Situational Awareness in 3PL Warehousing

Situational Awareness in 3PL Warehousing

Only with a WMS supporting the rapid onboarding of new customers can a 3PL expand its operations exponentially.

“Exactly how well prepared are you to do business?” is what I always ask 3PL providers. It’s the question to ask first, last, and repeatedly throughout a conversation about WMS features. The warehouse is a “live” environment with immediate cause and effect ramifications for a person’s actions.


From floor management to the C-suite, cultivating a culture of continuous improvement is the most important thing to impart. We’re talking creating and then nurturing a mindset of due diligence—enabled by user-configurable process flows, functional benchmarking (to test performance), and real-time enterprise-wide visibility.

High-Volume Operations with 200+ Packing Stations

Accuracy, accountability, and speed are the crucial factors in high-volume retail distribution pick-and-pack environments. For 30 years my company has focused on technology development and advisory services for warehouse environments.

The 3PLs we work with maintain 99.9% or better financial and statistical inventory accuracy, achieved through stringent receiving variance approval procedures, obsessive cycle counting, and utilization of UPC and RFID barcode scanning.

During WMS implementation and years later, as a company expands into new markets, new business models, and new customer expectations…we always circle back to the idea that situational awareness is the key. You want to onboard system capabilities on an as-needed basis while removing human error from the equation? First, understand how people impact the warehouse and how the warehouse impacts people, in time and space. First, recognize the interdependence of critical operational components in the warehouse.

Improving 3PL Customer Productivity and Competitiveness

The capacity to configure, reconfigure, and scale in response to evolving customer demands is a business advantage. A growth-oriented 3PL provider leverages multiple, interconnected sources of data for labor, inventory, orders, shipping, automation, and more. Customer service, management, executives, and client relations, in addition to operations, all play a critical role in an enterprise-wide solution to warehousing.

For example, an effective WMS provides detailed answers to inquiries, like “How is handling different (or more difficult) this time?” Critical information, such as the precise cost and time investment to fulfill an order, must be included in decision-making protocol.

3PLs both compete and work with large e-commerce outlets. Consequently, the WMS has to support multiple business models simultaneously. In response to the shift in recent years to direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipping, we routinely engineer fulfillment processes and procedures to position a 3PL’s partners to meet online consumers’ immediate expectations. Orders are processed instantly, leaving the warehouse within hours—or as little as a few minutes—from when a transaction was first initiated, depending on order priorities.

WMS Functionality, Not About Features

A WMS that serves as a common operating environment allows for the expansion of operations where it counts. Environments that demand uninterrupted functionality perform best within a common platform, because this is also where people perform at maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Growth-oriented 3PL providers are thinking holistically, looking for that common thread rooted in a common application, from document management to ERP integration.

In practical terms, this means focusing on what you can control: the human element in warehousing. With the right information at the right time, what I like to call situational awareness, people can extend and then build new revenue channels and avoid unnecessary downtime.