How APL Logistics uses data integration to satisfy new customer demands quickly

Mark Samuels Profile picture for user Mark Samuels March 13, 2024
Summary:
The supply chain specialist is delivering APIs that create benefits for internal and external stakeholders.

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(Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay )

Supply chain specialist APL Logistics customers are often large businesses that draw on a range of partners, including suppliers, carriers and warehouses. Each of these partners has their own technological capabilities that rely on data flows, which makes integration vital. 

As Hakan Yaren, CIO at APL Logistics, puts it: 

One of the key things with supply chain and logistics is how you provide end-to-end visibility by connecting the dots across the ecosystem partners. And that's where integration becomes a huge challenge – and being able to do this as quickly as possible becomes a critical notion.

To tackle this challenge, the firm is working with Axway’s Amplify Platform and B2B Integration, to create an integrated approach to data that uses a range of APIs. Yaren explains: 

Using Axway means many players – even the small suppliers we work with – can ingest and adapt web services quickly. And because Amplify acts as an orchestrator and a gateway for us internally, we don't have to worry about the security settings for each API. We now have a single pane of glass to see all our API services.

Establishing connections

APL Logistics has in fact worked with Axway for more than 20 years, originally around  Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) connectivity. In response to new supply chain challenges caused by the pandemic, Yaren and his team started to think about how they would develop API capabilities:

Even though this is a technical field, it’s serving a business process. We brought in some of our business stakeholders to be part of the process and we developed several use cases that we wanted to address.

That joined-up process helped ensure any APIs would create benefits for internal and external stakeholders. APL Logistics selected Axway after a technology evaluation perspective and proof-of-concept study. Yaren says working with their existing EDI provider meant the move to APIs involved a less challenging switchover:

We knew the business disruption would be low, so it created the ability for us to do the work quickly. There was also a strong step-up process. When we started, we had some ideas about how many services we wanted to create, but once we implemented Axway’s APIs, you could start adding to the catalog.

Supporting customers

Axway’s Amplify Platform is used to discover, secure and manage APIs, which serve a range of purposes, including tracking and tracing of shipments and providing inventory-level information from warehouses. Yaren says: 

Many companies have legacy operating systems in their environment and trying to modernise that technology at once to offer an API would be difficult. By having the Amplify Platform in the middle, it allows us to modernise at a pace that makes sense from a business perspective, while still giving modern and best-in-class API capabilities to our customers.

These customers typically have global supply chains that include multiple providers at the same time. For us, it’s important to be faster to market in terms of integrating and connecting the dots with our customers’ systems. So, having an API platform allows us to do this work a lot faster.

This ability to create new connections quickly is a big break from the past. Rather than having to build bespoke data streams, APL Logistics has the ability to scale up quickly in response to new business demands, he adds:

In the past, we would have written the APIs ourselves and put each part of the orchestration and the monitoring in place one by one, which took a lot longer. Now, we can extend an API quickly and in less than a month depending on the complexity.

Developing services

APL Logistics’ decision to embrace APIs is a key part of the company’s ongoing digital transformation, according to Yaren:

We've been able to change how we invest in technology. The infrastructure spend has dropped from 47% to 40% and the application spend has risen from 37% to close to 45%. So, we’re using digital and data to change the game.

Yaren’s team continues to develop API services. As well as supporting customers’ supply chain processes, they’re looking at how they can decouple point-to-point integration between line-of-business systems and move towards an orchestrated platform:

That's going to be the next evolution of what we're planning to do internally. That work will help us to continue to simplify. Also, during testing and deployment, it will mean we don’t have to test each of these integration points and we can plug and play different operating systems based on the business requirements.

We haven't finalized the design yet, but we want to create more of a near-real time data orchestration between internal and external partners. We're talking to Axway about how to architect that capability, whether it's through the platform or additional capabilities that they might help us to develop.

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