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Using an inadequate warehouse management system can cost 3PLs clients. The wrong software can cause inefficient fulfillment, a lack of inventory visibility, and insufficient integration—just some of the things that will cause a 3PL to underperform for its clients.
The last thing 3PL logistics managers want to hear is that their clients have lost customers due to the 3PL’s inability to keep up with customer expectations. That’s because those clients will eventually take the next logical step: Searching for a new partner to manage their fulfillment.
To keep a competitive edge, 3PLs should always be on the lookout for ways to improve their operations. Upgrading warehouse management software is one way to do it. Let’s look at ways to decide if a 3PL’s WMS needs improvement, and the criteria managers can use to pick the best one.
The whole purpose of outsourcing to a 3PL is so that companies can sell more products while avoiding having to handle warehousing and fulfillment on their own. They need to trust that the 3PL will deal with their products and customers effectively. If the 3PL can not provide consistent support, it will eventually have a negative impact on the client’s reputation and bottom line.
When a 3PL does not have the best warehouse management software, their clients will notice some of the following troubling circumstances:
3PLs need to be aware of these client pain points, and how warehouse management software can improve them. The goal is to implement better WMS for a 3PL to prevent unhappy clients from going elsewhere.
Shopping for WMS for a 3PL must take into account the distinctive nature of 3PL logistics. Third-party logistics companies handle a diverse set of clients, selling a multitude of products, on a variety of platforms. The software must not only satisfy the 3PL’s needs but the needs of all of its individual clients too.
The chosen WMS must give the 3PL the ability to address the following criteria for its clients:
A 3PL must be doing absolutely everything it can to be as efficient as possible. Managers need to take a hard look at any tasks that are still being done manually.
WMS can optimize the warehouse space by determining the layout and slotting protocols. Fulfillment practices are streamlined by machine learning that finds the best picking method and pick paths. And barcode scanning and cartonization tools will improve accuracy and speed which will in turn save money. All of these automations are particularly important for a 3PL as there can be multiple workflows for different clients and products operating simultaneously.
Data collection and analysis is another area ripe for automation. Data analytics can help managers anticipate changes in demand and staff up or down as necessary.
Efficient operations in a 3PL warehouse mean faster and more accurate fulfillment, and in turn, happy customers. It is a top priority of any warehouse management software worthy of handling 3PL logistics.
In the fast-paced world of third-party logistics, old data is useless data. Real-time inventory numbers are the only ones that matter, giving the 3PL and its clients an accurate and timely count of how much is on the shelves and where to find it.
But the best warehouse management software can do even more than track inventory status at any given time. WMS for a 3PL should have the ability to write restocking rules and give automated alerts when it is time to reorder. By doing this, the 3PL can react to the client's needs as the demand for items ebb and flow. Backorders and stockouts can be reduced considerably with the right software.
Real-time data is not only useful for the 3PL. Automated data collection, report compilation, and analysis, when shared with the 3PL’s clients, become valuable for their corporate decision-making.
Clients should be able to access the data they need easily and whenever they need it. Tools like Infoplus’ self-serve report builder allow clients a level of autonomy as well as transparency. Clients can generate reporting for insight into data points like product velocity, speed of delivery, and returns. Not only is this valuable for them to make decisions, but it is also a good barometer of how well their 3PL partner manages their inventory and operations.
Warehouse management software helps to centralize all data and operations into a single hub. The best systems share that data seamlessly through integration. In some ways, a 3PL is like a translator, using integration to make sure there is clear communication with various shopping carts and trading partner EDIs, billing and accounting software, subscription services, barcode scanners, etc.
The best WMS will be able to integrate with a multi-channel environment. Failure to integrate both within the warehouse and in the marketplace can eliminate a 3PL as a viable partner for some clients. For example, if a client secures a contract with Walmart, and their 3PL’s WMS doesn’t support Walmart’s EDI, that client will be shopping for a new 3PL. (Infoplus EDI Module handles this with ease.)
The trickiest part about 3PL logistics is that every client needs something different. Third-party logistics companies will naturally standardize their operations as much as possible so they can run efficiently. But they must also be flexible enough to accommodate their clients’ unique needs, last-minute requests, and emergencies.
Creating custom workflows, or allowing clients to customize dashboards and reports is the type of flexibility that a good WMS can provide.
Training on any new system can be challenging, so it is important for 3PLs to find a WMS that is intuitive and has a user-friendly interface. Ideally, the software and dashboard should be easy enough to learn so that even temporary workers can pick it up quickly.
3PLs need a provider that is responsive to their ever-changing needs and can fix problems fast. WMS updates need to happen promptly so the 3PL isn’t forced to use workarounds just to get orders filled.
When it comes to WMS for 3PLs, the field is crowded. There are several software choices that will get the job done and offer similar features. Finding the best one to invest in requires knowledge of what warehouse management software is capable of, and how it matches a particular 3PL’s needs.
After reviewing 3PL software solutions, WarehousingAndFulfillment.com spotlighted its top choices, as well as other popular options. Infoplus ranked high among their favorites. Following are some pros and cons of some of the best known WMS softwares on the market:
Infoplus 3PL WMS is a comprehensive cloud-based system that provides automation and machine learning, inventory management, fulfillment, quality control, and data and reporting. In addition to the “pros” listed above some of the other features that make Infoplus stand out from the competition are:
This is just a short list of all that Infoplus warehouse management software can do for a 3PL.
The unique purpose of a 3PL requires a powerful software solution. The right WMS should be able to juggle the requirements and logistics of every one of the 3PLs clients, whether that is two companies or 200. It must be flexible and able to adapt and allow the 3PL as well as each client to scale when they are ready.
Is it time to upgrade your warehouse management software? Contact us to learn more and request a demo.
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