Amazon keeps adding to its Web services. Today, it is opening up an API for its Fulfillment by Amazon service, which allows online merchants to outsource their shipping to Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Up until now, the service still required a lot of manual steps on the parts of companies or entrepreneurs using it—they had to pre-label each box before sending it to Amazon and manage their inventory manually through software.
Now, with the new Amazon Fulfillment Web Service, an entrepreneur’s computers can talk directly to Amazon’s computers. Requesting orders to be shipped, tracking orders, and even printing branded labels at Amazon can now be done automatically. Frankly, I am surprised this was a manual process to begin with.
By tying directly into other companies’ inventory and ordering systems, which are in turn tied to their Websites, Amazon is in effect creating a Web version of EDI (electronic data interchange). EDI, which was the standard way for big manufacturers to gain visibility into their suppliers inventory, was expensive and only available to really big corporations. Web services like this one are bringing those information efficiencies across the entire economy to small and medium sized businesses as well. It is yet one more way that small companies loosely joined can enjoy the benefits that were once only available to large corporations. More Web services, please.