DHL Parcel is a leader in the Polish domestic shipping market and a pioneer of innovative e-commerce solutions dedicated to customers in Poland and Europe. The company uses its expertise in domestic and international road shipments, reaching 28 countries of the European Union. It offers an option of collecting shipped items in person in the DHL Parcelshop network. It consists of almost 1,800 Partner Points where you can quickly and easily send or collect a shipment. The Parcelshop network includes Inmedio, 1-minute, Relay, Żabka, Freshmarket shops and Shell petrol stations – most of them are open daily, also on weekends, at least till 9:00 p.m. Every month, DHL Parcel in Poland issues tens of thousands of invoices to thousands of customers – from sole proprietorships to large companies that send even thousands of shipments per month.
With such a large scale, the generation of paper invoices is a huge expense for the company. This process can be simplified by electronic invoices, which allow for a significant cost reduction. The introduction of such a solution is a big challenge for IT departments. To do its job, it must be fully integrated with the company’s IT systems and meet high security standards. When replacing the previous system, the management of DHL Parcel was aware of the risks posed by the implementation of a new solution, but it also clearly expressed the expectations as to its functionality.
A comprehensive solution
After deciding to implement a new solution, DHL Parcel was looking for a partner whose experience and competence would handle the issue comprehensively: both with regard to sharing documents through web solutions and in the area of the necessary integration with the SAP system used by DHL Parcel employees on a daily basis.
The solution proposed by SNP consists of:
- a web portal for mass sharing of electronic invoices, based on the SNP E-Billing Portal, which is a proprietary solution,
- the SNP Edistrada integration platform serving as a communication layer with the SAP system.
Both the SNP E-Billing Portal and the Edistrada platform are cloud-based solutions maintained at the SNP Data Centers and delivered in the SaaS (Software as a Service) model.
From the end-user perspective, the most important component of the solution is the SNP
E-Billing Portal, where the customer can view the history of the received documents: e-invoices, and access the PDF image of each document received. The portal has been designed using the technologies recommended at present for web applications. The graphic design complies with the branding requirements of DHL Parcel. There are currently two language versions of the portal (Polish and English) available, and the solution is prepared to support further languages.
The documents generated from the SAP system are entered into an efficient distributed database that is a component of the Edistrada integration platform. This system is responsible for receiving, archiving and distributing electronic documents in various ways (SOAP WebService, REST API, AS2, SFTP, etc.) and in various forms (e.g. PDF, XML, EDIFACT, XLSX) to be able to adjust to technological capabilities of both parties exchanging documents. The system architecture was designed in such a way as to make the system easily scalable and to enable its development with the growing DHL Parcel business.
In order to ensure the reliability of communication between the SAP system and the Edistrada platform, SNP eliminated all redundant nodes and launched online communication based on WebServices using proxy servers and encrypted HTTPS connection.
Direct exchange of data between systems allows for synchronous communication and enables the cause of a possible failure to be quickly found directly in the SAP system. As a result, DHL Parcel administrators can check whether all documents have been sent correctly from SAP, and if not, they can find the causes of errors.
Security of sensitive data
A key aspect both for SNP and DHL Parcel is the security of all system components. At the implementation stage and after the go-live, a number of security tests and audits were carried out by SNP specialists and DHL Parcel specialists. The secure operation of the Edistrada system is also confirmed by the SNP certification for the ISO 27018 standard regarding the protection of personal data stored in the cloud.
E-invoices for DHL Parcel customers
From the perspective of the recipient, the e-invoice is an equivalent of a paper invoice in electronic form and has the same legal force as a normal invoice. They differ in the manner of their delivery.
In the case of DHL Parcel, invoices are created on a standard basis in the SAP ERP system and then transferred to the integration platform in the SNP cloud (Edistrada). The next step is to make them available to DHL Parcel customers. The customers can access documents in a variety of ways, in line with their preferences – according to EDI standards, through a webportal or email. The methods of receiving e-invoices can also be changed to adapt to the current capabilities of the customer.
Advantages of the portal for users:
- selection of the most suitable format: an e-invoice is available in PDF format. In addition, it can be downloaded in CSV or XML format,
- online access: invoices are stored online in the application for 7 years,
- reduction of the document flow time: the application allows you to send an e-invoice to more than one email address, which speeds up accounting services related to documents,
- a view of bills of lading: you can view and download scans of invoiced bills of lading at any time,
- account management at the customer level: updating e-mail addresses, saving individual settings, generating and saving reports on issued documents.
What about large invoices?
In addition to the typical items, invoice documents contain a list of shipments and references to bills of lading. Due to their specific nature, they can be very extensive. Some of them have even several thousand pages, so it was especially important to ensure the efficiency of the solution and reliable communication. To enable the interface between the systems to handle the transfer of data of such a large size, the Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism (MTOM) allowing for optimum data inclusion in SOAP messages was used.
Data transfer is the first step; another challenge for such large documents is to generate their images in PDF format. The algorithm responsible for this operation was also optimized so that the largest documents are generated in up to 10 seconds (with the ability to generate documents in the background).
A portal also for DHL Parcel employees
In addition to DHL Parcel customers, the SNP E-Billing Portal is used also by DHL Parcel employees who have access to additional features in the application (according to roles defined in the authorization system). Although the Invoicing Department does not directly use the application, it is a part of system processes, e.g. updating email addresses. The solution also has a significant impact on the process of managing the distribution of invoices issued.
The SNP E-Billing Portal features used by users at DHL Parcel:
- access to customer documents, including information about the date on which a given document was opened by the customer, and the ability to report the documents sent (with a number of filters);
- approval or rejection of correcting invoices,
- customer account management (a single customer can be assigned multiple users and vice versa),
- verification of registration applications (a user-customer can register themselves in the system by filling in the registration form),
- management of user accounts (locking/unlocking accounts, resetting passwords, assigning authorizations), and reporting user activity,
- email notification management (multiple email templates can be defined for various actions in the system: information about a new document, account setup, password reset, etc.).
Implementation and operation
The Edistrada and SNP E-Billing Portal implementation project started in April 2016, and one of its goals was to meet a very ambitious schedule. Although the original start date was postponed, thanks to the large commitment of DHL Parcel business users at the acceptance testing phase and the team of SNP developers earlier in the execution phase, we managed to meet an important objective – a go-live before the end of 2016.
For projects of this type, the go-live is only the end of the first stage, another milestone. Where the provider is fully responsible for maintaining the system also after its startup, in addition to the high quality of the delivered product, they must also ensure the proper adjustment of the whole infrastructure around the system to enable its trouble-free operation and verification of proper functioning. Very important issues are related to monitoring various system parameters, such as an outgoing email queue (so that all invoice messages reach the recipients, even if the mail server stops working), or the availability of the system via the Internet.
The most important factor, however, is the good co-operation between the teams so that the response to the problems is immediate, and the analysis and implementation of the solution are carried out together in the most suitable place in the distributed system. The challenges that DHL Parcel and SNP teams had the opportunity to face in the project showed that collaboration and open, efficient communication are the best way to succeed.
A comprehensive solution for the benefit of customers
The factor that significantly contributed to the success of the project was the fact that we were well prepared for its implementation. SNP’s offer combined SAP expertise, necessary integration skills, and web solutions available in the SaaS model.
The SNP E-Billing Portal is used by not only users at DHL but also our customers. Therefore, the application had to be simple and intuitive to use while meeting all the technical requirements at the same time. The SNP solution met our expectations as to its functionality and the expectations of our systems security specialists. An additional benefit was the preparation of a comprehensive solution – not just the portal but also the necessary changes in SAP. The responsibility for the whole work rested on a single entity and it still does now when we use and develop our system.
At present, the portal is also a good starting point for further changes. We have extensive plans related to increasing the usability of the portal and we will be implementing them jointly with BCC.
Elżbieta Libich-Gołda, Customer Accounting Department Director, DHL Parcel Polska
DHL Parcel is a young and quickly developing brand using 48 years of DHL experience. With a long standing and well-established position in Poland in the logistic industry, in early 2014, DHL Parcel was specially carved out within the structure of DHL Express (Poland) Sp. z o.o. At present, DHL Parcel is a leader in the Polish domestic shipping market and a pioneer of innovative e-commerce solutions dedicated to customers in Poland and Europe. DHL Parcel uses its expertise in domestic and international road shipments, reaching 28 countries of the European Union.
It offers an option of collecting shipped items in person in the DHL Parcelshop. It is a network of almost 1,800 Partner Points where you can quickly and easily send or collect a shipment. The Parcelshop network includes Inmedio, 1-minute, Relay, Żabka, Freshmarket shops and Shell petrol stations – most of them are open daily, also on weekends, at least till 9:00 p.m.
It employs nearly 3,000 employees and has 6 domestic sorting centers and 41 terminals. DHL Parcel executives and employees are aware of the social responsibility associated with supporting environmental protection, crisis management and education. In 2015, the company was awarded the E-commerce Logistic Operator title. In the years 2016-2017, it was twice awarded the Trusted Brand title and the QI Order title – for the Quality Management System – by consumers. Furthermore, the DP DHL Group regularly wins awards for a good employer. Last year, it won the Top Employer Global 2016 award. DHL is part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group.