There are plenty of factors to consider when shopping for any sort of product—and it's no different for businesses that are about to purchase third party logistics (3PL) software.
Naturally, companies decide on which software to buy according to their unique business needs. But there are several general features that any worthwhile 3PL freight software options will have in common, and it’s important to make sure that any solutions you’re considering actually tick all the boxes.
That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide on what to look for in your 3PL software.
Tools like a 3PL freight solution can be useful in improving operational efficiency—but only if users can access and use the tool easily.
This is partly a matter of giving users the ability to do everything they need to on the platform, without being stymied by missing functionality or getting bogged down in overly technical details. But it’s also largely a matter of UX and UI design. Ask yourself: Is this solution presenting information in an intuitive way? From looking at a given screen, how obvious is it the right button for a given action? Will the dedicated driver interface or application work for your drivers? How effectively will different user roles and types be able to work with the functionality they need?
2. Cloud-Based Functionality
Many software solutions share a common challenge—they evolve faster than ever, and it can be hard for users to keep up. This leaves companies often overwhelmed since they need to upgrade just weeks after they have installed, run, and updated their solution. In many cases, companies spend more time, effort, and money upgrading their systems than they would like.
Solutions that require in-house hosting on a physical server require frequent manual maintenance and experience some downtime during upgrades. For bigger enterprises, downtime can be disastrous, resulting in significant lost revenue.
On the other hand, cloud computing offers more convenience. Companies that choose a SaaS-based 3PL software platform can avoid dealing with the nuances of constant upgrades. A 3PL software platform featuring cloud integration minimizes downtime, cuts out manual IT efforts, and ensures compliance with the latest updates.
Plus, cloud-based 3PL software provides businesses with more flexibility. With the cloud, you can scale your computing power up as needed to meet capacity crunches. It also lets users access tools, reports, and more remotely using practically any device that is connected to the internet. Remote accessibility became more relevant than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even after the pandemic ends, employees can still continue working remotely, thanks to cloud-based logistics software.
3. Real-Time Tracking
These days, real-time tracking is a must-have for logistics companies. High order volumes and increased demand for fast, transparent, and reliable shipping can only be met by businesses if they have a 3PL software offering full visibility on drivers' locations and activities. This is even more crucial if you’re also working with a telematics system that pushes frequent updates on things like temperature, driver location, and more.
4. Route Optimization
The right 3PL solution should help you manage highly complex routing requirements including multi-stop, multi-leg, and pool points. 3PLs need to offer fast and reliable shipping. This is only possible if you’re using software with route optimization capabilities that factors in different routing constraints like real-time road and weather conditions—all in a matter of minutes.
3PLs can only thrive if they can support their clients’ needs, including scaling their operations quickly as needed. As such, you need to find 3PL software with robust scaling capabilities so you can support your clients when they want to move into new geographic markets or expand their e-commerce order fulfillment.
6. Multi-Client Infrastructure
Most logistics freight providers have multiple clients and accounts, which is why it’s important to choose software that will let them cater to numerous accounts. If you can easily extend last mile visibility to your clients by offering them their own tracking portal or easily integrating with their software, you can provide them higher quality delivery experiences that will keep them coming back for your services.
7. Automated Invoicing
Logistics providers can minimize errors and ensure that every charge is captured if they choose software that allows them to automate their billing and settlement processes. The software must allow delivery drivers to capture proof of delivery, pictures, and notes electronically so the finance or accounting teams don't have to manually track down order-related information. From there, it’s just a matter of finding a solution that will enable you to build out your own unique billing and invoicing rules for different drivers, carriers, and clients so that the relevant documents can be generated automatically—saving significant time and effort on your end.
What to Look For in a 3PL Software Provider
Aside from scrutinizing the features of each 3PL freight solution, businesses must also take the time to evaluate the software provider. Here are a few questions businesses might ask their potential 3PL solution provider:
- Can your solution be configured to my specific business needs? How much flexibility is there in how routing, invoicing, etc. is configured?
- How do you handle technical support? What hours does your support team operate?
- How does your software handle various integrations, i.e. with solutions that are already deployed within my IT stack?
- Does your solution scale? What happens if I need to add more trucks in the future?
- What is your pricing/billing model? Do I have to buy an annual subscription or is there a month-to-month option?
- How much experience do you have in the last mile market? How long has your business been providing services to delivery organizations like mine?
- How long do deployments of your software solution typically take?
The right 3PL software enables freight logistics providers to support their clients' needs more efficiently—cost-wise and operations-wise. But you can’t just pick any old 3PL freight solution. Instead, you need to ensure that the solution has the right features and the right provider to ensure business success in a competitive market.