Outsourcing some of your operations to other organizations is a necessary part of the growth of eCommerce companies. Engaging the services of third-party logistics (3PL) solutions providers is supposed to help you save time and money, but it has its challenges, especially in the beginning. Fortunately, technology can make the process easier. Your 3PL company should choose a WMS (Warehouse Management System) platform that meets your requirements and those of your team and clients. There are plenty of 3PL WMS systems out there, but they differ in their efficiencies, integrations, and implementations. Choosing the best WMS software platforms can help you achieve success with your current clients and even attract a new, lucrative project.
What is WMS?
A WMS (Warehouse Management System) is a software solution that manages and implements warehouse processes in real-time. It is more comprehensive than just using fulfillment software. Warehouse management systems provide you with many different warehouse operations, such as order fulfillment, storage of goods, the printing of shipping labels, and managing workflows such as FIFO. Choosing the right warehouse management software suite can help warehouses operate more efficiently so that they can serve their customers more effectively.
What are 3PLs?
3PL stands for third-party logistics, and it is a common way of doing business in the eCommerce industry. In a 3PL setup, the company makes and ships the products at a warehouse that the eCommerce retailer company does not own. The company that owns the warehouse (the “third party” in third-party logistics) is in charge of fulfilling the orders and other warehouse functions. All WMS systems collect a lot of data regarding tracking, distribution, and other aspects of the supply chain. They also automate tasks to reduce labor costs and prevent miscommunications among workers. Some of them even have features that enable the software to make planning decisions, such as when to reorder certain products. Warehouses that engage in third-party logistics functionalities need WMS to serve their clients and their client’s customers efficiently so that they can stay competitive in the market.
Why is WMS Important for 3PLs?
WMS is important for 3PLs because a machine can keep track of more information at one time than a human being can, even a human being with a prodigious mind. When a warehouse implements WMS software, the WMS sends the relevant information to each employee’s mobile device. If your task today is order fulfillment in the shoe aisle, then your dashboard only shows you which shoeboxes you are responsible for picking, where to find them, and which truck to put them on so that the appropriate person can pack them. 3PL companies are also often in charge of ordering supplies, shipping orders to customers, and processing customer returns. Therefore, accuracy and traceability are of paramount importance for 3PL WMS.
How to Choose the Right WMS for Your 3PL
Choosing a WMS for your 3PL company is not something that you should do on a whim. You should research several 3PL WMS products from various companies before you make a decision. To do this, first, read some blog posts or a user guide or watch a demo video of the software’s features on the website of the WMS company. Write down the questions that come to your mind after your preliminary search for information about WMS products. Then call some WMS companies and ask your questions to someone in the sales or customer service department. Interacting with the company that makes the WMS is an important step because you want to make sure that the people who will help you set up and troubleshoot the WMS are helpful.
Scalability and Flexibility
WMS helps you be more accurate and efficient in the execution of your warehouse processes, even if you operate multiple 3PL warehouses in different parts of the country. You can use data to ensure that customers are receiving the package in record time. The WMS is always collecting and analyzing data about transportation costs and times so that the packages can reach the customers after the fewest number of steps and with the fewest errors. A WMS can do this as easily for just a few types of products as for a whole warehouse, and it can do it as seamlessly for multiple shipments of varying sizes as it can for a single order. Best of all, when there are glitches in the supply chain, the WMS can offer quick fixes, so you can easily work with the materials you have to meet the demands of the market.
The best WMS for 3PLs integrates easily with a variety of business software platforms. You don’t have to buy the rights to access multiple new applications just to add WMS to your 3PL operation. If you use different software for invoices, charges, billing, reports, or other aspects of your business, WMS for 3PLs will integrate smoothly with your other software. WMS for 3PL plays well with others. When you implement WMS for 3PL, your warehouse employees will not notice any difference in their work device usage except that they will see the WMS logo on their portals and a longer list of options when they look at their dashboards.
Your mission as a 3PL service provider is to partner with different companies in different areas of the country that use your warehouse location as a piece of their supply chain. Your clients have the goal of providing customer satisfaction and affordable prices for their customers, and your warehouse operations are tools that enable them to achieve that goal. Most 3PL providers store products belonging to a range of different companies in the same warehouse. Therefore, you must meet the needs of multiple clients simultaneously and ensure the timely delivery of all of their products. WMS for 3PL can help you fulfill that mission.
The most significant relief that WMS brings to 3PL providers is that it enables warehouse managers to see what is going on in multiple areas of multiple warehouses all at the same time. WMS for 3PL gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire supply chain. You can see what is going on in different marketplaces, and you can use these insights to make wise decisions that benefit you and your clients. The real-time visibility that you get with WMS and transportation management systems (TMS) for 3PL can help you reduce errors and save on costs.
Warehouse jobs have a reputation for being boring, monotonous, and dangerous, but automating some of your warehouse processes can help keep workers away from safety hazards and reorient their work toward tasks that require human judgment and communication while leaving the truly monotonous tasks to the robots. With WMS for 3PL, workers can enter input on devices, or simply watch the robots do their work as the machines do predictable tasks such as counting and stacking items or kitting products that customers frequently order together.
Advanced Inventory Management
Frequently reevaluating and modifying your warehouse workflows can help your warehouse stay efficient and competitive. For example, you can pick nonperishable products on a first in first out (FIFO) basis, while picking and shipping perishable food items, including those with a fairly long shelf life, on a first-expire-first-out (FEFO) basis. WMS can easily keep track of the complex organization of your warehouse and clearly and efficiently communicate it to workers on their devices.
Reporting and Analytics
Even the simplest WMS suites have robust reporting and analytics features. You can generate reports on demand or at regular intervals, and you can even watch the data update itself in real-time. You can use the reports generated by your WMS to make decisions about warehouse layout, reordering, pricing, and transportation routes, among other matters. You can even authorize the software to make certain decisions on its own based on the data. For example, you can rely on it to reorder a certain item whenever the stock level gets below a certain point.
The most complete WMS for 3PL has a web portal not only for managers and employees but also for customers. Consumers who order products stored at your warehouse can track their orders in real-time. The customer portal can also help customers navigate the return process and provide necessary feedback.
Ease of Use
Business owners are familiar with the ups and downs of implementing new software or installing new devices at work. With the best WMS for 3PL, getting started working with the new WMS is as easy as downloading a game on your mobile phone and playing it. The user experience of WMS for 3PL is intuitive for employees and customers alike.
Vendor Support and Training
Even though it is easy to get used to the new WMS, many employees find it beneficial to have someone explain to them live how to use the features of the WMS. In addition to online training videos, we offer in-person training to help the employees in your warehouse and your company get used to using the WMS features that they will be using in their work on a regular basis.
WMS for Different Industries in 3PL
Different industries have different warehouse management needs. WMS suites are available that are suited to different industries, such as raw materials, wholesale goods, and retail distribution centers. If your 3PL company is in charge of various parts of the supply chain, then you should choose a WMS that is equipped to manage the processes of various kinds of warehouses.
Best Integration of WMS in 3PL
Most companies that seek to implement WMS are not small startups that have just recently gotten the idea that they want to store and distribute products. Rather, they are established 3PL service providers that have been in the supply chain logistics industry for years. They already use business software that works for them, so they need a WMS that integrates well with it.
Cost of Implementing WMS in 3PL
The days of installing software onto each individual device in your network from a CD-ROM are long gone. Not only is implementing business software, including WMS for 3PL, much faster than it used to be, but it is also less expensive. WMS for 3PL is available for a monthly subscription fee, with different packages available at different price points.
Pros of WMS for 3PLs
WMS can help 3PLs save on labor costs and shipping times because they enable warehouse managers to see what is going on at all parts of the supply chain. They reduce human error and lack of efficiency by tracking the progress of the work in real-time and updating the information on workers’ devices on an ongoing basis.
Cons of WMS for 3PLs
Once you get started with WMS, you will wonder how your warehouses ever managed to operate without it. All new software programs involve a learning curve, but it should not take long before the employees of your warehouse get used to using the new WMS.
Automation and analytics are key to operating a warehouse efficiently and ensuring that the supply chain operates in a streamlined manner. WMS can help your warehouse or 3PL operation reduce labor costs and increase the speed and accuracy of work.
These are some common questions that 3PL service providers ask about warehouse management systems.
What is the Difference Between ERP and WMS?
ERP stands for enterprise resource planning. Warehouse management systems (WMS) are only one aspect of ERP.
What is the Pricing for an Extensive 3PL Warehouse Manager?
An extensive 3PL warehouse manager costs a monthly subscription fee that is higher than the subscription fee that you would pay for a simpler one.
Is There a Suitable 3PL Software for Small Businesses?
3PL software packages are available for businesses of all sizes. You can choose a 3PL WMS suite that fits the needs and size of your business.
Contact ShipHero today for a demo.