It is no secret that the global logistics industry is evolving rapidly. With technology becoming more and more advanced, businesses, including modern third-party logistics companies, are looking for ways to streamline their operations to gain an edge over competitors.
One of the most important tools for achieving this is a Warehouse Management system or WMS for short. The WMS market has seen significant growth in recent years, with new entrants popping up regularly.
However, it’s tough to know where to begin when selecting a WMS. What features do you need? How can you ensure you’re not paying for things you won’t use? What about customer support?
There are many factors to consider, and the competition is tough. This post will dive into some essential criteria for choosing a WMS platform.
Before we do, let’s review what challenges a WMS solves.
What Challenges do Modern 3PL Businesses Face?
If you’ve perused our blog, you know we’re no strangers to 3PL.
3PL logistics operations are extremely complex and are getting more so every day. As such, the challenges you face as a 3PL organization are constantly evolving.
They need every advantage they can get, and here are just a few of the most common issues that require innovative solutions.
Too Many Manual Processes
First, it was pen and paper. Then, spreadsheets. But now, going digital isn’t enough. Your WMS solution needs to be dynamic. Spreadsheets often can’t be automated and don’t change with fluctuating variables.
With technology becoming more prevalent, advanced, and affordable in all verticals, manual processes are no longer efficient (or necessary).
Unfortunately, many businesses—including some third-party logistics companies—still rely on these outdated methods, resulting in wasted time and money.
There is a huge risk involved in using manual processes too. Imagine managing a new customer via spreadsheets. You receive their goods by inputting inventory received and subtracting it when you pick and ship it.
Then maybe your warehouse personnel gets busy and forget to input some of those transactions in the spreadsheet.
One erroneous or misplaced value can throw off all your inventory data — and that’s just for one customer.
And if you don’t keep good receipts (and odds are you don’t if you can’t key something in a spreadsheet as needed), it can be a huge liability when the customer comes looking for the stock they say you have, but the system says you don’t.
Poor data integrity is common in manual systems. It almost always leads to a lack of visibility and traceability for the inventory in your warehouse. It only gets worse the more inventory you handle too.
Implementing a new WMS needs to be easy and straightforward — you probably don’t have the luxury of shutting down all your operations to troubleshoot a new system.
Many companies think they can handle this on their own.
For example, they purchase software from one vendor and hardware from another (or even more than two). But what most fail to understand is that they need to work in conjunction with the software developer and hardware manufacturer. Otherwise, they’ll run into all kinds of roadblocks.
Many companies also think that implementing a new WMS is just about learning how to use it—it’s much more than this! You have so many other crucial considerations when you are making major changes like these.
Also, a failed WMS implementation can cast a very long shadow since it can take so long to recover fully.
And, trust us, stakeholders will lose faith and remind you of that failure quite often. These pain points can hurt WMS implementations in the future and your entire business.
One of the key benefits of using a WMS is gaining better visibility into your operations through real-time reporting and making data-driven decisions. However, if your reporting capabilities are poor, then you’re not getting the most out of your system.
Reports need to be user-friendly and customizable to provide insights that are relevant to different stakeholders within the company.
If you have a big company with lots of employees, it can be especially difficult to get everyone on the same page when it comes to reporting. People will want different reports, and your systems should accommodate them all without increasing complexity or requiring extensive user training.
The software powering your WMS should be flexible and easy to use. If not, you will encounter several roadblocks in your implementation and day-to-day workflow.
First off, if it’s too complicated for users, they won’t take advantage of all its capability (and we’ve already discussed how important this is). Also, if the software is too complex, you’re going to need more help training users, which means it will take even longer for them to get up and running.
Bouncing In and Out of Software to Get Single Tasks Complete
Too often, the software is only used to track physical inventory. At that point, you are just using it as a glorified (and more expensive) spreadsheet.
WMS platforms can do so many more things to streamline your growth and reduce redundancy in your organization.
In today’s market, however, WMS systems need to be more flexible and capable of handling multiple tasks across an organization for businesses to stay competitive.
If you are missing integration points between your WMS and other systems, you are missing opportunities to automate tasks, saving time and money. For example, WMS platforms like SkuVault offer integrations with your accounting system, ERP, shipping software, and more.
This way, you’re not wasting valuable time entering the same data into multiple systems. The interfaces need to be easy to use too, or you are back to the cumbersome aspect mentioned earlier that can bog operations down and cost your company money.
Here’s the bottom line: if you’re using manual software or processes, it’s likely costing you business.
That said, here’s what to look for as you begin your trek into WMS software.
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What Criteria Should You Consider When Looking for Better Software?
When shopping for a WMS, there are seven key criteria you should look for:
1. Client Portal and Reporting Tools
Having a way to share data with employees is critical. If you have a large workforce, it can be a headache to get everyone on the same page and see the big picture regarding what’s going on within your operations.
And trust is a must, as they say. A solid WMS will let you:
- Give your clients visibility into their inventory data, locations, and records
- Better understand handling and storage costs
- Grant access to billing and sales history reports to bill clients appropriately
2. Easy-to-use Interface
Choosing or using a WMS should not be an arduous process. The software needs to be easy for users to understand and navigate, or you will quickly lose productivity gains from implementing it.
When you’re looking at software, make sure you can actually see how you’ll be using it day-to-day. Does it look confusing? Is everything clearly laid out? Is the user experience smooth and easy?
This is why we offer live demos of our software at SkuVault — we want to help you envision yourself operating the software in your daily course of business. Features are nice, but if the user experience stinks, it’s all for naught.
Some other questions to ask when implementing a new WMS are:
- Is it easy to use and learn for all your employees?
- If training is required, how long does it take?
- Will they require help from IT or another department if their questions are more complex than the average user?
3. Enterprise scalability
Software is used by businesses of all shapes and sizes, from a one-person shop to an international conglomerate with warehouses around the world. Your system should be able to scale up or down as needed based on your growth projections without impacting existing workflows too much (or at all).
There should be unlimited integrations too. Without them, you cannot accommodate client needs and cannot grow quickly (also, watch out for companies that upcharge you for additional integrations).
4. Flexible Integrations
As mentioned above, a WMS should integrate seamlessly with other systems in your organization.
This functionality allows for the automation of tasks across different departments and gives you a more holistic view of what’s going on within your company.
Without this integration, you’re stuck doing everything manually, which is time-consuming and prone to error.
5. Ability to handle multiple tasks
As mentioned earlier, WMS systems need to be more flexible and capable of handling multiple tasks across an organization for businesses to stay competitive.
If you are only using your system for physical inventory tracking, you’re not getting the most out of it! Ensure the software can manage shipping, storage, and even data entry into accounting or other systems.
6. Automation and Machine Learning
These two terms are a part of the new software landscape, and they can make all the difference. Automation is critical for any supply chain business.
It greatly reduces costs by reducing manual entry, allowing teams in an end-to-end warehouse process to focus on more complex tasks that drive value instead of entering data into multiple systems.
Machine learning also helps with this because it makes processes smarter over time, adapting to changes in the market and improving performance.
7. Quick Implementation
3PL owners need to be able to fast-track training for any system they use because staff needs to be trained quickly to handle the amount of inventory coming in and out every day.
Therefore, nothing gets businesses more excited than the prospect of quick implementation. Unfortunately, many implementations go over schedule and budget due to unforeseen complexities.
However, a good WMS should be able to implement quickly without too much fuss (or additional cost). This is especially important if you’re looking to replace an existing system or are expanding your warehouse operations rapidly.
What is the Main Benefit of a WMS?
A WMS can improve the efficiency of your warehouse operations by automating tasks and providing a single system that integrates with other parts of your business.
This benefit allows you to manage your inventory more effectively and makes tracking and finding items in your warehouses easier.
Additionally, a WMS can help reduce errors made during manual data entry, saving time and money.
When It’s Time for a Change, Turn to SkuVault
Now that we’ve covered some of the key criteria to look for when choosing a WMS, along with the benefits it brings, allow us to throw our hat in the ring.
SkuVault exists to simplify 3PL logistics and help you get back to high-level tasks — like growing your revenue.
We provide all the features mentioned above and more. For example, with SkuVault’s WMS, you can:
- Eliminate incorrect shipments with powerful QC features.
- Optimize your warehouse or distribution center for accuracy and speed with 1D and 2D barcoding and cycle counting practices.
- Effortlessly transform case quantity into individual quantity for increased traceability and visibility into your inventory.
- Connect your shipping software system to automate your eCommerce transactions from start to finish.
Be sure to check out the extended list of features and services on our Warehouse Management System page, and contact us today if you’re ready to see how we can help you simplify your logistics and inventory management.