Alternate sorts allow you to group inventory by product type and then generate consolidated reports showing all product assigned that type. For example, if you have a customer who deals in meat, dairy products and fish and you want to know how much meat this customer has in your warehouse, you would use alternative sorting codes to group all the meat items. Likewise, you can use alternate sorting logic to report on multiple customers with the same product. For example, you have seven meat customers and you want to run an inventory report for these seven customers showing how much beef, pork and chicken they have in your warehouse.
Alternate sorts also allow you to group items for billing purposes; for example, all items belonging to the same product line can be treated as a single entity for billing purposes. Because the quantities are larger, you can offer your customers a lower storage rate. In a good 3PL solution, alternate sorting should be fully configurable by the end-user. That is, he or she can create as many alternate sorts as are required for reporting purposes in the warehouse.
Lot/Serial Number Tracking
One "must have" feature in any WMS solution is robust lot/serial number tracking. Essentially, there are two different options for lot/serial number tracking: by inventory level or by process value. The road you choose to go down depends on the particular needs of your warehouse. Is the lot or serial number an essential characteristic of your inventory or is it merely a secondary value or attribute? If the former, then an inventory level is probably your best tracking option. If the latter, then a process value is probably the way to go.
If you set up lot/serial number tracking as an inventory level, you enjoy all the benefits of an inventory level. That is, you can easily look up inventory balances by lot/serial number, you can invoice by lot/serial number and you can perform allocation by lot/serial number.
A good 3PL solution should offer every possible option for lot/serial number tracking by inventory level. That is, you can manually enter your lot/serial numbers with no validation, you can manually enter your lot/serial numbers with validation or you can configure the system to generate these values automatically. If you choose the system-generated lot/serial number option, your number series for lots and serial numbers should be fully configurable; that is, you can define the prefix, starting number and suffix.
If you not require inventory balances for a particular lot/serial number and do not invoice or allocate by lot/serial number, you can use process values for lot/serial number tracking rather than an inventory level. Process values can be attached to individual items that require lot/serial number tracking and need not apply to all of a customer's items.
Although many leading WMS packages claim to work for 3PL's, they are retrofit from distribution operations and force-fit to the needs of 3PLs. Look for a system that is built by 3PL domain experts, and is built ready for multi-client, contract logistics operations.
- Is your 3PL software solution architected from the ground up, with 3PL-Software requirements-based billing, multi-client inventory and revenue management capabilities? Is it designed by 3PL experts with hundreds of successful deployments?
Process values can be defined as inbound, outbound or both; they can be either mandatory or optional and they can be transferable to inventory or not. If they are transferable to inventory, they are saved when the receipt or order is confirmed and become part of the permanent inventory record. As well, a transferable to inventory inbound process value can be automatically transferred to an outbound order. If the process value is not defined as transferable to inventory, it is automatically deleted when the receipt or order is confirmed.
Configurable Workflows by Unique requirements
How important is it to have configurable workflows (by a seemingly unlimited number of variables) in your warehouse operations?
- Does your 3PL system have the unique capability to manage concurrent client workflows?
- Does it allow you to quickly tailor (through configuration profiles and roles/rules based engine) the system to the unique needs of each of the clients without expensive custom coding.