Logistics management software automates flow of goods between manufacturers, customers

Manufacturers can use logistics management software to plan and track the movement of goods and services. This paints a clear picture of the flow of shipments and helps ensure that they reach the right customers.

Logistics management software -- a subset of supply chain management (SCM) software -- is that piece of the process that focuses on planning and controlling the movement of goods, services and related information from the originating source to the final consumer. 

The goal of logistics management is to do this efficiently and in accordance with customer requirements and expected service levels. Reverse logistics management is the same, but in the opposite direction such as when customers need to return things.

Logistics management software automates the movement and monitoring of this flow between the originating sources and customers and back (when required). Warehouse management systems (WMS), distribution center systems and manufacturing execution systems (MES) are subsets of logistics management software and generally include some logistics management software capabilities. In fact, some companies use WMS logistics modules as their logistics system.

For example, WMS will monitor and manage the movement of items inside a warehouse from the loading dock to the shipping dock, but will not have the transportation management capabilities of full logistics management software. Some vendors package their logistics management software capabilities as individual modules that can be purchased and used separately or integrated. The integrated ERP packages offer various logistics management capabilities through logistics management software modules.

Another common approach is to develop home-grown logistics management software to address the highly individual natures of a particular industry and/or of an individual company. As a result, commercial logistics management software products often are industry specific, frequently customized and highly configurable.

Today there are a number of ways to customize commercial logistics management software packages:

  1. Traditional hand-coded customization, which is slow and costly and may have to be redone when the software is upgraded;
  2. Check-box configuration capabilities from vendors that allow companies to modify the behavior of the software within limits through checkboxes that turn on/off or otherwise change various capabilities without the need for programming skills;
  3. Vendor tools that enable users with some technical skills, such as those with a basic command of SQL, to make significant modifications to the software.

About the author: Alan Radding researches, analyzes and writes about business and technology. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, BusinessWeek and numerous technology publications and on websites such as SearchManufacturingERP.com.

This was first published in December 2009
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