The modern information management systems available today to logistics businesses of all sizes generate measurable improvements in warehouse operational efficiency. These systems impact floor operations, administrative operations, transportation systems and billing processes. They reflect a new set of realities that make advanced information systems a requirement for short- and long-term success. Traditional Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) were stand-alone products primarily focused on inventory control and the creation of certain routine documents. There was little or no operational knowledge built into these systems. As long as the inventory balanced against the activity, everyone was happy with the results. In the 3PL arena, these systems were somewhat enhanced by activity billing features, but these were usually implemented as an afterthought and not truly integrated to the process. Therefore, these traditional WMS products left operational management completely in the hands of the warehouse personnel and their supervisors.
The effective range of responsibilities of a 3PL now extends beyond the four walls of your warehouse. Clients are now commonly asking you to manage everything from the front-end where orders are captured, all the way through the warehouse, shipping dock, and to the customer’s location where delivery is made. Table 1 shows the possible systems you may need if the work you are being asked to handle extends beyond your walls.