Explore Littlejohn's Strategy: Leveraging Custom Applications to Seamlessly Connect ERP Data with Customers for Sales Acceleration
Data-related challenges for companies that rely on ERPs
ERP systems are a necessity for many industries as they help streamline and optimize various aspects of business operations. They are designed to fit into specific use cases, such as manufacturing, distribution, finance, human resources, and more. However, there are certain challenges that ERP systems may not handle effectively. ERP environments are typically closed and fixed. Expanding your services can become difficult once you encounter tasks that reach the ERP's limits. At the same time, it’s unlikely for the company to switch to another ERP that may fit the use case due to vendor lock-in. The process can be complex and costly.
Established in 1936, Littlejohn has become a pioneer in the distribution of tanker trailer parts. Operating through a network of six strategically positioned facilities nationwide, Littlejohn delivers unparalleled coast-to-coast trailer service, driven by a team of seasoned professionals committed to providing top-notch service, industry expertise, and readily available products.
In Littlejohn’s specific use case, a gap emerged between internal customer-related data and the actual customer experience. The company identified the need for an efficient method to record serial numbers for ordered items and provide customers with visibility into their purchased items. Recognizing the limitations of the ERP system, Littlejohn opted to customize applications to meet specific requirements. This decision was driven by the realization that traditional ERP systems might not provide the necessary flexibility. Littlejohn reached out to us, acknowledging our capability to integrate data from various applications and construct fully customized solutions tailored to their unique needs. This approach empowers Littlejohn with the agility required to overcome the constraints posed by conventional ERP systems, ensuring a more tailored and effective solution.
Build a robust data pipeline
Acho offers customizable data integration through APIs, providing flexibility beyond prebuilt data sources. Moreover, once the data source is established, users can create a transparent data pipeline, enabling them to construct and monitor each step of the process. Let's explore how Littlejohn leverages these capabilities.
The data pipeline for Littlejohn is straightforward. For the data source, we need to bring the order data from the ERP. This is where most tools in the market fail as they mostly rely on existing integrations with the lack of ability of custom integrations. The ERP that Littlejohn uses is not that popular, you would need to wait for months for some tools to build out the data integration and pay a hefty fee for it. Luckily, with Acho, we can easily get the data using our API connector with the help of the OAuth client. We set the scheduler to every 30 minutes to get the latest order data and that’s sufficient for the warehouse getting ready for the products.
After retrieving data from the ERP, we established actions to clean the data, ensuring it meets our application standards in the future. Once the scheduler syncs new data from the ERP, these actions will automatically clean all incoming data. Following this process, the data is prepared for its destination—a PostgreSQL DB hosted by Acho. With the order data now in PostgreSQL, we can create additional tables in the database and seamlessly join them with the order table.
Data applications to empower both parties, the company and the customers
To achieve Littlejohn’s goal, we have built two separate applications with the aim of streamlining operations and enhancing the accuracy of item status tracking. This ultimately led to an increase in orders. We utilize Acho’s low-code app development platform to create these applications, driven by the data we obtained from the data pipeline and user-generated data.
The first application is a management portal accessible only to Littlejohn employees. While it operates as an independent application, it is highly dependent on the order data acquired earlier from the ERP system through our data pipeline. Employees can use this application to add serial numbers to the items in an order. After an item is manufactured, the warehouse manager prints out a sticker containing a QR code with the serial number information. Scanning this QR code within the management portal connects the item with the serial number in the database, which is crucial for the second application.
The second application is customer-facing, enabling them to retrieve detailed information about the item by either scanning the QR code attached to the item or inputting the serial number. Additionally, by ensuring compatibility across mobile phones, tablets, and PCs, users will have the flexibility to access data anytime, anywhere.
With these applications, Littlejohn has established its own process for order management down to the item level. Customers can now understand the date they purchased the item and when they should consider replacing it. Consequently, they are more likely to repurchase the item more frequently.
With the successful implementation and launch of the applications, Littlejohn achieved the two major goals they set when they started the project:
- Convenient management of serial numbers corresponding to each order
- Establishment of a platform that allows customers to retrieve item and order information through serial numbers
The result has been remarkable, and the numbers are growing as more customers adopt the platform. Customers can now understand when the item expires by simply scanning a QR code and utilizing the application's repurchase link has led to a 20% increase in sales over the past month. The other effect that the applications bring is the increasing interactions with the customers which can lead to larger contracts in the future.