Third-party Logistics providers (or 3PLs) have special warehouse management needs, above and beyond those of, say, the manufacturer that distributes its own products, as pointed out recently in a white paper by WMS publisher Accellos. That’s worth remembering, the article states, when a third party logistics provider that’s looking for warehouse management software hears it biggest customer suggest they simply use what the they’re using. Accellos’ conclusion: a 3PL’s special needs warrant looking at a product designed specifically for their logistics niche. As a result, they highlighted Five Business Drivers a 3PL should consider when evaluating warehouse management systems for their own purposes…
- Inventory Integrity – To a 3PL nothing is more important than properly assigning, tracking and managing their clients’ respective inventories. It’s even more daunting when multiple clients’ inventory share the same building. The ability to concatenate (or ‘join’) overlapping identifiers such as item codes or pallet codes with a client ID to provide a truly unique identifier should be considered.
- Customer Service Enablement – A system built for the multi-client environment of a 3PL must ensure client access to their information only. So in addition to providing real-time information on inventory, you can provide individualized client self-service features too, like custom alerts or exception reporting.
- Concurrent Client Logistics – This means being able to manage multiple clients within a single building, utilizing shared resources while maintaining inventory integrity and data security for each 3PL client’s workflow.
- Revenue Assurance – Tracking revenue producing activities from client to client, with different standards and actions, can be complex. Clients often want to be billed in different ways for differing actions or rules. A system dedicated to the needs of a 3PL can handle these requirements by tracking the right revenue producing actions, client by client.
- Beyond the Four Walls – Items outside the building should also be taken into account, like transportation and supplier management. If you overpay to move goods in and out of the facility, your internal cost efficiencies can be compromised. Improvement requires the management of routing rules for multiple clients that may not be included in a standard WMS package.
The takeaway for 3PLs is the need for a careful needs analysis, taking into account all the factors that make your distribution center and policies unique. One size does not fit all, would seem to be Accellos’ overarching point, and a “purpose-built” WMS may be the better solution for the full-service 3PL.