Because of our focus within the 3PL warehousing industry, we frequently are asked if we have any recommendations of the Best 3PL Warehouse Software systems.
When a 3PL (third party logistics) company is looking for a warehouse management software program, it’s usually because they’ve run into some limitations with their existing software that is preventing them from operating at the expected level of success. Oftentimes, the requirements for a 3PL firm are quite stringent, considering that they are operating the storage and shipping functions of a multitude of clients and may span multiple locations.
Furthermore, warehousing providers may utilize more sophisticated supplemental technologies to enhance the various warehouse processes and procedures. All of this combined makes for a complicated set of requirements for inclusion on a software request for proposal. If you find yourself wondering if your current warehouse management software has seen its better days, then pay close attention to these key features that will help meet the ongoing needs of your warehouse for years to come.
Choosing a 3PL WMS
Your business is growing, and you need technology that can help you keep pace. As a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, you likely already have a warehouse management software (WMS). But now that your business is evolving and growing, you’re looking for something more…
But where do you start? When you try to search for “3PL warehouse management software” online, you get innumerable results.
First, you need to identify your challenges, and then based on that, you’ll be able to determine which features matter most to you.
Challenges that 3PL Warehouses Face
As a 3PL, you face additional challenges that other businesses don’t have to deal with. You’re turning warehouse management into an outsourced service. So you aren’t on the hook for marketing your customers’ products, but they’ll be unhappy if your management leaves them with dissatisfied customers.
Handling Clients, not Just Inventory
Yes, you manage products, but you also manage your customers. Their requests, questions, needs, and more. Even though they know you have other customers, they’ll expect you to courteously and promptly respond as if they’re your only customer.
Many times, customers will reach out to you when they have a fulfillment emergency. Perhaps product demand grew faster than they expected, or their product got picked up by an influencer. Whatever the case may be, they’re contacting you, and they need to onboard quickly before their business gets banned in the marketplaces.
You need lead time to set up new clients, and you don’t always have as much as you’d like. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a streamlined process that looked the same for each client, while allowing them to receive individual treatment?
Lack of Real-Time Reporting
Without real-time reporting, you’re going to struggle to make rapid-fire business decisions. If your clients decide to have unexpected sales (as they may be prone to do), does your data tell you how many temporary workers you need to hire?
Are you going to need those workers to work overnights and weekends?
Do you need your customer to place orders for additional inventory so they aren’t out-of-stock?
These are questions that require fast answers. Of course, to be sure you’re coming up with the right decisions, you need real-time data. Real-time data from all of your sales and supply chain channels comes from integrations that connect to your system.
As you grow your 3PL business, one or two new clients may require you to scale your capabilities. You will seek to grow by landing larger clients with larger budgets. However, once you start to gain those clients, your warehouse capacity will reach its max, which means you may have to add new warehouses to your network.
You’ll need more equipment and more employees, which means you’ll generate more data that can help you run your business smartly. Investing in technology that can support your business growth for the next 3, 5, or 10+ years is a smart investment.
You must build scalability into your business model to have sustainable growth and see the most return on your investments.
Important Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Next 3PL Warehouse Software System
There are many different 3PL Software systems out there but it can be quite overwhelming to find the right one to fit your specific needs. When you start looking for new software it is important to know what the shortcomings are of your current system and what you need from the new system. We know that the requirements for a 3PL company can be very comprehensive as they are working for many different customers and possibly for different locations, which may even be in different states. Once you have a list of what you are looking for it is also important to keep the basics in mind. What are some other things that a 3PL warehouse should look for? We recommend looking at customization, automated billing and customer support as some of the most important factors so you can ensure that you will enjoy your new 3pl software system for years to come. Software needs to be continually updated to keep up with the fast-paced world we live in and it is important to invest in a system that will be able to do this alongside your business.
Customization of the 3PL Software
Looking at the different 3PL software systems that are out there, one thing that stands out is the difference in the ability to customize their system. Some interfaces are very easy to use but leave little to be customized for a 3PL and others are not quite as user friendly but there is training available to support you in customizing the system to your needs and requirements. Customization is very important in order to best meet your needs in the future as well. If you are able to adjust the system for your own requirements you know that you will be able to do so in the future as well when the requirements of your customers change. If there is a team available to guide you on how to best modify the software then that is even better. Bottom line – If the 3PL software has the flexibility to adapt to new situations it will let you better serve your customers and not have to worry about software capabilities later down the line.
3PL Software Billing Requirements
For every customer a 3PL company has there is a possibility that the services are charged for in different ways to meet the unique needs of each individual customer. It is important that the warehouse software can adapt to these different billing processes. If the warehouse software is able to automate the billing procedure to takes away a major burden for the accounting department and at the same time ensures that less errors can occur in the billing process.
Every 3PL company charges differently for their services provided. Therefore, warehouse software programs for this particular market need to be flexible, allowing individual companies to structure their unique billing process. Furthermore, the extent to which warehouse software automates billing procedures alleviates an intense burden for accounting personnel – and reduces the chances of errors in the billing process. Examples of the divergent billing needs of a 3PL include a systematic way to automate product storage, fulfillment fees (along with ad hoc packaging materials used throughout the process), receiving time, assembly of units, shipping charges, among many others. As if this isn’t enough, 3PLs will also have to export this information to the appropriate accounting software or platform, making easy integration a top priority.
Customer Support and Ability to Request or Implement Changes
Customer support should also definitely be one of the top things to look for. Software for 3PL services can be very intricate as these kind of software needs to be customized for many different customers. It is very important to have the right support. When a problem occurs in the system it needs to be resolved quickly in order for you to serve your customers best. Customers outsource their business to 3PL warehouses so they do not have to deal with these problems. If it takes days for support to fix an issue with the warehouse software it also means that there is loss of business for the end customer, which could also potentially lead to the warehouse losing business. Furthermore, if new updates that are needed for your business take months to get on the development schedule, you may have to implement workarounds that can be time consuming and costly. When looking at reviews you specifically look for quick response of customer support.
Other Most Important Considerations: Integration with Online Sales Channels and Bar Code Capability
With the growth of e-commerce, warehousing and fulfillment companies have had to adapt by integrating their warehouse software with a number of varying sales channels in order to receive orders automatically, send various information such as tracking information back to the client, and offer customized client reporting. The best 3PL warehouse software programs make this process easy by utilizing technology to enable the 3PL to integrate quickly with any of hundreds of online shopping carts, EDI software, and accounting and billing systems. Furthermore, warehouses are moving increasingly in the direction of automating as much of the receiving, storage, and pick/ship process as possible – requiring the need for the 3PL software to integrate with different bar code systems, pick systems, and other electronic devices. The best 3PL software companies are not only offering solutions in this regard, but also keeping up with the pace of change so that new requirements are implemented quickly.
With the account integrations you’re certainly going to want, it becomes a lot easier to trust the data behind your reporting. By minimizing the need for manual data entry, you lessen opportunities for human error. Imagine, you could have real-time 100% accurate data across your entire warehouse.
Real-Time Data and Visibility
If all of your clients’ sales channels are integrated with your WMS, then information will flow from the moment their customers hit the “buy now” button. Most modern 3PL WMSs integrate with barcode scanning technology. This allows for real-time updates on the status of all of your clients’ orders:
- A picker has received the pick list on their mobile device and is walking the pick face right now.
- The picker has picked all of the required inventory and is moving to the packing station.
- The shipping label is waiting at the packing station as your packers scan each item’s barcode.
A truly advanced WMS not only gives you the pulse of your warehouse, but also helps keep your ops in sync. Warehouse operations are kind of like an orchestra. Different parts that create a greater whole. Could you imagine how rough the orchestra would sound if you couldn’t get the percussion and woodwind sections in harmony?
A great 3PL WMS keeps your operations synchronized and streamlined, bringing harmony to your warehouse.
Ability to Handle Different Sales Channels
Let’s face it – the world has changed significantly in terms of the various sales channels available to businesses. From ecommerce websites and retail sales to wholesale relationships and manually entered orders by sales reps in the field, a warehouse software program must be able to integrate with a multitude of varying platforms. Furthermore, each of these sales channels can be even more intricate and require layers of additional information exchange and integration. For example, with literally hundreds of ecommerce shopping carts to choose from, 3PL firms must be able to quickly integrate with new shopping carts in order to win new clients – and retail clients offer another glimpse into the complexity of order exchange, with unique EDI requirements for each specific retailer. A robust warehouse management system must be able to integrate with these divergent channels, or else a 3PL will not only miss out on the opportunity to streamline operations, but may also miss out on signing up a new client.
Flexible Bar Code Scanning Technologies to Enhance Picking Efficiencies and Effectiveness
One of the most frequently requested features by fulfillment companies looking to increase warehouse performance is added functionality in the picking and packing process. Many baseline warehouse management programs offer integration with bar code scanning technologies. However, as the picking and packaging process evolves, many of these programs fail to scale with the additional needs. For example, batch picking processes can decrease the time it takes to pick products in the warehouse, thereby decreasing costs significantly. But without a fail safe way of validating that each order is correctly assembled, it’s a cost saving mechanism that a warehouse cannot implement. 3PLs that have their eyes on performance and high quality results are continually pressing for new and better ways to increase picking and shipping success rates and decrease their costs for clients. Therefore, in order to implement new picking methods, or to tweak existing processes to better the performance for a single customer, a warehouse management program must offer great flexibility with regard to scanning technologies and order picking and packing modules.
Taking Care of Problems and Changes
So, after trying out a few types of software you may narrow it down to a few you really like. But you’re not done. Now you need to see how well the software providers can help you if you have any problems. Find out the kind of customer service offered. For example, see if they offer online chat, phone service and email support. Next, ask them how quickly they will respond to requests, since in the warehouse, problems dictate immediate answers. If they cannot give you a timeframe, they may have poor customer service.
Also, upgrades to software keep your business on top of technological advances. Investigate how quickly the software provider will be able to implement new changes in the future or if this is even a possibility.
The Platform Must Allow for Evolution and must be Service Oriented
There are quite a few other important factors that most 3PL firms will use in the vetting process when choosing a warehouse management software program. But in terms of some of the most important factors to consider, two of the final check points that should be on each and every 3PL’s list are both the ability to evolve the system to meet future needs and the ability of the software provider to meet the service requirements of ongoing support. Many a fulfillment company have moved to new warehouse software simply because either the software didn’t allow for any customization or the software support team didn’t react to their needs quick enough.
Because warehousing companies have so many clients with unique needs, they have an enormous need for customization of certain components of the software program. If they can’t build these custom features into the program, bottlenecks will result. And nothing is more of a recipe for disaster than a warehouse software provider not giving its customers adequate customer support. When looking at various 3PL software programs, it’s vitally important that they include some level of flexibility and stellar customer service support. There’s nothing worse that having an end of day warehouse crisis for a key client and not receiving timely support to remedy the issue and process all orders on time.
Client Portals and Dashboards
We mentioned this above, but multiple client infrastructure is a must have for your business. As a 3PL, you’ll want to extend your great tech to your clients.
Customers want 24/7 access to their business information. As a trusted partner, you want to grant them that access, but you have to make sure that they can only access the right data. Having customer portals is a great way to allow your clients to get a bird’s eye view of their inventory, while securing the data they shouldn’t have access to.
You also operate using many different sets of credentials in order to integrate seamlessly with your clients’ operations. Managing all of their marketplaces, shopping carts, and carrier credentials can easily get out of hand.
You want to present a custom solution, which means taking all of the various channels in stride. You can give your customers the ability to access their information in real-time, and view whatever data they need to make business decisions.
Many businesses struggle to turn over the management of such a critical part of their business. With a client portal, they should be able to view things like receiving, inventory, orders, and reports.
Don’t Forget Your Dashboard
So client portals are wonderful and help foster great relationships between you and your clients. But a great dashboard will help your warehouse run smoothly. When you log into your WMS, you should immediately be able to gain a sense of warehouse operations.
As their service-provider, seeing all of the data in one easy to use dashboard will save you from trying to compile it yourself.
User-Friendly for Easy Training
Your employees shouldn’t need to spend weeks training on your WMS in order to use it effectively. During your 3PL WMS search, look for interfaces that are clean and simple. If it’s easy to use, then you’ll have no problem implementing the system across your warehouse operations.
When you bring in temporary warehouse employees during an operations surge (like the holidays), they should be able to easily grasp your WMS as well. Minimizing their lead time increases their effectiveness during their time working for you.
Fulfillment Process Optimization
You want your 3PL WMS to help you build better operations processes. That means your software should guide your employees in executing advanced picking methods and tools such as:
- Zone picking
- Batch picking
- Fulfillment robots
Picking can account for as much as 60% of your warehouse labor costs. Using advanced fulfillment techniques in a non-3PL warehouse can be tricky without the best technology. Handling orders for multiple clients’ customers adds a whole new layer of complexity.
This complexity is why you should use a WMS that has multiple client architecture.
Once you have covered all of these steps, you will be able to choose the best software provider for your company, making your warehouse fulfillment operation run much more smoothly.
Inventory Software Costs and Prices
There’s one more important thing to consider when choosing an Inventory Software for your business. Do you want to purchase the Inventory Software program outright, or would you prefer using a SAAS (software as a service). When you purchase Inventory Software outright, there is usually a one-time lump sum fee that can be sizeable and range from $5,000- $50,000+. Of course, once you purchase it, you own it. You simply install it on your computers or servers, and then use the Inventory Software like any other program. The other option is to use a SAAS provider. With this option, you “lease” the software from a company, paying much smaller monthly payments. Oftentimes, the Inventory Software is accessible via the web and remote hosted. The advantage here is that you’d be able to get the Inventory Software for much lower Inventory Software Costs and Inventory Software Prices. And we can help provide you with Inventory Software Quotes for both types of software. Simply fill out one of our Inventory Software Quotes forms and we’ll get you matched with the Best Inventory Software firms and help you save with your Inventory Software Costs and Inventory Software Pricing.
Switching to a New Inventory Management Solution
It’s a big deal to switch to a new inventory management solution. You need to train key staff members on how to use the software in their daily work and get everything set up and transferred from your old solution. Here are four things you can do to make this process as smooth and simple as possible.
Have at Least One Primary Trainee
You should assign one or more individuals to be present at each training session for the new software and to be the most familiar with its various functions. These individuals could be your warehouse manager, in-house accountant, chief financial officer, and/or anyone else who is qualified to be a system administrator.
Why do this? Because you need someone to be an expert while recognizing that not everyone in the company has to know everything about the software. For example, salespeople just need to know how to generate sales orders, warehouse workers need to know how to generate purchase orders, pick items, and receive inventory, and chief information officers need to be able to check order statuses, inventory turnover ratios, projected sales, and other big-picture information. They have specialized roles to play, which don’t necessitate access to the full software.
If you have a handful of individuals who are familiar with all aspects of the software, they will be able to train others on those parts of the software that they will use in their jobs. And if one expert goes on vacation, takes sick leave, or even permanently leaves the company, you still have others who possess the knowledge to keep things running in their absence.
Set Aside Enough Time for Training
You should expect training on the software to take several days. If you opt to have an expert come to your facility to train your staff in person and help them set up a new inventory database, you will likely spend several hours on the phone with them to prepare. The more information you’re able to gather ahead of time, the better off you will be when the main training session begins.
The amount of time it takes to get fully trained will vary from software to software, but a good rule of thumb is to expect to work with a software expert for two days at a minimum. That’s not including all of the prep time, but if you sign up for an on-site training, it’s safe to assume you will need to spend more than one day with them to get everything you require from them. Try not to rush the process.
Focus on Accurately Setting Up Your Database
In addition to getting trained, the most important thing to do is to set up your database. To do that, you’ll need to add every one of your parts, products, vendor pricing, and locations, among other things. An inventory management solution is only as good as the information entered into it. Start yourself on the right foot by making sure the information you add to your database is accurate and complete. You can do this by making extensive use of spreadsheets.
Spreadsheets Are Your Friends
If you’re moving information from another inventory solution to another or even from an accounting solution like QuickBooks, the way to do it is by first exporting it into Excel spreadsheets. Once everything is in a spreadsheet, you can go in and do all sorts of things to prepare it for importing into the new solution. You’ll likely want to reformat the column headers to match new requirements, clean up errors in the data, and add missing items so that they’re ready to be entered into your new database.
A trainer can help you with this, or you might even be able to find spreadsheet templates, how-to videos, and documentation provided by the inventory solution provider.
WarehousingAndFulfillment.com Recommended ‘Top’ 3PL Warehouse Software Programs
After our review, the following are 3PL software solutions that we recommend that you consider in your search for a new software for your warehouse company.
Logiwa 3PL WMS
Logiwa is a cloud-based new age fulfillment software serving 3PL businesses for over a decade. Its solutions are geared towards helping 3PLs manage multiple clients who have multiple sales channels.
Two of the most common problems that Logiwa 3PL WMS solutions help 3PL businesses overcome include:
- Lack of real-time and reliable reporting
- The inability to scale as your business grows
With Logiwa, there’s no limit to the number of warehouses and customers that can be managed. Features include:
- All-in-One Dashboard:a consolidated dashboard gives you a bird’s eye view of customers’ inventory in real-time
- Multi-channel Integration: a multitude of integrations are offered with ecommerce marketplaces, accounting software, shipping carriers and more.
- Tailored Customer Portals:3PL end customers can access their business information.
- White Labeling:Logiwa can be customized to fit specific brand requirements and provide a seamless experience for customers.
- Customizable Billing:bottlenecks can be prevented by providing customizable billing options for customers.
- Client Specific Rules:warehouse operations can be configured based on specific customers’ needs.
- Open API:custom integrations and reports can be created as needed by connecting via API.
Logiwa 3PL WMS is a groundbreaking software helps 3PLs reduce operational costs, provide visibility across the entire supply chain, and increases profit margins. Logiwa customers get up to 100% inventory accuracy and double the number of orders shipped thanks to improved efficiency.
ShipEdge Warehouse Software
ShipEdge has good reviews all across the board. ShipEdge is able to integrate with almost all selling channels, which nowadays is very important with e-commerce becoming such an important sales channel. There are many functions such as shipping management, inventory control, automated billing, barcoding, KPI reporting, etc. They also seem to concentrate more on the growing e-commerce businesses which will be a great value to have a software that understand all of the new e-commerce trends. With ShipEdge, you get an implementations manager, as well as online documentation available that will all be able to assist you on how to best utilize the system for your needs.
One of the unique aspects of ShipEdge is its Billing features – which is set up in a way that requires 3PL customers to pre-pay for services. Because of this, 3PL warehouses can reduce cash flow issues and spend money where they need to. The billing functionality keeps track of pre-paid balances and makes billing a worry-free scenario. All of the billing functionality is viewable by the end customer in a series of reports that are real-time.
ShipEdge also focuses on one of the critical areas of the warehouse process – receiving. The software focuses more attention on the purchase order and replenishment of goods, knowing that if receiving is negatively impacted all other areas of the warehouse falls apart.
From our own research we would like to add that ShipEdge does not appear to have the extensive customization capabilities some of the larger 3PL warehouses might need to cover all of their bases. However, considering price/quality it definitely would be well suited for the smaller to mid-range 3PL companies and more than capable of meeting the demands of this segment of the market.
Infoplus is a web-based system that offers a lot of communication if so desired by a 3PL. There are alerts for almost everything, including low stock alerts, shipping alerts, etc. These alerts come in per email, which makes it easier for employees to catch. The dashboard is customizable and is very easy to navigate as well as having a quick search which can make it even easier to find the necessary transactions. There are smart filters, which again can be customized to the individual warehouse process. They allow access to all data in real-time, which makes reporting a breeze. As well as giving the warehouse the ability to choose which information they share with their end-customers. The system also can create processes out of exceptions which can significantly control any errors should they occur. It also has the capability to let an employee know how best to stack a pallet with the materials that are requested in an order. All of these options make it much easier to prevent errors and is so user friendly that every employee can process almost any order. As they say on their website it “eliminates the warehouse hero” and can give all of your employees the same capabilities. Besides all of the customization we discussed above it also gives you the ability to customize billing and their customer support has some great reviews. Of course, because they offer extensive customization, they may not be as willing to perform small changes and force them onto other clients, as some warehouse software program companies prefer.
In terms of downside, the only potentials are relative newness to the market (which isn’t necessarily a negative but simply something to consider), and the price point. Smaller or start-up 3PLs may not have the budget for Infoplus, but certainly the more established 3PLs that desire to control every aspect of the warehouse programmatically will find the software to be well worth the cost. Finally, Infoplus doesn’t provide in-software billing, but with all of the customizations allowed within the software and reporting, you can easily prepare any report for import into your billing systems.
Some of the other 3PL Software Programs on the Market
Below are some of the other programs that you might want to consider.
CIO Direct is a web based order management software (OMS) and warehouse management system (WMS). It is a software as a service (SaaS) application so there are no expensive installations or upgrades. CIO Direct was developed as a 3PL Software as well as for use by multi-channel merchants. The system is easily configured to receive orders from multiple sources and function seamlessly with existing shipping software.
Ramp Systems is an Enterprise software company dedicated to providing superior WMS and EDI software to the Logistics Industry, specifically 3PL, PRW and Fulfillment operations.
Founded in 2006 and staffed exclusively by industry veterans with extensive operations, services and software backgrounds, Ramp Systems was created with the primary goal of dramatically reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of software solutions required by our customers to operate their business while simultaneously providing innovative, modern and superior solutions that do more than the competition “out of the box”. Key components of value proposition include perpetual licenses, customer driven updates and upgrades always provided at no cost, reasonable services rates and rapid turnaround times
The Ramp Mission: Provide superior, modern and innovative software solutions that align with the increasing demands of our clients’ business. We strive to minimize our customers’ total cost of ownership (TCO), while maximizing productivity and profitability.
Conveyorware is a business distribution software built by a warehousing and fulfillment pioneer specifically for fulfillment and logistics firms. It offers a unique set of features developed through years of experiences and truly offers an all in one package for 3pl firms. It is a pay as you go software that makes it truly affordable to have best in class fulfillment software at your fingertips – starting at $100 per month.
3PL Central provides easy-to-use on-demand warehouse management software (WMS) exclusively for third-party logistics companies helping them run more efficiently, grow their business and satisfy customers— all starting at less than $500 per month per warehouse.
Veracore was a widely used option among our 3PL warehouse companies in our survey. Veracore specializes in fulfillment companies, commercial printers, 3PL’s and e-retailers to manage their fulfillment operations.
Netsuite is yet another popular system. While Netsuite doesn’t specialize in the 3PL warehouse industry, it does offer enterprise level capabilities.
SmartTurn focuses on the 3PL warehouse industry and offers a solid alternative for 3PLs to consider.
Some Other Software Programs You Should Consider for Integrating Varying Systems
Sometimes, systems need further programming to ‘connect’. For example, not every 3PL software program has the “out-of-the-box” capability to integrate with every shopping cart. In these case, your warehouse is left with manually coding a new integration, which takes time. Companies like Dropstream take some of the pain out of this process by helping your warehouse system integrate without having to perform the programming in-house.
Dropstream provides an on-demand solution to help third-party logistics companies reach more customers with an order fulfillment workflow integration using todays most popular shopping cart platforms. Using Dropstream you’ll be able to automatically receive orders from your customers using any one of our supported eCommerce platforms, including 3dcart, Magento, Magento Go, Shopify, BigCommerce, Amazon, and more.