Successful cotton trading comes down to managing large amounts of data in many different documents and formats. Data enters your organisation through many channels, from contract negotiations, to take-up, gin, and HVI files. This data is then used to manage your real-world operations before being incorporated into a range of other documents to share it externally, including Letters of Credit and other finance documents, shipping documents such as container packing lists, and contracts and invoices.
Every cotton trading company has different data management processes and systems to manage these complex data needs. These systems involve different levels of manual data processing, from teams using spreadsheets to manage their workflows, to comprehensive, automated Commodity Management Systems like Gen10’s CommOS.
And in between these extremes, we often see organisations using hybrid solutions, where they have a CTRM to manage some aspects of their trading, but also rely on their team to manipulate data within spreadsheets or manually copy information between documents and systems. Not only does this take team members away from more productive activities, it also introduces many operational risks that can arise from incorrect copying, missing information, and trying to match data across systems at a later date.
Managing documents in CommOS
CommOS provides a complete Commodity Management System, which means that you can carry out all the trading and operations tasks of managing cotton supply chains in one joined-up system, whilst reporting and auditing takes care of itself. This comprehensive coverage begins before data even enters your system, with a range of document management features.
CommOS includes safe and secure document storage that enables your team to access the documents they need anywhere and at any time. And all documents are linked within the system to the relevant virtual lots and counterparties so that your team can always find what they need – even when they have processed, split, and combined lots during warehousing and shipping. This ensures documents are organised in the context of the activities and documents you create, and provides a useful audit trail too.
The real advantage of CommOS lies in the fact that you are not just attaching documents to your records – you can extract data from these documents and use it to automatically update the system, to inform and reflect your real-world activities.
For example, when quality data is received from an inspection company, or a warehouse provides a list of bales that have been added to a particular container, your records need to reflect this. Using CommOS, when these files are received from external partners, you can simply upload the file to create or update your virtual lots – whether you are updating their attributes or moving them between lots to represent the current real-world picture.
Using your Commodity Management System to extract data and ensure it can be used across your systems and operations saves your people from spending countless hours manipulating PDFs and spreadsheets, re-copying information, and inevitably making mistakes along the way that need to be corrected later.
It is hard to overstate the simplicity and time-saving gained from this system automation. You can generate packing lists that link to bale-by-bale HVI data and produce a quality recap report in just a couple of steps. When external information is uploaded, it can split virtual lots, create containers, and attach bales to these containers, all automatically in the background based on the file that updates your inventory.
When your data has been uploaded and used to manage your positions, inventory, and logistics, the next stage is to create the documents that need to be shared with external partners. With CommOS you can continue to leverage your data by creating documents and emails within the system, and distributing them too, such as by emailing them to the client.
And another advantage of creating documents within CommOS is that the controls, automation, and approval processes that apply to your inventory management can all be used for document creation too. So when contracts are created, the trader simply clicks to generate the document and automatically send it to the appropriate approver, ensuring no actions are carried out until the contract has been approved, and with the knowledge that every document has passed through the correct approval channels. And invoices can be automatically created based on your live inventory and quality data for the relevant bales, then sent to the client at the click of a button, reducing opportunities for copying errors and for incorrect documents to be shared.
As well as being emailed to clients or printed, documents can be automatically converted into your preferred electronic signature system, such as DocuSign, through an integration between CommOS and your system of choice.
Document management is an essential part of cotton trading
To summarise, data is a key part of cotton trading and the way that you manage documents coming into and shared from your system can be one of the main factors accelerating this data management and improving every aspect of your operations. But it can also be where risks and delays are introduced if you do not have the right document management systems in place and rely on your people manually intervening.
For most cotton merchants that we speak to, document management remains a challenge to be solved, and very few have one comprehensive system to manage inventory, data and documents seamlessly in one place. But the good news is that it is easier than ever before to innovate and improve these systems, either by implementing a full Commodity Management System, or by adding this functionality to your existing systems.
If you’d like to find out more about CommOS, and how it could support your business, get in touch with us today.
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