July 11, 2017
For the first time since the mid-2000s, 3PL warehouses are not only in demand, but in a position of strength. Driven by the extraordinary expansion of e-Commerce, the 3PL market is looking to also grow along with it.
However, these opportunities have also brought new challenges. The expanding warehouse logistics marketplace is already attracting new entrants into the space creating an unfamiliar landscape for many 3PLs.
Additionally, these changes come at a time when 3PLs are facing tremendous competition for prime warehousing real estate – and an on-going shortage of qualified workers to staff their operations.
These factors could potentially make it difficult for logistic companies to pursue new opportunities in a cost-effective manner.
While a number of solutions do exist to overcome these obstacles, the best option for most warehouse owners will be to increase their investment in new warehousing technology.
This answer isn’t unique, or even new, to our industry. For decades now, the most successful 3PLs have embraced the latest technological advances to increase warehouse productivity, satisfy customers, and enhance overall profitability.
But latest technological breakthroughs are now enabling 3PLs to increase the effective “size” of their existing warehouses by allowing them to get far more done in the same amount of space. Even better, warehouses are often able to grow without hiring additional staff.
From mobile-device enabled warehouse workers, pre-wired EDI connections, and integrated “scan and ship” breakthroughs like 3PL Central’s SmartPackTM, today’s technologies are already giving warehouses the capability to fulfill more products. New warehousing technology is also helping manage 3PL branding and increases fulfillment accuracy.
Change within the 3PL industry will only continue to accelerate. No longer just concepts, a host of new technologies are already being tested around the world.
These include everything from autonomous fulfillment vehicles, to wearable technologies that can track and optimize employee performance,- and package deliveries via drones.
These will be followed by a wave of additional technologies that will enable even greater productivity. Everything from Big Data and Analytics, to advanced robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and the impending Internet of Things. Changes that could fundamentally alter the way the warehousing world works in the very near future.
And as more and more technologies become available, warehouses will require a way to manage all of these new components. For most 3PLs, this will be done via a fully integrated warehouse management software (WMS), making the decision important to the future of your warehouse operations.
The decision of which WMS will play a significant role in the future success of a 3PL’s operations. It will be imperative that 3PLs invest in a warehousing solution that is highly flexible, offers easy integrations, and complete scalability. The ideal WMS will serve as a platform for day-to-day operations and will incorporate new technologies, new features, and integrate with current and new vendors.
As the hub of their operation, such a platform will grant real-time, end-to-end visibility into fulfillment chains – from the original online customer, to the product supplier, through their 3PL, into their delivery partners’ hands – and right to that customer’s door. It must be capable of growing with their business along with their new technological investments.
The future of warehousing is automation, integration and collaboration. It will include dozens of new technologies, many of which may now just be in the concept stage. But it is a future that will be won by those 3PLs who can envision it, plan accordingly – and adapt quickly to the many changes ahead.