July 2014 | Sponsored | Thought Leaders

Empowering Companies Through Integrated Data Flows

Tags: Logistics I.T., Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

Bill Fraser is Director of Information Technology, Geodis Wilson USA, 732-362-0648

Q: What are some key data management challenges in logistics today?

A: One key challenge is the different types of information flows. For example, some companies use electronic data interchange; others prefer XML or flat file. The choice often depends on the industry vertical, the company's capabilities, and how their suppliers operate.

For example, in the fashion business, some small suppliers use outdated technology. They may still communicate via fax, which is unacceptable to many trading partners in this day of advanced data management.

Sometimes companies need to help suppliers improve their capabilities in this area. The supplier might even leverage the company's or the third-party logistics (3PL) provider's technology. Either way, data needs to flow electronically, rather than manually, to improve accuracy and efficiency for everyone.

Q: What are the advantages of choosing a 3PL provider with an integrated WMS?

A: Many companies searching for a 3PL want integrated logistics solutions that provide visibility to their supply chain, and seamless data flows so they can focus on their core business. Maintaining an integrated warehouse management system (WMS) offers a number of benefits for both 3PLs and their shipper clients.

In the logistics sector, 3PLs can use their integrated WMS to provide shippers value, improve visibility into their supply chain, and marry up with their existing solutions—whether it is an enterprise resource planning solution or warehouse control system. They must find ways to allow data—in any form—to flow seamlessly so the client can focus on its core competencies.

An integrated WMS allows for real-time efficiency. As cargo is received and scanned, the operating system is automatically populated. This reduces duplication of efforts, and provides critical real-time visibility to the shipper. With a separate WMS, the data has to be re-keyed, which often introduces errors. An integrated system improves data flow, efficiency, and accuracy; and therefore also allows all supply chain partners to keep their costs down.

Overall, working with a 3PL that runs an integrated WMS solution allows shippers to manage their supply chain confidently. A lot of companies can't do that if they don't have access to these solutions.

Of course, businesses have to have good processes in place, as well. An integrated WMS may not be the panacea when selecting a 3PL provider, but it goes a long way to improving data flows, accuracy, and efficiency.