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5 Features a 3PL Should Look for in a Warehouse Management System

Made4net recently announced that Zethcon, a leading North American WMS software company with a robust cloud-based product platform designed specifically for the unique requirements of the third-party logistics (3PL) market, has joined the Made4net family. With a multi-decade track record of delivering premier 3PL WMS solutions, the team at Zethcon knows what today’s 3PL needs from a WMS solution. If you’re a 3PL getting started on a WMS selection, keep your eye out for the following 5 features, which go beyond the basics of pick, pack and ship functionality.

#1 Flexible integrations

According to Errol Gonzales, Account Executive at Zethcon,Gone are the days of flat files and EDI. Today’s warehouses have more technology than ever before, meaning there’s a greater need for fast and smooth integrations. A robust API is critical.”

A chief WMS requirement must be that it easily integrates with your carriers and suppliers, including any portals your suppliers use. It must also integrate with any software you’re running (especially CRMs and ERPs), purchase order management tools, analytics platforms, and any other ways you commonly share information. Finally, if you are using any type of automation, including goods-to-person technologies, pick-to-light systems, voice picking or tasking, etc., you’ll want to be sure your WMS easily communicates with them. Cloud-based WMS solutions tend to offer easier integration.

 #2 Automated billing

Billing plays a critical role in your profit and loss, so you need a solution with strong capabilities in this area. As we outlined in a previous post, when 3PLs bill manually, they often leave money on the table. Look for a WMS with activity-based automated billing built in. This means you have a system that allows you to capture all the work you do for a client outside of storage and handling. The right WMS will prompt your associates to capture all their activities, such as shrinking wrapping product or performing other value-added services, like kitting, repackaging or relabeling – and then tying that directly to a client invoice. Invoices should be auto generated and auto sent. The last thing you want is to generate reports in the warehouse and have those transferred to accounting for billing. This just adds an unnecessary step and potential errors to the billing process.

#3 Analytics & Reporting

Real-time data is essential to running an efficient and profitable operation. You need a WMS with deep, flexible reporting capabilities that can get the right information, to the right people, at the right time. Reporting tools need to look at real-time data as well as information from complete jobs. You’ll want to be able to understand workforce performance, including individual and shift performance, as well as things like how inventory locations are performing. Look for data mining tools, analytics and configurable dashboards that let you prioritize the metrics and key performance indicators that matter to your operation in a comprehensive, easily digestible view.

#4 Ease of use

You want a system that’s simple and easy to use, but you also want to be sure you can adapt it to your unique needs. According to Gonzales, “Every operation has unique quirks and demands. Today’s 3PLs need a WMS that allows you to adapt to specific needs and changes without having to go back to the vendor to pay for costly modifications.” Both the Made4net and Zethcon WMS solutions offer a high level of flexibility, with zero to little source code changes required. This results in a more responsive solution that has a lower cost to own and maintain.

 #5 A true partnership

Most importantly, today’s 3PLs need a software provider who is there for them. As Gonzales explains, “The majority of prospects I speak with today aren’t necessarily dissatisfied with their technology, they are dissatisfied with the service they are receiving. Emails and calls go unanswered. There’s simply no urgency to getting things done and there’s a lack of shared commitment to mutual growth.”

Given the investment and time needed to successfully implement a WMS solution, it’s important to choose a solution provider that’s been in business for a long time and plans to be around for even longer. New customer acquisitions are a good indicator of a vendor’s vitality, as is the amount invested in expanding the business and team.

Selecting a new WMS is a monumental task and it isn’t something that you can rush. WMS selection requires research, planning, and a whole lot of thought. If you’re looking for guidance, check out our Expert Tips for Finding the Right WMS.

Our experts like Errol, are also here to provide insight and guidance, so get in touch.