been used for decades, they have significant drawbacks.

  1. 1. It may take several months for business partners to fully integrate their systems. Further, many carriers will only offer integration to companies who have at least 100 employees. This makes EDI a poor choice for smaller companies with fewer employees.
  2. 2. The EDI file format is complex. It is not readable by humans and has a lot of room for errors. Translation software or a third-party vendor specializing in EDIs is needed. Both of these options will require an investment, either in staff training or vendor services.
  3. 3. An EDI can be expensive to implement and maintain. Since it requires more components that need to “speak” to each other, integration is more cumbersome and setup costs can be pricey. The day-to-day maintenance, troubleshooting, and translation results in higher operational costs.

Companies using Transportation Management Systems driven by APIs enjoy shorter installation times and less expensive startup costs than those who use EDI solutions.

With the rapid advancement of business technologies and an ever increasing need for real-time data, scalability, and customization, more and more companies are choosing API based solutions to help them manage their shipping process.

Why Are APIs Better Than EDIs?

EDIs have had their moment in the spotlight. After decades of use, we now have a better option: APIs.

Several key differences make APIs the better option:

  • API integration costs less to setup and maintain
  • APIs offer scalability for growing businesses
  • APIs are much faster, delivering information in nanoseconds
  • API adoption is growing and will eventually surpass dated EDI solutions

Overall, a switch to APIs from EDI technology will likely result in lower operating costs, more efficient processes, and happier customers.

How to Choose an API-Driven Shipping Application

When considering a shipping solution that uses an API-driven application, evaluate your options carefully. Choosing a company that understands your specific needs is important.

Think about the criteria that is most important to you. For example, integration should be easy and seamless, setup time should be relatively quick, costs should be reasonable, and support staff should be exceptional.

Specifically, your shipping solutions should:

  • Provide accurate shipping rates in real-time
  • Streamline order fulfillment
  • Offer real-time order tracking
  • Provide flexibility and scalability

Who you choose to partner with will have an impact on how well your business operates. Choosing an industry leader like ShipHawk to expertly implement a shipping solution that works for your business can result in a better experience for both you and your customer. Eliminate pain points and provide your customer with more options.

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With a sophisticated API that can return real-time rates for parcel, freight, volume, specialty shipping services, and more, ShipHawk provides accurate on-demand pricing - but also so much more. A state-of-the-art shipping algorithm helps eliminate problems with shipping packages that have unusual dimensions. Seamless integration with ERP platforms creates an automated experience that allows the packing, tracking, and shipping of items to be streamlined and more efficient. Customers benefit from seeing real-time shipping rates in their carts and from automatically receiving consistent tracking updates when their package has shipped.

APIs are making their mark on the world of transportation management systems. Global commerce will continue to demand technology solutions that do more and cost less - solutions that give them the competitive edge without costing an arm and a leg. For these reasons, APIs will no doubt continue to grow in popularity, converting business owners into API adopters one success story at a time.