Punchout article written for Supply Chain Game Changer by, and permission to publish here provided by, Samantha Wallace at greenwingtechnology.com.
Punchout catalogs can change many aspects of your business. If you’re selling B2B, then you should consider implementing a punchout catalog to establish more efficiency throughout your supply chain.
Using modern tools and a bit of planning, you can make your business punchout ready, so your clients can begin ordering right away.
What is Punchout?
A punchout catalog allows your clients to access your inventory right in your procurement system directly. It recreates the feeling of typical online shopping, and it cuts down a lot of processes that still exist for B2B companies.
Instead of taking orders from client’s directly, and then having someone input that orders into the company’s system, a punchout gateway takes orders and processes them as CSML messages through an eProcurement system.
Make Your Business Punchout Ready
So how does it work? How can you get your business punchout ready? Well, as with most things these days, it all relies on a lot of technology. In addition to the technology, you’ll need to facilitate a few human aspects such as communicating the change with your clients.
Work on Long Term Contracts
Long-term contracts and clients are the best for working with an eProcurement system for a punchout catalog. Although the systems largely recreate the experience of consumer online shopping, there may be some learning curve for your clients. This has largely dissuaded companies from implementing punchout catalogs However as the workforce is becoming more tech-savvy many are willing to move forward and work with their clients to create buyer portals and an easy to use punchout catalog.
Integrate Punchout with Your eCommerce
eProcurement is the B2B segment of eCommerce and it the systems somewhat mirror each other. Choosing to create a punchout catalog will require that you use an eProcurement system, and that is where the punchout system will begin to impact your business processes.
With eProcurement, the client puts in the request, and your cost per transaction comes down. The eProcurement systems will often search through your suppliers to find the best deal for you and your client. Not to mention the labor hours you’re saving by allowing clients to process their own orders.
There is another concern that comes with creating a punchout catalog. Different buyers may have different contract agreements. Essentially a punchout catalog looks very similar to shopping online in that you will see an item, the price, usually a part number, and potential availability.
However, you want to ensure that client’s don’t access items which aren’t permitted via their contract. Keep in mind when considering a punchout system that using a templated approach won’t work. You will need to consider each of your buyer’s needs and shopping habits.
Establish a Shopping Cart Response
A shopping cart response is when your buyer, from outside your company, goes through the punchout catalog and then adds the items to their cart. Although that process seems very direct, there is a much more complex series of actions happening in the backend.
When a buyer adds an item into their shopping cart, it will send the order through your eProcurement system and submit the order for review within your company. In many cases, you can automate the review process as well as further trimming down the time spent facilitating these transactions.
Enable Your ERP for Electronic Orders and Acknowledgement
Many eProcurement systems align with various ERPs such as Sage. Through your ERP, you can review the order that your client put in, confirm it was received and accept it. At that time, your client will receive notification of the order’s acceptance.
Then your eProcurement or ERP should automatically create an invoice, invoice number, and save the data for the order. All while this is happening your order through your supplier has been put in for the client, or the inventory has been pulled off to be shipped to the buyer.
ERP integration can help you keep the general rules of your business in order while many people outside of your company place orders through you. An ERP will help you ensure that the orders go through their complete cycle quickly with accuracy and that you can carefully track your inventory and billing.
Of course, the last step is the payment. After the payment processes, the order will close as completed. When your client put in the order, it is the same as a purchase order, which is where eProcurement and eCommerce differ slightly. This means that the client will checkout, the order will go through approval, the Purchase Order will go to the supplier. The supplier then will fulfill the order and issue an invoice.
You will need to safely store and handle the profiles of your buyers or users of your eProcurement system. Managing your punchout payment information does call for a bit more attention put towards security. They should be able to have one sign-on and manage their own identity. You want to be sure that the users are specific to the company and not directly for a particular employee of theirs.
Benefits of Punchout Systems
Make sure that you inform your current clients and prospective clients that your punchout ready. Businesses which order in bulk are looking for this as it simplifies the process for them too. Ultimately, business process management has driven punchout catalogs and led them into popularity.
Businesses often choose to work with B2B companies that have punchout catalogs available because they can receive orders and invoices within a timely period.
Many companies are choosing to implement a punchout system to lower their procurement costs. However, the biggest benefit of a punchout system is the vast amount of automation. Because the buyer’s order what they need, and the eProcurement and ERP systems handle the rest, essentially, the purchasing cycle happens with very little facilitation.
Overall, if you put thorough planning and thought into your eProcurement choice and create an easy to use punchout system, you can cut a lot of procurement costs. You can save a substantial amount of time, keep better control of your inventory, and deliver a seamless purchasing experience.
Samantha Wallace is a veteran tech writer and editor who has worked in several eCommerce companies. She has been covering technology online for over five years. She is the Content Advocate for Greenwingtechnology.com.