Everything interesting, new and useful about the logistics and 3PL Industry

Posts tagged “3PL Software

A Window into Your Logistics Operations: Client Web Portals

Clients can be demanding. In today’s world, unless you supply your clients with real-time information, you could fall behind the countless other third-party logistics companies that do provide this service. Your clients want to know where their merchandise is located throughout the delivery process, so having the right warehouse management software (WMS) in place to ensure that these clients always have access to this information can help your business to grow. The system will also help you in tracking the merchandise that you are moving for these clients, so that you can streamline your warehouse and minimize your transportation times.

Client Web PortalsTruck

Once you have a WMS and/or transportation management system installed, you can give each client the ability to log in and check the status of his or her inventory and deliveries. That way, the client is aware of where their merchandise is at all times, even during the transportation process. This makes life much easier for your customer service representatives, as they will not have to look up this information every time a client calls with an inquiry. It also improves things from the client’s end, as he or she will always have access to this information. Because of this, you will not have to rely on your customer service department to look the information up on a constant basis. Peace of mind goes a long way for the client, and having access to a web portal provides it for customers daily.

The Process

While this software might seem complicated, the process behind it is actually very simple. Whenever a product enters your warehouse, it will be scanned (e.g via RF gun). The same can be said for any time a product leaves your warehouse for another destination. Any time that a product is scanned by one of your staff members, the software automatically updates the information that the clients access through the web portal. This provides your clients with real-time information around the clock, allowing you to give your customer the best possible service.

Space Management

In addition to the benefits that this type of software provides for your clients, it can also benefit you. Once the software is in place, you will know exactly how much product you have in your warehouse at all times, allowing you to manage your space efficiently. The more merchandise that you can store and transport for your clients, the more money your company will make. As a result, it makes sense
to avoid wasting space and to get the most out of it.

Tracking Inventory

The short-term benefits related to having WMS are obvious, but there are long-term benefits to consider as well. For starters, the program tracks your inventory while it in inside the warehouse, so Inventoryyou always know where it is located. You will also know who has moved the inventory, when it was moved, and where it was moved in the warehouse. This creates a culture of accountability for your workers, since they know that everything that they do will be tracked and recorded. This is a great way to keep your employees working hard, which saves money every day.

State of the Merchandise

Companies that store perishable items can also take advantage of this software, as it can track the expiry date on these items. This allows you to see when the product must be moved by and where it is being stored in the warehouse. This can help you and your clients avoid the problems associated with spoiled food and the money loss that goes along with it.

Access from Anywhere

Both you and your client will have access to all of this information from anywhere with an internet connection. This provides peace of mind for everyone involved, as there is very little chance of inventory going missing or being late on delivery. By providing your clients with a window into the entire logistics process, you can keep them informed and happy about your services.

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The Manual Way – An Outdated Warehousing Practice

Your warehousing practices can mean the difference between being productive versus using your labor for unnecessary tasks. If you’re not utilizing the most current warehouse management system available to you, then you’re just throwing your money away.

How Many Of These Outdated Warehousing Systems Are You Using?

  • Paper lists or paper forms of any kind for any reason
  • Manually writing down product locations or information
  • Any type of face to face communication
  • Manual batch processing
  • Anything else you’re doing manually

Think back to the time when everything was done manually, by hand, using only paper and a pencil. That seems like it was ages ago. Now compare that to today’s technology and how quickly you can send someone an email versus writing out a handwritten letter, addressing it, sealing it, putting a stamp on it, walking it to the mailbox and having it mailed out. Then you have to wait days until your receiver gets their letter.

You can make the same comparison when it comes to how you are running your business. Whenever you do something manually, it is the equivalent of handwriting a letter and sending it in the mail. It takes more time, there are more steps and quite a bit more effort involved. And the end result can’t be achieved in real-time, which means, while you’re waiting, you are losing money.

If you are still using outdated warehousing systems, don’t you think it’s time to upgrade to something that will make your staff and your business more efficient? It’s time to stop using paper. Why write something down on a piece of paper and then have to process it again once it gets to the next step. Then you rinse and repeat that same time-wasting process for each step of the entire warehousing process until your product reaches its final destination.

All those manual steps intermingled with the face to face communications that are necessary when you are not using an updated warehousing system just lead to a greater potential for human error and a huge waste of precious time, money and valuable resources!

Why You Should Consider Moving Away From A Manual System?

  1. Manual systems leave too much room for human error.
  2. Manual systems take more time and will cost you more in labor and supplies.
  3. Manual systems waste paper and valuable resources and are bad for the environment.
  4. Manual systems will make your company look less professional versus a company who utilizes all the latest technology.
  5. Manual systems make it hard to effectively multi-task all the functions within any given project.

The Take Away

Certainly everyone will agree that doing anything manually is not the best way to run a successful business. And it definitely won’t allow your company any room for unlimited growth without having to hire a much larger staff to maintain that growth.

Moving away from doing anything manually and purchasing a more modern warehousing solution is the absolute best way to grow your ROI and make your business as efficient and productive as possible. If you are still using any types of manual systems in your business, you’re losing money.

Manual Methods

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Top Reasons for Considering an On-site WMS Solution over Cloud-Based

On-Site WMS Solutions

If you are a participant in the rapidly growing and increasingly competitive 3PL market space, you know you are forced to constantly evaluate every aspect of your operations. As information technology plays an increasingly vital role in all elements of logistics, making the right decisions today often determine your ability to succeed tomorrow. One of the pressing issues for many providers today is the issue of relying upon on-premise or cloud IT services.

Warehouse Management Systems

Grappling with everything from transportation to billing to warehouse management presents a complex challenge for many small to mid-sized companies. For those involved in any aspect of warehouse and distribution center management, the solutions begin at the choice of an effective WMS.

The initial decision you face is choosing between one of two directions. The first approach is the traditional method of installing a proprietary system onsite with total, local control of the hardware, software, and network. The second option is to access your WMS through the cloud, relying on the services of a cloud-based data center.

If you turn to the cloud, you face another decision. You can still choose your own, custom WMS, or you can use a web-based product sold as a Software as a Service WMS. There are, then, two key parts of your decision-making process. These are:

  • Keep your WMS customized and proprietary, whether it is on local hardware or managed via the cloud
  • Turn to a more generic, cloud-based WMS that you use in a SaaS environment

Develop Your Scorecard

In coming to a solution that is right for your business, you will balance a number of issues ranging from short-term installation costs to long-term ability to get the job done. If you are trying to decide between a custom installation and SaaS, here are a number of factors to include in that scorecard:

  1. The problem with “one-size fits all.” For all the benefits of a cloud-based SaaS product, the simple fact is that when it comes to effective WMS, it is rare for one package to provide the flexibility and functionality your circumstances requires. Be careful when compromising on essential features when a “simpler solution” seems attractive.
  2. Integration with automated warehouse and handling equipment. One area many packaged systems fall short is full integration with existing and to-be-purchased handling equipment. This usually represents a large capital investment that reflects your specific warehouse operations and needs. Any WMS that does not offer full capabilities in this area presents a major challenge to operational efficiency.
  3. Customer responsiveness. As with your warehouse infrastructure, you have built a customer base with your own style of operations and service. Be wary of any standard WMS that requires you to tinker with that formula of success. Likewise, always remember that your customers are interested in results, not with conforming to your IT needs.
  4. Accountability. If you have a vendor providing your own customized solution, they are accountable and responsive to you. Dealing with a remote vendor serving many customers with a packaged or even slightly modified package often presents problems.
  5. Legal issues. While your cloud SaaS vendor will provide a service agreement, many companies are unaware of their exposures if that remote vendor or data center fails or has other problems. Recapturing your applications and stored data presents a real, if minor, risk to your continuity of operations.

While the cloud is here to stay, the solution that works for you may include an onsite installation. Properly considering your options is the first step in making that decision.

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Intricacies of Providing Warehouse Fulfillment Services

Having a consistent, well-structured fulfillment system in place is crucial to grow and increase profits for your organization.  The fulfillment process is lengthy, resulting in many areas where errors can occur.  Having a well thought-out and organized system that allows every employee to follow the same procedures each and every time will result in lower operating costs, especially when it comes to training employees in an industry that has a high employee turnover rate.  Let’s have a look at some areas where best practices can be put into place.

Fulfillment Services

Fulfillment Metrics

If you can’t measure it, then it can’t be improved on.  Since labor is one of the most expensive factors in operations, it’s important to set up Key Performance Indicators to measure labor hours to orders fulfilled.  Compare your measurements to your industry’s ‘Best In Class’ so you know where to improve.  Some common KPIs are ‘Cost Per Order’, ‘Order Accuracy’, ‘Inventory Accuracy’ and ‘Shipping Accuracy’.  KPIs are one of the best ways to monitor and improve on workflow.

Staff Retention and Training

Since labor is one of the most expensive operating costs, it’s imperative to have a great culture that reduces the employee turnover rate.  Create a formal training program, recognize and reward employees who go above and beyond their expected duties or who recommend cost saving ideas.  Provide feedback on a regular basis and incorporate raises and bonuses on a consistent basis.

Managers are an important asset in the fulfillment process.  Establish regular meetings to communicate changes that need to be relayed to employees, and set up a program that allows managers and employees to design a career path for themselves.  Let all employees be made aware of possible career opportunities and training courses that they could apply to.

Warehouse Capacity

It can be well worth the money to have an expert do an assessment of your warehouse to find ways to improve and increase the capacity of your facility.  In the long run, this can be much cheaper than moving to another warehouse and disrupting customer service.  A warehouse automation system is a must to compete in today’s marketplace and having one will help to increase capacity, fulfill orders in a timely and accurate manner and reduce costs per order.

RFID Technology     

Keeping track of and organizing inventory is a key component of any fulfillment process.  If you haven’t already implemented RFID in your inventory tracking, you soon will.  This is fast becoming an industry norm for the following reasons:

  • Inventory is continually monitored, resulting in less inventory shrinkage due to theft and misplacement.
  • Sorting and picking for orders are improved since RFID rags are read via radio frequencies so it is important how products are placed.  This can result in more effective utilization of warehouse space.
  • Products are monitored through the entire supply chain.  This reduces the time required to count products while loading and unloading, and lead time is reduced for arrival of an order.
  • Interruptions in supply can be more easily identified.  RFID technology is a necessity to reduce inventory costs for perishable items.
  • As soon as inventory levels reach a low level, an automatic order can be sent out.
  • Sales information is collected in real time and can be very useful to make intelligent business decisions to improve the profitability of your organization.

Conclusion

Create a performance evaluation to review your fulfillment process every six months.  Encourage employees to contribute to this evaluation and suggest improvements.  Consistently monitor your KPIs and incorporate ‘red flags’ into the KPI reporting so issues can be addressed quickly.  Being able to identify costly mistakes immediately will go a long way towards increasing business and profitability.

Sources:

http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/3999-How-to-Monitor-Prevent-Fulfillment-Errors

http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/retail/master-in-store-fulfillment-think-like-a-warehouse-1061312/

http://www.fcbco.com/articles-and-whitepapers/articles/bid/129442/Trends-Best-Practices-and-Metrics-in-Fulfillment

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5 benefits of using a Transportation Management System

5 benefits of using a Transportation Management System

5 benefits of using a Transportation Management System (TMS)

Regardless of industry, a smart business owner or operations manager is always looking for ways to increase efficiency and reduce overhead. In today’s ultra-competitive economic climate, finding ways to increase margins without negatively affecting quality are invaluable. Fortunately, developments in transportation management software have made it possible to increase margins while simultaneously improving efficiency and quality of service.

A transportation management system is one of the best services any company involved in logistics can invest in. However, not all transportation management and warehouse management services are equal. Before choosing which system to use, it is important to understand the benefits of such a system, and to compare cost with the ability to deliver tangible results. While some companies choose to take care of their logistics software needs in-house, there are significant benefits to outsourcing this requirement to a third-party logistics software company. Third-party logistics, or 3PL software gives your company access to experts who specialize in making your logistics process more efficient so you can focus on your core business.

Here are five key benefits of transportation management systems that you should consider when making a decision.

Reduce freight expenses

A good transportation management system will include analytics and suggestions to reduce expenses such as driver overtime, fuel, and inefficient routes. Utilizing data such as where your drivers and equipment are currently located makes it easier to get freight where it needs to go as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Track drivers in real-time

There are numerous benefits to being able to see where your drivers are in real-time. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to gather data about how much time specific routes take in order to build a more efficient schedule. You can also gather data on which drivers are most efficient, and which ones could improve on their time through more efficient routes or better driving habits.

Warehouse inventory management

Even the best-run warehouse can sometimes be a chaotic place. Between suppliers and drivers constantly arriving and departing, inventory always on the move, inbound inventory that must be received before outbound orders can be shipped, and urgent orders that need to be fulfilled coming in at any time, a well-run warehouse is an integral part of the logistics process. Any effective transportation management system will include (or be easily interfaced to)  a robust warehouse management component as well. Warehouse inventory management software will allow vendors, suppliers, and anyone else to set up an appointment. It will also create a consolidated database of incoming and outgoing orders (and assign employees accordingly), and can track where specific inventory is located both in the warehouse, in transit, and once it arrives at a customer or another warehouse. Not only will this data increase real-time efficiency, it will also make it possible to review costs and processes in order to make them more efficient in the future.

Streamlined billing process

One of the benefits of electronically tracking your entire transportation management system is that you will be able to more efficiently handle accounts payable and accounts receivable. A good transportation management system will allow you to automate most if not all processes. The amount of time you’ll save on paperwork alone makes transportation management software worth the investment!

Increase supply chain efficiency

Everything from tracking drivers and inventory to automating accounts payable and receivable processes all work together to increase the efficiency of the logistics side of your business. Depending on the size of your business, the savings can have a significant impact on your bottom line while improving your ability to fulfill customer requests.

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What’s your ViewPoint?

ViewPoint Logistics Product Info. Infographic

ViewPoint Logistics Product Infographic

Check out our neat ViewPoint Logistics Product Infographic!

This is our first try at making one, but we thought it’s a creative and fun way of letting people know what we are all about!

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Voice-Picking Technology in Warehouse Management

Voice-picking technology for warehouse management has been in use for two decades. However, recent advancements in the third-party logistics software (3PL) have made these centralized warehouse systems much more efficient. Also known as voice-directed warehouse management (VDW), this kind of software was conceived so that warehouse pickers could work with their hands and eyes free from clipboard and tablet-related constraints.

Modern 3PL software takes 1990s VDW to an incredible new level, because it allows not only voice picking but also inventory, billing and order management. Thanks to this type of software, warehouse management has become a much more streamlined, efficient and safe process.

How Voice Picking Works

Speech recognition and synthesis technologies are at the heart of voice picking software. These systems have become infinitely more effective over the course of the last 20 years, which means that 3PL software today can identify specific warehouse workers and keep itemized data. For the software to work, warehouse pickers are outfitted with their own small computer device and an ear piece; the computer works as a mobile receiver and transmitter to relay data to and from the centralized source. When an individual picker receives a message or a work order, he or she will hear the message out loud and respond the same way. This system works over a radio frequency on a local area network.

3PL Software in the Warehouse and the Office

The primary reason why 3PL software has become a best practice guideline for warehouse managers is simple: It raises productivity and keeps data organized. Instead of centralized management that relies on constant group and one-on-one meetings with pickers and other employees, managers have a central unit that sends messages, schedules and inventory data wherever it needs to go.

This is especially helpful when the office and the warehouse are not in the same location, as is the case with many companies. The amount of scheduling, rescheduling, messaging and stock takes can turn into a mountain of paperwork, which can become lost and disorganized. Paper-free is not only an environmentally sound option for warehousing companies, but it is a more organized way to do business.

Benefits and Voice-Picking Setup

The benefits of using 3PL software are the range of high-tech companies who have great products to offer. Much of today’s top voice-recognition software is open-sourced, which means that you are not cornered into purchasing from one company with the only high-functioning yet expensive software. Your choices are broad, and allow you to make sure that the system you are buying really has what your particular organization needs.

Each individual picker will need to be outfitted with his or her own computer and headset, as well as attend training to learn how to use them. Managers will also need to undergo a training session to understand how to communicate with pickers on the floor. It’s a simple process that may need to be repeated as the software gets updated and more advanced; but productivity will increase overall.

Voice-picking software is especially effective for frozen warehouse units, since workers need to wear thick clothing and gloves that inhibit them from effectively handling paper invoices and operating tablets. Furthermore, keeping warehouse pickers in full control of their eyes and hands will ensure that they are more aware of their surroundings, thus lowering the rate of injuries.

3PL is a sound, modern choice for warehouse management.

Sources:

http://www.voicepicking.com/

http://www.voxware.com/in-your-world/voice-picking-in-the-warehouse/

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Business Contingency Planning 101: Handling the Most Common Unexpected Disasters

Whether you’re a new entrepreneur with a small-scale start up business, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you have to be ready when the unexpected occurs. Common unanticipated problems can range from managerial no-shows on crunch days to extensive power outages and machinery breakdowns. How do you cope with seemingly insurmountable problems when the success of your business is on the line?

Here are a few of the most common unexpected business catastrophes — and ways to deal with them.

No-Shows

Employee no-shows can be a disaster, especially if a major product or project is due. To counteract unexpected absenteeism, have a contingency system put in place so that others can step in and handle the job. If you need to bring in outside help, find a resource for extra last-minute assistance that can be available when you need it.

Machinery and Computer Breakdowns

Machinery breakdowns can hold up important deliveries, while computer breakdowns can virtually paralyze a company. Put together a pool of talented mechanics who can be on call to take care of your machinery problems during emergencies. Likewise, create a list of IT experts who can be available in case of computer malfunctions. Always make sure your list includes several specialists, so you have back-ups if your first choices aren’t available.

Power Outages

Unless they’re caused by your own electrical system, there’s not much you can do about power outages, but you can put together a contingency plan to deal with them. Whether you’re a manufacturer with a delivery due or a software developer with a deadline to meet, you should immediately let your client know what’s going on, and that delay is unavoidable because the situation is out of your hands. If your business is at risk, consider moving operations to another location for a few days. You can prepare for this beforehand by setting up a contingency plan to rent, in case of emergencies, space and equipment in another available manufacturing plant, warehouse or office.

Weather Disasters

As a business owner, the best thing you can do is to stay on top of weather conditions and prepare for the worst ahead of time. If flooding or power outages are expected, or if snowstorms are going to keep your employees home for a day or two, contact your clients and let them know what’s going on. If they’re local, they’re probably in the same boat as you are. Likewise, if you can, set up a skeleton staff of employees who are close by and can make it in to work, and get as much done as you can under the circumstances. The main thing is that you don’t want to put your employees — or yourself — at risk.

Being Prepared

Even if you’ve had smooth sailing so far, you never know when the wind will change, so the best thing you can do to protect yourself by taking preventive steps. For example, before hiring key staff members, call their former employers and ask if there were ever any attendance issues. Also, impress upon your new hires why they need to be there when it’s crunch time.

Likewise, get the best insurance you can afford. Insurance can protect you when the power goes out, when you lose days due to weather-related problems and even when machinery breaks down. Get coverage that will protect you in a variety of worst-case scenarios — and don’t be late with those premium payments.

In the end, it’s best to be prepared for just about anything. Set up contingency plans among your employees and independent contractors, and always keep emergency service contact information close at hand. Being prepared is the best way to meet with disasters head-on when — or if — they ever occur in your business.

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Logistics Management in Third-Party Logistics

Logistics Management

Logistics management is essential in today’s global marketplace, whether you run a small shop that handles a few tons of merchandise each year, or your company ships and receives from multiple warehouses in far-flung locales. The last thing you want is to lose products, waste time or squander any operational resource because of inefficient third-party logistics (3PL). Luckily, 3PL solutions helps you solve logistics problems in warehouse settings, especially as they relate to increasing ROI, efficiency and productivity. Effective 3PL software provides the following 9 key benefits to your logistics management:

1. Security

3PL software is more expansive that a typical warehouse management system (WMS). It integrates several layers of security, which is an essential feature if your company handles sensitive materials or private products with high confidentiality options. In what is now the Internet’s era, data can be accessed via the cloud, so it’s good to have strong encryption layers in your 3PL application.

2. Reliability

You don’t want a WMS that malfunctions in the middle of an important shipment, do you? Nobody wants to lose money because of unreliable software, so choosing a solid program like 3PL software indirectly increases your ROI, logistical efficiency and customer satisfaction levels.

3. Transparency

Everything is transparent in a 3PL management suite. You see what goes out, what comes in, the final inventory balance and with which various logistics services providers you’re partnering. The beauty of the program is that you can track everything everywhere all the time.

4. 3PL Invoicing

Your ROI goes up when you can correctly bill customers on time. Inefficiency is no longer an issue in your operations when you use a 3PL program, because the system automatically generates invoices based on inputted data. Make sure that you key in proper codes, data and pricing information for all clients to make the most out of your 3PL program.

5. Item Ownership at the Warehouse Location Level

You can track item ownership at the warehouse level, an important feature that gives you peace of mind when you handle several different items at multiple locations. Whether it is raw material, a work-in-process or a finished product, the software helps you track inventory in real time.

6. Self-Service: Customer Access to Their Data

Logistics problems often arise when clients can’t access or see their inventory data in the supply chain. With 3PL software, this is one headache you won’t have to worry about. 3PL software embeds functionalities that add value to clients through real-time and effective access to their shipping, receiving and ending-balance information.

7. Multiple Communication Channels

Multi-channel communication is another highly-valued feature in a 3PL program. Unlike the standard WMS, which manages inventory within proprietary warehouses for one company, 3PL management software takes care of logistics for thousands of client-owned products. Multiple communication channels become essential here as each client has specific requirements about the way products are manufactured, invoiced, packed and shipped. These channels include everything from cloud-based services to email and built-in messaging features.

8. Cost Tracking

It’s good to bill customers on time and correctly, but it’s even better to track costs for those clients. That way, you add value to clients’ operations by showing them not only their logistics expenses, but also their operational costs such as materials, labor and production overhead. Providing such services boosts your company’s bottom line and ROI because it adds tangible value to clients, which increases their loyalty and improves your brand’s reputation.

9. Industry Standard Flexibility

3PL applications have industry standard flexibility, meaning they give you state-of-the-art features as well as options that abide by the latest government regulations and industry best practices.

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