What are the best 3PL Warehouse Management Systems in 2017?
3PL vs Order 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.
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)?