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How selecting a 3PL partner providing a strong Warehouse Management System (WMS) delivers real value to your supply chain

A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is a fundamental software application that is used in the supply chain industry. It allows companies with contract logistics needs to engage with storage and distribution management of their goods in a hassle-free manner, while optimizing warehouse functionalities for the operational staff.
A WMS links all stages of the warehouse’s lifecycle; from the time the goods enter the warehouse to their departure. The system’s key benefits include inventory accuracy, seamless workflow management, on time picking and dispatching of goods as well as in-depth reporting with meticulous detailing.

To make sure you will be served with a capable WMS that meets your needs, it is critical for any company considering to outsourcing storage and distribution of their products to carefully deliberate over the following factors when selecting a 3PL partner:
  1. To which extend the WMS software is being used when managing storage and  distribution? Are all existing warehouses linked to the WMS? If not, how many?
  2. Where does the 3 PL partner's WMS rank on the Gartner Report?
  3. Does the warehouse operational team fully utilize handheld devices to receive and dispatch cargo? Do all warehouses have enough devices, which ones don’t?
  4. What type of reporting abilities does the provider offer? Are reports customized, scheduled, fully automated and configurable? Is a dashboard provided to view SLA’s violations and inventory activities?
  5. What are the different levels of integration they offer? Do they support Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)? Does the WMS offer a web portal to perform action Advanced Shipment Notification (ASN)? Can they support a very simplistic integration with Excel workbook? Can they provide one standard action like email?
  6. Is the billing fully automated and integrated into the WMS?Are the rates for storage, value-added services and dispatch registered and calculated in the WMS? How often do billing discrepancies occur? What is the source of these errors?
In the following we will explore answers to these questions to empower you to select the right 3PL partner that will deliver outstanding services and real value to your business.

What does a WMS offer to you as logistics customer?
To answer this question, we take RSA Global’s WMS as example. We selected a top tier WMS, called Infor 11, which was positioned in the Leaders quadrant of the 2019 Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems by Gartner Inc. for its ability to execute and its completeness of visibility.

                                      Gartner's Magical Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems

With all of RSA Global’s warehouses being linked to the WMS platform, it gives our customers a single source of information and allows us to seamlessly distribute products across our many facilities in the country and around the globe. In addition, we empower our workforce in our warehouses with latest handheld devices from US based Fortune 500 technology company Honeywell to ensure that activities such as receiving, putting away and picking is as convenient as possible. We also offer additional features such as a web portal, a part of our WMS, that gives small to midsize customers access to on-demand inventory reporting, the option to notify RSA Global of inbound goods arriving as well as to request for dispatching of goods without the hassle of communicating via email or a call center.

A second major benefit is the enforcement of business rules. For instance, should you send goods with an expiry date, but are unable to provide this data electronically, we can capture this data for all inbounds received with our WMS. Once you want to dispatch your goods, First n First Out (FIFO) business rule is implemented based on the age of the product giving you peace of mind that your end-customer always receives the freshest products.

Another hidden benefit is the speed of executing outbound dispatching. With all cargo being labeled and identified in the WMS, dispatching becomes easy and trackable with stock counts being updated in real time. Traditionally, this has been a pain point for many sales driven organizations as sales teams often overcommit and sell products that are not yet available in the warehouse. However, with a detailed dashboard or daily/hourly reports giving insight of real-time inventory as it is sold, our customers always stay in control of their current inventory.

Eliminating Inaccuracies
Another area in which supply chains often experience hiccups is billing management. With inventory going constantly in and out of a warehouse, it is very common to find discrepancies in the respective quantities. Therefore, customers often feel pressured to vigilantly observe their 3PL partner’s activities and what is being invoiced. With our latest version of WMS, this problem could be resolved with further enhancements to the business process. Firstly, no goods will be received without defining full product details. This ensures that if a truck arrives with a mix of previously known and unknown products, the unknown products will be received only after seeking the correct details from the owner. Thus, ensuring everything that enters the WMS is correctly identified.

Furthermore, when the cargo arrives, everything is labeled before being stored. Therefore, the system eliminates inaccuracies by dispatching only those goods with barcodes.

Lastly, as contractual rates are stored in the WMS, all activities are billed accordingly; avoiding misinterpretations such as a separate billing system can easily cause given the room for syncing errors, mismatches and incorrectly filed mapping that usually causes havoc.

Balancing Reporting Needs
Our customers have often shared with us that one of their biggest pain points is finding the right balance in reporting. Too many frequent reports clog their inboxes and distract them from daily work. Customers require both an on-demand reporting structure as well as a dashboard to be reviewed at their convenience creating a healthy balance that leads to actionable information for the right person at the right time. In addition, dashboards offer a macro perspective on how things are progressing and enable course correction when required. Over 50 reports for various purposes can be accessed on demand directly from our WMS portal. Hence, RSA Global offers customized reports that can be scheduled and distributed as desired. This is ideal for situations where more details are required, and consistency of reporting is necessary.

Over the years, we have found that many customers enjoy our customized reporting structure as it lets the user generate data for different purposes. For example, if a customer by regularly checking the inventory realizes that unnecessary storage costs incur as items don’t move fast enough, internal actions can be taken easily to drive the sales team to sell ageing goods at a discounted rate. Eventually, the customer can achieve lower storage costs and achieve higher profitability from slower moving merchandise.

The Age of Integration
Why should you integrate? Well, achieving consistency within the workflow can be challenging. If you experience consistency issues in your operations and aim for a seamless flow of data between your internal systems and your 3PL provider, a healthy integration is the way to go. Even if your transactional volume is low, it is advisable to have an application in place to execute your transaction with your partner.

As technology develops at such a rapid pace, we found the need to offer integration based on the maturity of the individual’s organization. A start-up business, for example, will not have the ability nor the budget to go for a cost intensive integration. So, they may prefer to start with Excel sheets to automate their inbound and outbound requests or simply use our easy to use WMS portal. Other customers have legacy ERP systems that work with standard Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) message formats and cannot be integrate using more modern approach of Application Programming Interfaces (API). These customers require the legacy approach of having a file server and transmitting the message in a certain format that their ERP supports.

With RSA Global’s WMS these APIs are readily available and well documented. Hence, programmers can connect to a test environment, get testing keys and start the integration process quickly with the result to finish much sooner than traditional approaches. It does not matter what type of customer you are; all forms of integration are supported to suit the level of maturity of your IT systems.

Most of our customers want a simple presentation to get their programmers or IT teams up to speed on the integration process. A standard test environment is available along with a series of easy-to-follow videos to demonstrate the wayforward and pitfalls to avoid.

Summarizing, we would like to recommend, you ensure the following when selecting a 3PL partner for storage and distribution of your goods:
  1. All warehouses storing your product need to be on the WMS.
  2. Verify the availability of handheld devices used for receiving, storing and picking activities.
  3. The level of integration offered need to match with your internal needs and technological roadmap.
  4. Ensure that your desired reporting needs will be met.
  5. Ensure that the WMS, billing system and operational workflow are well integrated.
Following these steps, you should be able to find the right 3 PL partner for your individual business needs.

Feel free to get in touch with us in case of any questions on RSA Global’s WMS.
If you found this article useful, please leave your comment or write to customervoice@rsa.global with your comments and feedback.
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