When a 3PL (third party logistics) company is looking for a warehouse management software program, it’s usually because they’ve run into some limitations with their existing software that is preventing them from operating at the expected level of success. Oftentimes, the requirements for a 3PL firm are quite stringent, considering that they are operating the storage and shipping functions of a multitude of clients and may span multiple locations. Furthermore, warehousing providers may utilize more sophisticated supplemental technologies to enhance the various warehouse processes and procedures. All of this combined makes for a complicated set of requirements for inclusion on a software request for proposal. If you find yourself wondering if your current warehouse management software has seen its better days, then pay close attention to these key features that will help meet the ongoing needs of your warehouse for years to come.
Ability to Handle Different Sales Channels
Let’s face it – the world has changed significantly in terms of the various sales channels available to businesses. From ecommerce websites and retail sales to wholesale relationships and manually entered orders by sales reps in the field, a warehouse software program must be able to integrate with a multitude of varying platforms. Furthermore, each of these sales channels can be even more intricate and require layers of additional information exchange and integration. For example, with literally hundreds of ecommerce shopping carts to choose from, 3PL firms must be able to quickly integrate with new shopping carts in order to win new clients – and retail clients offer another glimpse into the complexity of order exchange, with unique EDI requirements for each specific retailer. A robust warehouse management system must be able to integrate with these divergent channels, or else a 3PL will not only miss out on the opportunity to streamline operations, but may also miss out on signing up a new client.
Flexible Bar Code Scanning Technologies to Enhance Picking Efficiencies and Effectiveness
One of the most frequently requested features by fulfillment companies looking to increase warehouse performance is added functionality in the picking and packing process. Many baseline warehouse management programs offer integration with bar code scanning technologies. However, as the picking and packaging process evolves, many of these programs fail to scale with the additional needs. For example, batch picking processes can decrease the time it takes to pick products in the warehouse, thereby decreasing costs significantly. But without a fail safe way of validating that each order is correctly assembled, it’s a cost saving mechanism that a warehouse cannot implement. 3PLs that have their eyes on performance and high quality results are continually pressing for new and better ways to increase picking and shipping success rates and decrease their costs for clients. Therefore, in order to implement new picking methods, or to tweak existing processes to better the performance for a single customer, a warehouse management program must offer great flexibility with regard to scanning technologies and order picking and packing modules.
Ability to Automate 3PL Billing
Every 3PL company charges differently for their services provided. Therefore, warehouse software programs for this particular market need to be flexible, allowing individual companies to structure their unique billing process. Furthermore, the extent to which warehouse software automates billing procedures alleviates an intense burden for accounting personnel – and reduces the chances of errors in the billing process. Examples of the divergent billing needs of a 3PL include a systematic way to automate product storage, fulfillment fees (along with ad hoc packaging materials used throughout the process), receiving time, assembly of units, shipping charges, among many others. As if this isn’t enough, 3PLs will also have to export this information to the appropriate accounting software or platform, making easy integration a top priority.
The Platform Must Allow for Evolution and must be Service Oriented
There are quite a few other important factors that most 3PL firms will use in the vetting process when choosing a warehouse management software program. But in terms of some of the most important factors to consider, two of the final check points that should be on each and every 3PL’s list are both the ability to evolve the system to meet future needs and the ability of the software provider to meet the service requirements of ongoing support. Many a fulfillment company have moved to new warehouse software simply because either the software didn’t allow for any customization or the software support team didn’t react to their needs quick enough.
Because warehousing companies have so many clients with unique needs, they have an enormous need for customization of certain components of the software program. If they can’t build these custom features into the program, bottlenecks will result. And nothing is more of a recipe for disaster than a warehouse software provider not giving its customers adequate customer support. When looking at various 3PL software programs, it’s vitally important that they include some level of flexibility and stellar customer service support. There’s nothing worse that having an end of day warehouse crisis for a key client and not receiving timely support to remedy the issue and process all orders on time.