Your business deserves the best. And you can’t get that unless you utilize business processes that work for you. Software is the top resource for “shortcuts” in our world today. When many of us encounter a problem or a task which is terribly time-consuming and manual, what’s the first thing we do? Find an app or software to fix that problem. Warehouse management software solutions can help with laborious warehouse processes such as putaway, inventory control, and cycle counting, whether you’re a 3PL or a DTC brand looking for a 3PL. Here we’ve included insight into the top 3PL WMS software available to enhance your business and how to maximize the benefits they offer. Enjoy!
What is 3PL in WMS?
As you likely know, 3PL stands for Third-Party Logistics. In the context of warehouse management systems (WMS), 3PL refers to a service provider that manages the storage and distribution of goods on behalf of a company. When it comes to WMS, a 3PL provider can use the software to manage their client’s inventory, track and trace goods and shipments, and optimize warehouse operations, inventory visibility, vendor support, and customer support for their clients. This can include receiving, storing, picking, packing, and shipping of goods, as well as providing real-time visibility into inventory levels and order status. The 3PL provider takes care of the physical handling of goods, while the WMS software helps them to manage the inventory, orders, and logistics operations, such as tracking and reporting.
What is 3PL WMS Software?
3PL WMS software is a comprehensive and sophisticated warehouse management system designed to streamline and optimize the operations of third-party logistics companies. It encompasses a wide range of functionalities, such as inventory management, order fulfillment, transportation management, and analytics, all aimed at increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and improving the overall performance of the warehouse.
Benefits of Third-Party Logistics Software
With its advanced features and intuitive interface, 3PL software empowers logistics providers to effectively manage their warehouse operations, from receiving and storing goods, to picking and shipping orders, to tracking and reporting on inventory levels. This technology is an essential tool for companies that rely on third-party logistics providers to manage their warehouse and supply chain operations, as it enables them to gain real-time visibility into their inventory, improve their operational efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction.
How to Maximize the Benefits of 3PL WMS Software
Implementing 3PL software is just the first step in maximizing the benefits it can bring to your warehouse operations. To truly get the most out of your software, it’s essential to customize it to your specific needs. This means configuring the system to optimize it for your warehouse operations, such as automating repetitive tasks, creating custom reports, or integrating with other software. By customizing the software to your specific needs, you’ll increase efficiency and get the most out of the software.
Another key tactic to keep in mind is continuously monitoring and analyzing data. By regularly monitoring the system’s performance and analyzing the data it generates, you’ll identify areas for improvement and make adjustments as needed. Additionally, you can use the data to make informed decisions and optimize your operations. By doing this, you’ll keep your warehouse operations running smoothly and efficiently.
Much 3PL software also has mobile apps that allow you to access and manage your warehouse operations from anywhere, at any time. This can be especially useful for warehouse managers and supervisors who are always on the go. Utilizing this mobile capability can help you stay on top of your warehouse operations even when you’re away from the office.
Another benefit of 3PL software is the ability to plan and optimize your inventory. The software can provide real-time data and analytics, which will help you keep track of what products sell well and what products don’t. This will allow you to make informed decisions about what products to order and how much of each product to stock. By doing this, you can optimize your inventory and reduce the costs associated with overstocking or stockouts.
Finally, good 3PL software can also help you improve customer service. By providing real-time data on inventory levels and order fulfillment, you’ll provide accurate and up-to-date information to customers. This will allow you to resolve any issues quickly and improve customer satisfaction.
ShipHero’s WMS can do all this and more, check us out!
The Role of AI in 3PL WMS Software
Artificial intelligence can make warehouse work safer and more efficient. WMS for 3PL synthesizes vast amounts of data at every moment and can find the relevant answers to your employees’ and clients’ questions before they even think to ask. As soon as employees log into their dashboards on their mobile devices, they will see which items they need to pick for today’s orders and where they can find these items. With its streamlined integrations, the WMS instantly uses the input from the scanners every time an employee scans the item, so that it updates the inventory in real-time. Inventory management software can do its job much faster with the help of artificial intelligence, rather than if employees had to enter all the inventory data into Netsuite or Oracle manually. The real-time updates lead to cost savings and flexibility for 3PL providers and eCommerce enterprises alike.
Automation rules the day in many industries, including supply chain management (SCM) and fulfillment centers. Data collection, data interchange, and analytics help business owners make decisions about everything from warehouse workflows to retail pricing. The best WMS for 3PL providers, like the best freight broker software, will even make their own decisions if you authorize them to do this. For example, you can automate the reorder process to the extent that you let the WMS decide which stock levels should trigger a reorder of certain items.
Artificial intelligence algorithms are the modus operandi of search engines like Google. An AI algorithm in an order management WMS functions in a similar way, except that they are searching within the data set of your company’s warehouses or the supply chain of which your warehouse is a part, instead of the entire searchable internet. Of course, the more comprehensive WMS suites also have applications where they can analyze data from the World Wide Web. These algorithms can study market trends among brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers. These market trends can help with predictive forecasting.
AI analytics applications are very efficient at researching multiple trends that you would not think to research. While you are busy concentrating on what is going on within the walls of your warehouse, your WMS can research trends in weather and in the price of airline tickets. Therefore, it can accurately predict how much room you will need to make in your warehouse for cute swimsuit coverups (in a summer where travel is affordable and an area where temperatures are hot) or backyard “splash park” type sprinklers (where the weather is hot and when prices are high and the labor market is in the doldrums, so no one can afford to travel). It can even study which cooking videos are trending on YouTube in which areas so that it can guess where and when customers of the eCommerce companies that store products at your warehouse are going to start buying konjac noodles so that they can make low-carb fettuccine alfredo. Your warehouse will have exactly as many boxes of konjac fettuccine as it needs by the time you have even navigated to Wikipedia to find out that the konjac plant is also called the voodoo lily, devil’s tongue, and elephant yam, among other colorful names, and that you can, in fact, make noodles out of it.
How to Get Started with 3PL WMS Software
Whenever you start with new software you must define what you need the software to do for your business. That way, once you have identified software that fits your needs, you can set it up to improve your business processes based on the KPIs you need to see improvement from. This software is often used for automating repetitive tasks, creating custom reports, or integrating with other software. And don’t forget your team. Training your team on how to use the software is crucial to ensure the smooth implementation and operation of the system. Once implemented, monitoring and analyzing the data generated by the system will help you identify areas needing adjustment and a regular maintenance cycle will ensure continuous uptime.
Future Trends in Warehouse Management
According to the Start Us Insights website, warehouse management systems are one of the biggest trends in warehouse management in 2023. WMS ranks behind warehouse automation as the second most important warehouse management trend of the year. Other notable priorities this year are inventory tracking, wearables, the Internet of Things, immersive reality, warehouse security, sustainable warehousing, and fleet management.
WMS software is not new, and it is always evolving. Software developers are continuously analyzing the copious amounts of data they receive from warehouses that use their products and are always finding ways to make the WMS better serve the needs of the clients who use the software and of society at large. For example, if you have been using the same WMS for several years, you may find that its user interface is more intuitive than it was when you first implemented it several software upgrades ago. You might also find that it offers a greater variety of features and pricing plans.
Only the oldest warehouse employees remember what it was like when warehouses had to operate without computers, and employees had to keep a record of everything by using pen and paper. The older generation will also tell you what an adjustment it was when computers first came to warehouses. Today, mobile devices are ubiquitous in warehouses, so developing user-friendly and versatile mobile applications for warehouse management is a priority. Ensuring that WMS works with every iPhone, Android, or other mobile device is the key to successful warehouse management.
The partnership of analytics and automation is another trend that is helping 3PL providers operate more efficiently. The new versions of WMS keep track of where every person and every machine goes in the warehouse at every moment and how long each product stays on the shelves. Based on this, they can generate maps for how you can better arrange your warehouse and can guide you through the process of changing your warehouse layout, either just to improve efficiency or because you have signed a contract with a new client and need to make room in your warehouse to accommodate the new client’s stock. Analytics and automation can also help you ship products from the appropriate warehouses as quickly and inexpensively as possible. An algorithm can figure out whether, on a given day, the customer that just ordered the low-carb fettuccine will receive it more quickly if it arrives by plane from the Denver warehouse or by truck from the Atlanta warehouse.
Warehouses can only be profitable if the planet can support a human population. Therefore, environmental sustainability is as much a priority in 3PL as it is in other industries. Warehouses endeavor to reduce packaging and to use packaging materials made from biodegradable or recycled content when possible. They can also organize their operations so that all the trucks that leave the warehouse are full, instead of spending all that fuel to transport only half a truckload of freight. This may involve timing outgoing shipments strategically or partnering with other warehouses to share truck space.
What Features Should You Look For in a 3PL WMS Software?
When purchasing a 3PL WMS software, it’s essential to look for specific features which will enable you to optimize your warehouse operations and gain a competitive edge in the market. Here are a few lesser-known tips and tricks to keep in mind:
- Scalability: Look for a solution that can scale your business as it grows. This will ensure the system can handle an increase in volume and complexity without any disruptions.
- Automation: Automation is key to increasing efficiency and reducing errors. Look for a solution that offers automation capabilities for tasks such as inventory management, order fulfillment, and transportation management.
- Integration: The ability to integrate with other systems and software is crucial to achieving a seamless and efficient warehouse operation. Look for a solution that can integrate with your existing systems, such as your ERP or accounting software.
- Real-time data and analytics: Real-time data and analytics is crucial for making informed decisions. Look for a solution that offers real-time data and analytics capabilities, allowing you to monitor inventory levels, track orders, and gain insights into your operations.
- Mobile compatibility: With an increasing number of warehouse workers using mobile devices, look for a solution that is mobile-compatible, allowing you to access and manage your warehouse operations from anywhere, at any time.
- Cloud-based: Cloud-based systems are increasingly popular as they can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, which can be more cost-effective than on-premises solutions.
Customizability of 3PL WMS Software
Every warehouse operates in its own unique way. Therefore, it helps to be able to customize business software. If you have been working at the warehouse for a long time, you probably remember how cumbersome it was when you first started using QuickBooks to keep records at the warehouse. Over time, you were able to adapt and customize it so that it fits the needs of your company. The eCommerce companies that partner with your warehouse have probably had a similar experience with business software. They have probably customized their own shopping carts and other features to something that works for them.
If it were generic and not customizable, then WMS would offer little advantage over simply entering data manually into spreadsheets, except that it would be faster. One of the benefits of using WMS for 3PL, instead of just using generic business software, is that you can customize many of the features so that they accurately reflect your warehouse processes. For example, you can customize customer billing and order fulfillment features, since the details of these processes vary from one 3PL provider to another and one warehouse to another.
With WMS for 3PL, you can customize the analytics features so that the software asks the right questions about the data. Sometimes customization features of WMS for 3PL are called decision support tools. They let you enter “what if” scenarios and then predict outcomes based on the data. The more sophisticated decision support tools can even propose scenarios to analyze and predict.
WMS for 3PL also makes it easy for you to customize the workflows in your warehouse. Without customizable WMS, cycle counting is an endless and tedious process. With customizable WMS features, you can decide based on the data which counts you need to do and at what intervals to do them. You can automate cycle counting with your WMS. Even better, the software doesn’t miss a beat if you change the layout of your warehouse and then have to pick up where you left off with the counting process. Because everything integrates so smoothly with the warehouse employees’ mobile devices, nothing seems out of the ordinary to them, because the WMS adapts so smoothly to changes in your warehouse.
How Much Does a 3PL WMS Software Cost?
The cost of 3PL WMS software can vary widely depending on the vendor, features, functionalities, warehouse size, and number of users, and it can range from a few thousand dollars for a basic system to tens of thousands of dollars for a more advanced solution, you should also consider the ongoing costs such as maintenance, support, updates, and additional modules. Do your research, compare different options, consider the benefits the software will bring to your operations, and find the one which best fits your needs and budget, considering also that some vendors may offer lower upfront costs but have higher ongoing costs, while others may have a higher initial price but offer more features and support.
Best 3PL WMS Software
ShipHero’s WMS (Warehouse Management System) software streamlines and automates the process of managing warehouse operations with its advanced features and intuitive interface. You can easily track and manage inventory, fulfill orders, and optimize operations for maximum efficiency and productivity. Using ShipHero’s WMS software saves you time and money because you can customize ShipHero’s WMS software to meet the specific needs of your business whether managing a small stockroom or a large distribution center. The software also provides real-time visibility into inventory and operations, allowing you to quickly identify and address any issues that may arise. This avoids stockouts, reduces errors, and improves customer satisfaction.
WithoutWire’s WMS software is a cloud-based solution that helps companies manage and optimize their warehouse operations. It offers a range of features such as inventory management, order fulfillment, and real-time tracking to help businesses increase efficiency and productivity in their warehouse operations. WithoutWire software has a focus on the fashion and apparel industry, offering specific features tailored to this market such as style and size matrix management, and pre-pack functionalities. They also utilize RFID tracking and automated warehouse robots to enhance their speed.
3. Logiwa WMS
Logiwa provides a range of features such as inventory management, order fulfillment, real-time tracking, and advanced reporting to help businesses increase efficiency and productivity in their warehouse operations. This software offers advanced features such as multi-client and multi-warehouse management, and integration with multiple sales channels and shipping carriers, which can help companies to streamline their order fulfillment operations, and manage more complex logistics operations. Additionally, Logiwa WMS also offers an advanced barcode scanning functionality and mobile device compatibility, which allows for real-time inventory tracking and warehouse operations management.
4. Synapse WMS
Synapse WMS provides a range of features such as inventory management, order fulfillment, real-time tracking, and advanced reporting to help businesses increase efficiency and productivity in their warehouse operations. Synapse software offers advanced features such as multi-channel integration, EDI integration, and RFID scanning, which can help companies to streamline their order fulfillment process, and manage more complex logistics operations. Synapse also offers a more robust analytics and reporting functionality, which can help businesses make data-driven decisions about their warehouse operations.
This company focuses on leveling the playing field within shipping. Their software will search all carrier rates so you can select the best service for the best price. It is a multi-carrier shipping platform built for eCommerce businesses that help business owners know their products will be shipped in good hands. Plus through their software, you can track shipping from any carrier and you have access to performance indicators to measure their efficiency. Please note, while this is not a WMS software, it is focused on relieving your stress when it comes to your shipments so it’s a worthwhile platform to consider.
What 3PL WMS Software Does Your Business Need
Choosing the right 3PL WMS software requires a strategic approach that involves defining your business objectives, researching different software options, considering scalability, and looking for automation capabilities and integration options. By taking the time to carefully evaluate different options and considering the key factors that are essential to your business, you can ensure that you select a 3PL WMS software that is tailored to your specific needs and will help you achieve desired outcomes such as increased efficiency, reducing costs, and improved performance of your warehouse.
Security Measures in 3PL WMS Software
Cybersecurity and data privacy are major concerns for business owners in many industries. We have all heard news stories about class action lawsuits against businesses that suffered data breaches, leading to data theft that resulted in financial harm to the company’s customers, vendors, or employees. The dangers of data theft are even more serious for companies that, in the course of their work, must store data belonging to many different individuals and businesses. Cybersecurity is important for all businesses, but it is especially important for eCommerce businesses and 3PL providers. To get a sense of how much you stand to lose from data breaches, think about the financial losses your company would suffer if a single item were stolen from your warehouse, and then think about what you would lose if a Social Security number or bank account number got stolen from your company’s devices. The theft of a piece of identifying information or financial data harms your company more than the theft of a pair of sunglasses or a lemon juicer. Now think about how many bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and pieces of identifying information such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, and passwords are stored in your system. Clearly, you have a lot to lose.
Businesses should review their cybersecurity policies periodically, sometimes with the help of cybersecurity consultants. Even though new computer viruses, and new protections against them, are developing all the time, some data security best practices remain consistent across time. For example, cloud-based software is more secure than storing sensitive data on the hard drives of your devices. If you use cloud-based business software, including cloud-based WMS for 3PLs, then your warehouse’s data is safe on the cloud even if hackers are able to breach your company’s devices.
Another way that 3PL providers can protect their data is to require employees to use strong passwords and to update them on a regular basis. For example, the WMS might require each employee to update his or her password after a certain number of logins or every 90 days, whichever happens sooner. It should only accept passwords that are strong. Characteristics of a strong password are that it has at least one capital letter, one lowercase letter, one number, and one special character. The password should be at least eight characters long, and it should not contain numbers in sequence, nor should it include words found in the dictionary. Some WMS for 3PL also have employees set up security questions, which the system prompts them to answer after entering their password. The WMS can propose a list of security questions from which employees can choose, such as, “What street did you live on in third grade?” or “What is your paternal grandmother’s name?” The purpose of these security questions is that the answers to them are unlikely to change (unlike “What is your favorite food?” or “How old is your youngest child?”), but other people are unlikely to be able to guess them or look them up (such as “What city were you born in?” or “When is your wedding anniversary?”).
Two-factor authentication is an increasingly prevalent feature in business software in general and in WMS for 3PL in particular. With two-factor authentication, an employee must confirm, through another device such as a mobile phone, that he or she is trying to sign into a company computer. The leading WMS for 3PL companies offers online support and phone support for questions about security matters relating to the software.
The WMS you choose for your company should not only fit your needs but also be easy to use. The goal here is to find software that gives you more power and time back in your day. While the initial setup of any software can be painful, the WMS you choose will likely have a consultant to help walk you through every step of the setup. If you want to speak to an eCommerce WMS expert, come chat with us at ShipHero!
3PL WMS Software FAQs
What is a Tier 1 WMS?
A Tier 1 WMS, or Warehouse Management System, is a type of software that is typically used by larger organizations or those with more complex warehouse operations. These systems tend to have a wide range of functionalities and capabilities and are typically more expensive than other types of WMS software. They are often used by companies that operate multiple warehouses, have a high volume of SKUs or require advanced features like RFID and real-time tracking. They also tend to integrate with other enterprise systems such as ERP, CRM and eCommerce platforms. Tier 1 WMS solutions are often provided by large, well-established software vendors, and are known for their robustness and scalability. They are designed for large companies with a significant investment in warehouse operations and logistics.
What are the Four Types of 3PL?
There are several different types of third-party logistics companies (3PL), but the four main types are:
- Traditional 3PL: These providers offer a wide range of logistics services, including transportation, warehousing, and distribution. They typically handle the entire logistics process from start to finish, taking on the role of a full logistics provider.
- Dedicated contract carriage: These providers focus on transportation services, such as trucking and rail, and manage a dedicated fleet of vehicles for a specific customer. They typically handle all aspects of transportation, including scheduling, routing, and compliance.
- Lead logistics provider: These providers act as a coordinator and managers of logistics services, working with multiple service providers to create a comprehensive logistics solution for a specific customer. They are typically responsible for managing the overall logistics process and coordinating with other service providers.
- Value-added logistics: These providers focus on providing specialized logistics services, such as packaging, assembly, kitting, and labeling. They typically handle only a specific aspect of the logistics process, but they add value to the overall logistics solution by providing specialized services that the customer may not have in-house.
It’s worth noting that some providers may offer a combination of these services and that the line between these categories can sometimes be blurred, depending on the specific 3PL provider and the services they offer.
What Are the Latest Trends in WMS?
The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, IoT devices, and cloud technology is revolutionizing the warehouse management system (WMS) industry. AI and machine learning algorithms are used to optimize warehouse operations and provide real-time data and analytics. Robotics are used to automate tasks such as picking, packing, and transportation. And IoT devices allow for real-time monitoring and tracking of inventory and equipment, and cloud-based WMS allows warehouse managers to access their data and control their operations from anywhere at any time and also allows for easy scalability. These trends enable warehouse managers to optimize their operations, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.