The ability to react quickly is crucial for 3PL supply chain success. Whether you need to get a new customer up and running or fulfill last-minute orders to help an established customer address a spike in business, nimbly handling both anticipated tasks and unexpected requests is essential. As your business grows, having a tier 1 warehouse management system (WMS) in place can directly determine how well you can compete. Here are five capabilities WMS technology can enable to support your 3PL operations.
1. Incorporate business process changes easily in the WMS without the cost of additional services
Although most activities in your warehouse will likely be standard across your customer base, each account will also have specific needs and requirements when it comes to receiving and managing their inventory, fulfilling orders, and providing value-added services. These requests often require modifications to the WMS. Some of these changes are options already built into the system, but sometimes there’s customization involved.
It’s critical to have software in place that not only allows unique functions to be added quickly and easily in house, but that also enables you to turn these functions on or off for other customers. This flexibility pays dividends when it comes to getting new customers up and running as well. One business’ idea about how to handle their replenishment may in fact benefit others. There are endless examples of customizations when it comes to warehousing. A customer may ask that their products be stored in a particular way, or that certain data needs to be collected at receipt during the scanning process. Likewise, one customer may send an advance shipping notice (ASN) that triggers a purchase order, whereas others will send a purchase order directly—and some customers won’t send anything at all. Each of these different situations requires flexible technology that can be configured to meet varying needs. These changes need to be made cost effectively in house, meaning a flexible system is important to keep in mind.
2. Give clients visibility into their inventory and orders
The beauty of most warehouse management systems today is that both your internal team and your customers can have access to important information via a web portal. Giving customers visibility into their inventory levels and the status of shipments not only strengthens your partnership with the organization, but it also lets them have some level of control and self-sufficiency over critical activities. For example, if the company is planning a product promotion that is expected to spike sales 20%, they need to know they have the inventory readily available to fulfill orders on time and provide high levels of service to their own customers. If they’re able to log into the system to view inventory levels, initiate a cycle count, or request value-added services like price labeling or gift packing, that simplifies their experience and puts your organization in a favorable light.
3. Maximize available locations with smart space utilization
Empty or under-utilized locations in your warehouse can mean missed opportunities for revenue and productivity. While many 3PLs will assign certain aisles to certain customers, what happens when once-full locations sit empty for a day? A week? A month? The answer to this problem lies in your ability to detect those inventory peaks and valleys and use those empty locations opportunistically for another customer’s inventory, even if it’s just for a few days. The right WMS can make these open locations easy to identify and then fill with inventory. Effective space utilization can also delay the need to expand an existing warehouse facility or prolong the expense of building a new one.
4. Optimize workloads across your workforce
Your ability to monitor and optimize the work delegated to your team is an ongoing opportunity to keep operations moving and costs down. Knowing the inbound and outbound activities required across all custom
ers for a given day, week, or month enables you to plan employee workloads effectively. In turn, workload optimization supports your customers with activities that are completed on time. A WMS paired with a labor management system (LMS) can take optimization work a step further to define the required steps for each task carried out in the warehouse, so you can keep productivity high while reducing labor costs. Learn more about workforce optimization using an LMS and engineered labor standards.
5. Enable new employees to be productive on day one with user-friendly prompts
The need for intuitive technology that reduces the chance of mistakes is key for 3PLs. Easy-to-follow procedures benefit your regular workers as much as temporary/seasonal ones who need to get up and running quickly without a lot of oversight and in-depth training. The technology should clearly direct users through every step and not allow room for error. Warehouses with outdated WMS technology (often using mainframe systems) tend to rely on workers’ ‘tribal knowledge’ of how to navigate menu screens and get things done, which often requires cheat sheets and extra time for new employees to learn. You need a WMS that can guide workers through their tasks and alert them to any errors and exceptions along the way.
Investigate Your WMS Options
4SIGHT helps fast-moving 3PLs evaluate their WMS technology options across multiple vendors to help ensure the right software fit based on an in-depth needs assessment. Over the years we’ve worked with numerous 3PLs, and there are many areas where the right functionality can mean all the difference when it comes to faring well during selections and supporting customers effectively over the long run. Learn more about our expertise in warehousing environments or contact us today.