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Like giant corporations, small and midsized businesses SMBs have to deliver outstanding products and services, stay ahead of the competition, and keep costs down. That's where e-commerce and information technology come in. With the right IT, an SMB can compete in an increasingly e-commerce-centric world, gaining the speed, flexibility, and efficiency it needs to perform like a much larger organization.

The technologies behind e-commerce clearly make a tremendous difference: They let even a one-person venture reach customers around the world. Growing an e-commerce startup into the next Amazon, though, requires a sophisticated supply chain operation. No wonder so many IT systems focus on logistics.

Freight management might start as a small part of that person's job, but as business increases, shipping swallows more and more of the day. IT makes that possible. For SMBs that outsource to 3PLs, interfaces that efficiently pass data between the two partners are extremely important.

Tight data integration keeps things moving. With the arrival of cloud-based, pay-as-you-go IT services, small companies gain high-tech benefits without paying big licensing fees upfront. Those are just a few examples.

For a more in-depth understanding, let's see how a few small and midsize companies use e-commerce and logistics IT to level the playing field. Operating from the very center of the United States can provide a logistical advantage. But for BioZyme, its St.

To provide top service to all customers, the small company must stretch. BioZyme produces nutritional supplements for livestock, and employs approximately people. Although it sells mainly to distributors and dealers, it often ships product directly from its plant to its customers' customers.

Traditionally, BioZyme has served markets in the central United States, but today it's a coast-to-coast business and is starting to serve Canada as well. Most shipments are less-than-truckload LTL freight. BioZyme operates a public e-commerce site, but orders generally come through a custom-built e-commerce platform for established accounts. Registered users go to that site to place new orders and track existing ones. BioZyme's sales representatives also use the tool to conduct transactions on behalf of customers.

Dealers often place orders to serve farmers who need the product right away. Taking a manual approach to carrier selection, BioZyme used to spend two or three days shopping for transportation for each load. Once employees chose a carrier, they booked the load via email or phone. Nothing about that approach moved quickly. Founded in and purchased by 3PL C. It allows a company to quickly check an existing LTL carrier base to get quotes for an upcoming shipment. Freightview uses application programming interface API technology to exchange data with each carrier the shipper uses.

If the customer is already in the system, those details pop up automatically. Then the user enters shipment details—for example, three pallets totaling 7, pounds. Freightview returns a range of options for shipping the load with different carriers, using BioZyme's negotiated rates. Now it takes just one click to choose a carrier and book the load. This new efficiency helps BioZyme fill a growing number of orders without adding more staff.

Freightview also produces reports that support BioZyme's monthly performance reviews with carriers. The reports give carriers information they need to improve service and pricing and, in turn, build a stronger relationship with BioZyme.

When Nutrisystem launched its weight loss program in , it was a face-to-face operation. A customer on one of its nutritional plans stepped into a retail center each week to talk with a counselor and pick up a set of meals.

Then the Internet changed everything. In , Nutrisystem closed its approximately 3, brick-and-mortar retail centers and embraced e-commerce. That move brought some distinct cost advantages. E-commerce also helps Nutrisystem expand its reach beyond those customers who lived within a reasonable drive from a retail center. Customers still get personal counseling, now via web chat or by phone. And thanks to technologies deployed by Nutrisystem and its logistics partner, OHL, the company has been able to expand its offerings while fulfilling orders quickly and efficiently.

Most of its business today involves monthly parcel shipments to customers who subscribe to individualized meal plans. Nutrisystem also offers a frozen product line, which ships in foam coolers packed with dry ice from OHL facilities in Allentown, Pa. OHL supports both the direct-ship and retail operations with Synapse, its proprietary warehouse management system WMS.

The system is integrated with pick-to-light technology from Lightning Pick, based in Germantown, Wis. This integration simplifies the picking process. Synapse receives orders from Nutrisystem's order management system through periodic electronic data interchange EDI transmissions.

Each direct-to-customer shipment contains to items, drawn from Nutrisystem's unique stockkeeping units SKUs. Nutrisystem's order management system, OHL's Synapse, and the pick-to-light system all work together to get the complex orders out the door quickly and accurately, while giving customers flexible product options. At the same time, Nutrisystem transmits those orders to C.

Robinson, which consolidates Nutrisystem's LTL loads with freight from several other food companies to build full truckloads bound for McLane. Pennsylvania State University Brands: Campaign development, brand advisor, senior writer, idea generation.

Because I suck at basketball. But I want to be better. One day I will be able to dunk. I might have to lower the net 3 feet maybe 4 or use one of those circus trampolines, but I will find a way.

To all kinds of problems. And if you can do it with advertising, why not basketball? University of Florida Brands: Leaders help anticipate client needs, try to steer clients away from bad decisions, and champion great sometimes scary creative solutions that win the day.

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