Best 3PL WMS in 2017?

By | 2017/01/19

What are the best 3PL Warehouse Management Systems in 2017?

3PL vs Order FulfillmentOrder Fulfillment

3PL and fulfillment companies have specific WMS needs. My company, EchoData, is an order fulfillment / 3rd party logistics (3PL) company. These terms are not exactly the same, although they are sometimes used interchangeably. 3PL refers to a broad group that includes transportation and warehouse storage companies. Order fulfillment applies to companies that receive orders and perform pick/pack/ship services. Fulfillment companies may also provide other value-add services like print-on-demand, gift-wrapping, etc. We’ll use the term 3PL here to keep things simple.

WMS for 3PLs – Challenges

Companies who operate warehouses often use Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) software. These systems help manage things like: tracking inventory and locations, moving products around, batching orders, and tracking storage.

A big challenge for 3PL companies is that each client has unique rules for the  management of orders and inventory. Instead of running a WMS for a single company, fulfillment and 3PL companies must run as dozens of different companies. What types of things are different? Here’s a partial list:

  • Inventory and reporting must be separated by client.
  • Packing slips are branded to each client. They may include logos, return instructions, extra labels, and custom messaging.
  • Order handling can be quite complex. Sample rules include duplicate-checking, auto-hold, kit-building, or custom work processes (engraving and print-on-demand).
  • Order allocation is based on the unique order profiles of each client.
  • Billing often varies for each client. For example, certain products may require value-add services.

Back in 2015, I worked on a research project that evaluated the best WMS for 3PLs. At that time, I found Zethcon and RAMP to be among the favorites for fulfillment/3PL companies.

We’re revisiting this project and now have a few more to review. Here are the additions to our list:

I’ll post details as we delve into the inner-workings of each of these systems. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, please post comments if you have experience with any of these systems! Is there a system you love (or hate)?

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