There's no point in sugarcoating it. Logistics is complicated. There are so many puzzle pieces you need to lock in, and without the right tools, doing so can be downright overwhelming. Yet getting all those components in place is vital to your business's success. And that's where logistics software comes in. Because anything that makes it easier to juggle your logistics processes and resources is a godsend. So you're probably wondering, what software is used in logistics?
Well, it varies. While there are a few software options that cover most aspects of logistics, most specialize in a single area. In this post, we'll discuss some major aspects of logistics management. From there, you'll find out about types of software that are available for each and the benefits of that software. Let's dive right in.
1. Inventory and Warehouse Management
Now, obviously, we can't talk about logistics management if there's nothing to manage the logistics of. So let's start with the central component of this industry: the physical objects that need to get from point A to point B.
No matter what size your business is, having software to organize your inventory is going to make your life much easier than trying to manually keep track of inventory in a spreadsheet and anticipate the best time to order additional stock before it runs out.
Software options in this category tend to have a lot of crossover. If you search for an inventory management product, most options will also include features for warehouse management.
The software you choose will vary by your needs; as with any business investment, you should research your options to determine what will best suit your organization. But here are a few services you can consider:
- Boxstorm: Perhaps the simplest option on our list, Boxstorm is a freemium service. So it will cost you nothing for limited functionality, or you can upgrade to the pro version for expanded services. Boxstorm easily migrates the data in your spreadsheets into its service and automates your manual processes. Some reviewers on Capterra have complained about the limits of the free version, so the paid version would be better for a company with a large customer base. But for smaller businesses, this software will optimize your processes at no cost while you're growing. Cost: free or $79 per month.
- WarehouseOS: WarehouseOS markets itself as suitable for small and large companies. It offers the ability to customize some features according to your needs while providing insight into nearly every aspect of your inventory. Some reviewers have complained that learning to use this service is challenging, but they still find WarehouseOS highly beneficial and its staff helpful. Cost: $79.99 per month, per user.
- Zangerine: If you have room in your budget, Zangerine comes highly reviewed on Capterra. It's by far the most expensive option here, but reviews suggest it's worth it. Not just for inventory, Zangerine offers full customization for your entire logistics process. Cost: $3,000 for initial setup, plus an additional $379 per month.
But maybe you already have your inventory and warehousing covered. Let's talk about transportation and fleet management next.
2. Transportation and Fleet Management
So you have your inventory, and you have it stored, but now it's time to move it from the warehouse to someplace else. Now, you could, again, use a spreadsheet and logs to track every little thing that needs to be shipped. Also, you'll need to monitor where everything is stored, where it needs to go, when it needs to get there, who is contracted to get it there, and how much that carrier costs—not to mention manually confirming that it has arrived on time, and if not, what its exact location is and how long it will be delayed.
But that approach leaves lots of room for human error. A better way, as I'm sure you've guessed, is to invest in software to help you with transportation management.
Some software programs will help you outsource your shipments to a third-party fleet management company. Others will help you manage your own fleet. Nowadays, most services include GPS tracking of your shipments and text alerts. Some specialize in domestic transportation, while others will help you with international imports and exports.
- Route4Me: A critical component of transportation management is tracking and tracing, or knowing where your shipment has been previously and is now. In addition to giving you records of where your fleet has been, Route4Me helps you plan and optimize your routes and provides your drivers with real-time traffic information so they can avoid delays. Cost: Starts at $99.99 per month.
- Freightview: Freightview lets you work with carriers you already have a relationship with. They describe themselves as a "neutral" platform, so their main service is to give you transparent and up-to-date insights into your shipments' costs. They also offer algorithms that can help you negotiate costs with carriers. Their service includes shipments within the US and Canada only, so this option won't work if you need to import or export overseas. Cost: $99 to $599 per month, depending on your number of shipments.
- Kuebix: Remember all the things we just talked about that you used to do manually? Kuebix offers an all-in-one place where you can manage those components. Reviewers on Capterra tout how easy transportation management becomes after the initial setup (inputting all your locations, and so on), and Kuebix also lets you compare carrier rates so you make the best financial decision. Cost: The price isn't publicly available, but I hear tell that a free version exists, and, at the least, a free trial is offered.
But there's more to logistics than just managing your inventory and moving it around. You also have to make sure you're making intelligent business decisions and maximizing your profitability. Next, let's talk about some software that can help you with the business side of things.
3. Business-Side Components
The last main component of logistics we'll discuss is business intelligence and management. There are lots of generic business solutions out there, but generic isn't good enough to optimize your logistics business.
Keeping a careful proportion between expenses and profits is critical to business success, which is why you need a precise, accurate accounting system in place. And sure, you could hire an accountant to do things manually, or you could use a general accounting solution. But a general software program for accounting doesn't adjust its approach for all the challenges of logistics. Lucky for you, there are logistics-specific programs in place that will take your accounting to the next level.
- Pegasys: Pegasys is partially a TMS, with a focus on the expense side of things. It offers detailed record-keeping and QuickBooks integration so you can manage all aspects of your expenses. Cost: $25 per month, per user.
- Vector: While other services may include an invoice feature, you still need to have someone in-house to process those invoices and make sure everything's in order. Vector helps you automate processing proofs of delivery (PODs), bills of lading (BOLs), and invoices. And, as an added bonus, Vector's mobile document-scanning technology lets your drivers to submit their documentation on the go. After adopting Vector, one client saw a 33% fleet expansion with no new hires to handle the increased accounting work. Cost: Custom.
Last, we'll talk about customer service.
Maintaining good relationships with your customers is important for any business. But it's especially vital for third-party logistics (3PL) providers, since that business model relies on companies wanting to outsource most or all of logistics management. Let's look at a couple of customer service options.
- Rose Rocket: Rose Rocket offers general TMS and accounting features with the added bonus of enabling excellent customer service. One reviewer on Capterra described using Rose Rocket primarily for its customer service features, which include live chat, transparency into rates, and tracking and tracing. Cost: Not publicly available.
- Excalibur WMS: Excalibur was designed with 3PL companies in mind and with customer satisfaction at the forefront. It protects customer data and provides multiple options for customers to keep an eye on their shipments. With Excalibur, 3PL providers are able to maintain strong relationships with their clients. Cost: $250 per month, per user.
With your logistics business, don't focus solely on moving inventory from point A to point B. Customer satisfaction is key to your success, and there are tools to help you with that.
Streamline Your Processes and Grow Your Business
So, now you know some types of software you'll need for your logistics business. Don't make your work any harder on yourself than it needs to be. Technology exists to make our lives easier. Invest in a few good pieces of software, and you're likely to see a huge return in your logistics management processes.
This post was written by Kristin Rawlings. Kristin is a writer, editor, and fierce advocate of the Oxford comma. She has experience working in journalism, academic publishing, and content marketing. Her passion is for reading and creating well-researched texts, as well as collaborating with others to share information in a clear, readable way.