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  September 30th, 2023 | Written by

How do WMS System Integrations help 3PLs Grow?   

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Supply chains have never created a tougher market for 3PLs to operate in.  

Large logistics providers have set expectations around quality and speed of service.  In addition, Leading WMS system (warehouse management system) providers have set expectations around configuration of the product, its provision, and visibility to the whole process.   

What was exceptional last year is table stakes this year and taken for granted next year.

How do 3PLs, small and large, keep up with this rate of change?

First, focus on your value statement. What is your service? Likely, it’s not becoming a technology company. Although, according to the 2023 3PL Study by NTT Data and Penske, 3PLs are expected to become their clients’ IT department at an accelerating rate: 

“The percentages of shippers indicating specific technologies as ‘must haves’ increased for 14 of the 19 IT capabilities listed in the study. The most frequently cited technologies remain those that are execution- and transaction-based, including transportation management-planning (62%), transportation management-scheduling (57%) and warehouse/distribution center management (48%)”.

If something isn’t part of your competitive advantage, it could be distracting from what makes you unique, what made your customers choose you.

That’s your service, you should consider your WMS systems the same way:

  • Your WMS system is amazing at managing inventory and handling pick and putaway processes.
  • Your WMS greatly helps with visibility, management, and allocation of customer orders.

But what about when you need more?  Does your WMS have baked-in, configurable capabilities for distributed order management system (DOM) so you can tap into a drop-shipper or quickly see all variables to route orders appropriately?

Do you ask your WMS system provider for help integrating that new marketplace you have planned?  It’s likely not in their value statement either.  

Good WMS system providers solve for this with robust software integrations (“sockets”) that liberate IT personnel and provide ultimate flexibility for your tech stack. Instead of trying to solve everything, 3PLs can create a marketplace of trusted partners providing their own targeted supply chain solutions that come together to be greater than the sum of their parts.

Better yet, it’s on demand.  You extend your 3PL WMS system – and your value to your customers – when you need it, not before. Along with the deep technical expertise they expect, but you don’t have. 

Let’s highlight the values of 3PL WMS integrations over one-size-fits-all packages.

More than Feature and Function

  • Systems Work Together – It’s tedious to extract data from one system that another system needs.  We don’t have time to work from printouts, emails, and spreadsheets. Plus, data entry is slow and prone to errors.  Being able to surgically move important facts from one system to another speeds up the process while making related systems more intelligent and their outputs aligned.
  • Seamless Workflows – Many integrations add value without altering the screens or process for the worker.  Rate shopping a new shipping carrier?  Nuanced cartonization needs? Many of these are configured to produce an answer and don’t add any additional task complexity for the user.
  • No Disruption – One of the scariest aspects of any hardware or software deployment is interruption of service.  Sockets just need to be turned on. They might require minimal configuration and then you are moving.  No downtime in your facility, just features on demand. 
  • Time to Value – It’s a packaged offering, plug in your credentials and get going.  Most require zero to minor configuration – and no multi-year bespoke software customization that takes you off the platform upgrade path.
  • Predictable Spend – Because it’s packaged, it has a price tag.  If it’s a subscription, you know what your cash flow is or the core KPI it is indexed off.  No ballooning costs and internal resource allocation. What all should you consider when planning your WMS investment? Check out this related read: 6 things WMS software companies left off their brochure.
  • Eliminate Duplicate Efforts – Your IT team isn’t spending time on a bespoke solution that can be bought from the marketplace.  Instead of reinventing the wheel, focus your IT team on running the systems.
  • Leveraged Expertise – If you did it yourself, you’d be dabbling.  Warehouse management software providers focus and solve their problems exclusively.  They are experts in their space, and you are accessing that expertise.  You may solve it once. Or purchase their expertise once and let them solve it thousands of times as your business evolves.
  • Reduced Scaling Effort – The sheer number of integrations that a single facility might need is huge (carriers, shopping carts, automation/MHE, etc.) Each individual solution can have subtle API differences or no API at all.  Letting your WMS solution provider manage and maintain these integrations saves time and effort while avoiding risk.
  • Only What You Want – Rather than buying a large package with features you may never use, integrations allow you to only purchase what you need.  You’re not saddled with solutions looking for a problem.  Only buy solutions to the problems you want solved.

Your successful WMS system implementation

Old WMS system and ERP deployments were done as bespoke code projects that took years, consumed resources, and generally weren’t upgradeable easily. Rather than becoming flexible, operations became rigid and would fall behind trying to sustain last year’s solution.  

Your company doesn’t have time for long implementations that disrupt the business.  And we imagine that you don’t want to be a full-time solution integrator as well. You can’t take your focus off what makes you unique and successful.  But your customers demand advanced features and expect increasing quality in execution.  

WMS system integrations address this by allowing you to strategically add features when it’s right for you… With full support from a team who fills the gaps. Not one who prioritizes a short-term implementation – yet, can’t provide exceptional long-term support and partnership. 

Michael Johnson is the Vice President of Business Consulting at Deposco. Deposco’s omnichannel fulfilment supply chain applications help companies rapidly scale their warehouse management and order management operations, to see the inventory they’ve got, where it is, and where it should be in order to fulfill demand.