APIs: New B2B challenges need new integration solutions
B2B - Business Integration

APM Terminals and the Future of B2B

| | Vice President of Sales Europe, SEEBURGER
Future trends for B2B integration

Your business is likely dealing with more integrations than ever before, across applications, systems and processes. So, it’s more important than ever before to have the right strategy in place for all integration patterns – especially APIs – to ensure the seamless data flow and communication you need across your ecosystem.

According to Gartner, by 2023, over 50% of B2B transactions will be performed through real‑time APIs versus traditional approaches. Application leaders should harness the benefits of APIs in a blended approach that weaves APIs into their existing B2B strategies.[1]

For application leaders tasked with modernizing integration strategies and infrastructure, APIs add real-time capabilities to B2B ecosystems, such as the ability to query the real-time status of an order or shipment.

Webcast #1 of our SEEBURGER Integration 2021 webcast series, ‘The Future of B2B,’ from May 20, 2021 features Bruis van Driel of APM Terminals (APMT), one of the largest and most comprehensive port and integrated services networks in the world. With 72 operating port and terminal interests, 45 of which are owned and controlled by APMT, plus seven offices and 20,000 employees, you can imagine the complexity of systems, applications and APIs, not to mention business partner and customer connectivity, required to run the company.

How APMT Does B2B

APMT’s main business processes, loading and unloading of container vessels, are indeed complex logistical processes that require mass amounts of data. According to Bruis, one vessel arriving to a port, for example, generates the equivalent of about a two-meter stack of A4 paper full of data. Every container has to be announced prior to arrival, its contents, origin and destination verified, in addition to weight, location on the vessel, and more.

All of this data needs to be contained, secured and managed quickly and effectively. APMT also shares information back and forth with shipping lines, banks, authorities and truck/rail companies every day. APMT requires agility for trading partner setups, support for all types of transfer protocols and multiple deployment options.

APMT started using SEEBURGER Integration for B2B only, and has now expanded to include A2A which is deployed on-premises, and B2B is now a hybrid of on-premises and SEEBURGER Cloud. MFT, EDI, e‑invoicing and ERP integration capabilities are also used by APMT. All of these integrations are handled with a combination of SEEBURGER Managed Services and APMT’s in-house team in the Azure cloud, as you can see in the diagram below.

APM Terminals uses a combination of public cloud, SEEBURGER Cloud, and on-premises deployments to handle integration across MFT, B2B, E-Invoicing and ERP integration with customers and partners.
Figure 1: APM Terminals uses a combination of public cloud, SEEBURGER Cloud, and on-premises deployments to handle integration across MFT, B2B, E-Invoicing and ERP integration with customers and partners.

SEEBURGER uses a canonical data model, which presents all data in a single format across the landscape in order to integrate processes across all databases and systems. For APMT, banks, shipping lines, port authorities and truck and rail companies connect and transfer all types of data, which goes through SEEBURGER Managed Services, then integration via SEEBURGER BIS, then to the proper terminal.

The future of B2B for APMT

Continuing the journey with SEEBURGER Integration will enable APMT to:

  • Expand on existing B2B capabilities via API initiatives. APIs will provide flexibility and agility, but EDI continues to send data in bulk, in a structured, predefined manor. APMT needs applications that allow both.
  • Improve and speed up the onboarding process.
  • Expand on the canonical data model.
  • Consolidate technical capabilities into SEEBURGER iPaaS.
  • Use technology to improve the customer experience without allowing any visibility into customer data.

From Our POV

As much as technology has progressed and digitalization has taken hold in most industries, businesses still have many obstacles for B2B, according to SEEBURGER SVP Solution Management, Frank Jelinek. “There are multiple data formats and different interpretations of them, onboarding processes are time-consuming and complicated, and cloud-readiness continues to be an issue. And now, business models are changing, and that creates new integration requirements,” said Frank.

Take for example, the CPG retail industry. In the past, CPG companies would send out an inventory batch report once a day. Now, salespeople are using cloud-based tools, with direct contact with customers, orders are seen by everyone and as they are processed the inventory changes. The data is more granular than ever, which means we have to react faster than ever. This is a good example of how business models will be forced to adapt to the coexistence of APIs and EDI, and need to embrace API and EDI integration.

Some things change, some things stay the same

If you listen to Frank discuss the future of B2B, you’ll find that his predictions are similar to those of Bruis. They both think companies will continue to need bulk transfers of data, i.e. EDI. Frank says we are really still in the early stages of using APIs, and that there will continue to be a sort of harmonization across systems and applications required when working with them, at least for a while. The coexistence of EDI and APIs today includes tasks like application integration, B2C integration processes, e-commerce / web shop integration, marketplace integration, document tracking, and payments use cases, and these will continue to change.

Business trends

In the webcast, Frank discusses how the following business trends have exacerbated the challenge of combining B2B/EDI with API data flows:

  • Protocol-oriented changes: existing EDI processes transfer change into REST or SOAP-based API
  • Platform-oriented changes: Existing EDI point-to-point processes change into data sharing, i.e. let suppliers GET the order instead of sending it to them
  • Business Process-oriented changes: Existing EDI processes change into different ways of working

This typically requires an integration layer between your B2B/EDI processes and your API-based scenarios, as you can see in the example below.

Extending your B2B landscape with APIs.
Figure 2: Extending your B2B landscape with APIs.

View the entire SEEBURGER integration webcast series for more information and details. You can also download the presentation slides, and see other webcasts on-demand in the SEEBURGER Integration 2021 Webcast Series.

For upcoming webcasts in this series and other events, visit the SEEBURGER event page.

If you have questions around SEEBURGER Integration capabilities, please contact us here.

[1] Gartner, “Use APIs to Modernize EDI for B2B Ecosystem Integration,” Mark O’Neill, William McNeill, June 11, 2019.

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Peter Valckx

Written by:

Peter Valckx is an experienced data integration specialist. With over 15 years of data integration experience in financial institutions, he takes pride in providing the best integration solutions available. As Vice President of Sales his goal is to empower organizations integrating B2B processes such as Payments, API, EDI and MFT. Peter has been with SEEBURGER since 2011.