How To Select the Best Warehouse Management Software for Your eCommerce Business
The warehousing industry has enjoyed hearty growth in recent years. The rise of ecommerce, online shopping, and customers expecting overnight shipping, has led to an increased need for warehousing solutions around the country. Keeping up with demand isn’t always easy, but warehouse management software (WMS) is helping warehouses get this important job done.
Warehouse management software allows supply chains to get more products to their customers, in less time and with greater accuracy. They help warehousing operations to:
- Streamline internal processes
- Communicate with shipping partners
- Have real-time visibility over products and warehousing processes
What’s more, warehousing software allows operations teams track and sort products in-line with established production schedules, product expiration dates, and expected delivery times. With the right solution, business owners can have total visibility over their products being stored in a warehouse facility, the people handling the products, and more.
Its clear warehouse management software systems are positively impacting modern supply chains. Today we’re exploring modern WMS systems as well as how to choose the right one for your business.
In this article you’ll learn:
- What warehouse management software is
- How businesses can benefit from WMS
- Common solutions on the market today
- How ecommerce retailers can choose the best one for their needs
What is Warehouse Management Software?
As inflation and rising costs impact product prices, the need for efficient and modern warehousing solutions has never been more pressing. Warehouse management software is a game-changer in the realm of warehousing efficiency and cost-management.
A WMS system is a comprehensive software solution that helps warehousing facilities manage their warehouses more efficiently, with greater attention-to-detail, by helping them store, sort, and pack products more seamlessly.
“Warehouse management software removes many of the barriers in the inventory management process creating inefficient and inaccurate order fulfillment experiences. It provides a way to see the entire inventory management process from all angles.”
Rick Nelson | CEO | The Fulfillment Lab
Additionally, a WMS integrates numerous warehousing functions into one unified platform. From receiving goods to shipping them out, every step is meticulously managed. It's like the brain of a warehouse, constantly analyzing data, helping managers make better decisions, and ensuring everything runs like a well-oiled machine.
At its core, WMS is a digital tool designed to:
- Track inventory: Monitor products in real-time, ensuring accurate stock levels.
- Manage orders: Seamlessly process and fulfill customer orders.
- Optimize storage: Allocate space efficiently, reducing wastage and maximizing capacity.
- Enhance communication: Facilitate better coordination between various warehouse departments and external partners.
- Streamline warehouse operations: Increase efficiency, safety, and the cost-effectiveness of a warehousing facility.
For businesses that rely on warehouses to meet goals and serve customers, WMS systems have become an indispensable asset. Not only do they streamline logistics operations, but they help to ensure a business’s customers receive orders promptly and accurately.
How Does Warehouse Management System Software Work?
Warehouse management systems range in features and functionality, but the same basic principles are at the core of each one. These include:
Automated Inventory Tracking
How well a business manages inventory can quickly determine if they have the right skills to succeed in a competitive market. WMS solutions can give business owners the bird’s eye over inventory they need to meet demand and communicate accurate information to their clients.
WMS employs advanced technologies like barcode scanning and RFID tags to seamlessly monitor stock levels in real-time. This means no more manual counts, reducing the risk of human error.
Most importantly, it’s easier to have happy customers who receive what they need, when they expect it.
Efficient Order Processing
Every order is a promise you make to your customer. Fulfilling that promise accurately and on time is paramount. A WMS streamlines this process.
From the moment an order is placed to its final dispatch, WMS can accurately track products and help warehouse staff ensure order fulfillment is efficient and accurate every time.
Additionally, a system that can integrate with other critical systems ensures that orders are processed swiftly, reducing lead times and ensuring timely deliveries. For a business owner, this translates to positive reviews and repeat customers.
Real estate in a warehouse is almost as valuable as it is in a desirable neighborhood. WMS doesn't just track products; it's intelligent enough to suggest optimal placement, ensuring maximum utilization of space.
For warehouses, this efficiency can lead to better use of space. For businesses who leverage third-party warehouse services, this translates to less money being needed to store their products on a warehouse shelf.
Enhanced Communication and Coordination
A warehouse isn't an isolated entity; it's a hub of communication. A quality WMS enables the free flow of information between different departments, ensuring everyone is on the same page. Moreover, it plays a pivotal role in coordinating with external partners, ensuring that your products are handled with care at every step.
Who Uses Warehouse Management System Software? Why?
Many eCommerce retailers face the challenge of managing product inventory, storage space, fulfillment support, and ensuring timely deliveries of products. A WMS becomes their trusty sidekick in this endeavor.
- Streamlined inventory management: With a surge in online orders, keeping track of stock levels is paramount. WMS ensures accurate inventory counts, reducing the risk of stock-outs or overstocking.
- Efficient order fulfillment: Automated processes mean faster picking, packing, and shipping, ensuring customers get their orders on time. If there is a delay, customers can be notified immediately.
- Returns management: Handling returns efficiently is crucial in eCommerce, and WMS systems simplify this often complex process.
With the right WMS in place, eCommerce retailers can promise and deliver a seamless shopping experience, turning first-time buyers into loyal customers.
Manufacturers juggle multiple tasks - from managing raw materials to ensuring a steady production line. A WMS plays a pivotal role in this system of coordination. It ensures that raw materials are available when needed and prevents production halts.
As products roll off the assembly line, WMS helps to manage their storage and ensure easy retrieval when orders come in.
Lastly, with a global market to cater to, manufacturers rely on WMS for efficient distribution, helping products reach their destinations in prime condition.
Keep up to date with the latest in modern warehousing trends by reading our blog:
In an industry where precision is paramount, pharmaceutical companies turn to the WMS in their warehouses to ensure meticulous inventory management. With medications having varied storage requirements and expiration dates, a WMS ensures that drugs are stored under optimal conditions and are dispatched well before they expire.
Moreover, a robust WMS plays a direct role in improving patient care. By ensuring timely and accurate deliveries, patients receive their medications when they need them. This timely access to essential drugs can be the difference between recovery and complications, making WMS not just a logistical tool but a way to ensure quality patient care.
Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Providers
3PL providers wear many hats, catering to diverse clients with varied inventory needs. A WMS allows them to meet each client's unique needs. It guides them in managing multiple inventories, ensuring accurate order fulfillment, and coordinating with various shipping partners. It's the backbone that ensures 3PL providers can serve their clients effectively.
Wholesale distributors often face the mammoth task of managing vast inventories. This is where a WMS system comes into play by ensuring products are stored efficiently, orders are processed swiftly, and deliveries are timely.
Dedicated warehousing companies rely heavily on WMS. Whether it's for optimizing storage space, managing client-specific needs, or ensuring efficient retrieval of products, WMS ensures that warehousing operations are smooth and efficient.
Benefits of Using Logistics Warehouse Management Software for eCommerce Businesses
Outsourcing warehousing needs to a 3PL provider equipped with a WMS can be a game-changer for small to mid-sized eCommerce businesses. Why? Let's break it down:
- Reduce overhead costs: No need for investing in in-house warehousing infrastructure, a quality WMS led by a leading 3PL provider offers significant cost savings.
- Staffing efficiency: Improve the way warehousing staff do business.
- Optimized storage: Pay only for the space you use, rather than maintaining a full-sized warehouse.
By leveraging a 3PL provider's WMS, businesses can focus on what they do best - selling products while avoiding the hefty operational costs.
As your eCommerce business grows, so do your logistical needs. With the right WMS in place, scaling becomes a breeze. No need to overhaul your entire system or invest heavily in infrastructure.
Instead, the flexibility of a WMS allows you to accommodate increased demand seamlessly. Moreover, as sales spike during peak seasons, a WMS ensures that your 3PL provider can handle the influx without missing a beat.
Enhanced Customer Experience
In the competitive world of eCommerce, providing quality customer experiences is vital. A WMS plays a pivotal role in creating good customer experiences through:
- Timely deliveries: Ensure products reach your customers when promised.
- Accurate orders: Minimize errors in order sorting, picking, and packing processes.
- Transparent tracking: Offer customers real-time tracking of their orders so they know exactly when their product will arrive.
Real-Time Inventory Visibility
Even if you've outsourced your warehousing, staying in the loop is crucial. Here's how a WMS helps:
- Instant updates: Get real-time insights into stock levels.
- Out-of-stock alerts: Receive notifications to prevent stock-outs.
- Inventory forecasting: Use historical data to predict future stock needs.
With these features, businesses can make proactive decisions, ensuring they always meet customer demand.
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Efficient Returns Management
Returns are a reality in eCommerce. A WMS simplifies this often complex process, ensuring quick refunds or exchanges. This not only enhances customer trust but also ensures that returned products are efficiently reintegrated into the inventory or disposed of as per guidelines.
Seamless Integration with Other Business Critical Systems
Running an eCommerce business involves juggling various tools and platforms. A WMS ensures cohesion across each tool. It can effortlessly integrate with your eCommerce platform, CRM, and other essential tools.
The interconnections a WMS can provide ensures that data flows seamlessly, reducing manual entry and the potential for errors. Moreover, with everything in sync, businesses can get a holistic view of their operations, leading to better decision-making.
To see how simple it is to integrate an entire ecommerce business into The Fulfillment Lab’s WMS, watch the video below:
Data-Driven Decision Making
In today's increasingly competitive ecommerce marketplace, data is invaluable. Here's how a WMS contributes:
- Predict upcoming sales trends: Understand which products are hot sellers.
- Manage inventory turnover: Know how often your inventory is sold and replaced.
- Track order histories: Analyze past orders to predict future demand.
By providing these insights, a WMS empowers business owners to make informed decisions, optimizing their operations and maximizing profits.
Types of Warehouse Management Software
On-premise WMS solutions are installed directly on a company's hardware and servers. They offer a traditional approach to warehouse management, often preferred by businesses wanting full control over their data and systems.
Features on an on-premise WMS include:
- Direct control: Complete control over data, updates, and customizations.
- Data security: Data remains in-house, often seen as more secure.
- Higher initial costs: Requires investment in hardware and IT infrastructure.
- Maintenance: Business owners are responsible for updates and maintenance.
Cloud-based WMS solutions are hosted on the WMS provider's servers and are accessed via the internet. They offer greater flexibility and scalability than on-premise options, making them a popular choice for growing businesses.
Business often select cloud-based WMS options for:
- Scalability: Easily scale up or down based on business needs.
- Lower upfront costs: Subscription-based pricing without hefty initial investments.
- Automatic updates: Providers handle updates and maintenance.
- Remote access: Accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
Integrated WMS solutions are part of a larger enterprise system, such as an ERP. They offer seamless integration with other business processes, ensuring a unified approach to operations. The primary features of an integrated WMS include:
- Unified system: Streamlined operations with other business processes.
- Data consistency: Reduced risk of data discrepancies.
- Complex implementation: Might require more time to set up.
- Higher costs: Often more expensive due to comprehensive features.
Standalone WMS solutions are independent systems focused solely on warehouse management. They're ideal for businesses that need a specialized tool without the bells and whistles of integrated systems. However, this solution can create harmful data silos as teams won’t be able to see all aspects of their business from a centralized location.
The primary features of a standalone WMS are as follows:
- Simplicity: Focused solely on warehouse management.
- Flexibility: Can be customized based on specific warehousing needs.
- Quicker implementation: Faster setup compared to integrated systems.
- Limited integration: Might not seamlessly integrate with other business systems.
Pros and Cons and WMS Systems at a Glance
- Scalability to adjust to business needs.
- Lower upfront costs.
- Automatic updates.
- Remote access from anywhere.
- Data consistency across platforms.
-Dependent on internet connectivity.
- Requires security measures compatible with cloud-based systems.
- Unified system
- Data consistency across platforms.
- Complex Implementation.
- Might come with higher costs due to features.
- Direct control over data and processes. - Enhanced data security.
- Higher infrastructure investment
- Long deployment times
- Maintenance responsibility and costs fall on the business.
- Simplicity in design and function.
- Flexibility to choose specific features.
- Quicker implementation.
- Limited integration with other systems.
On-Premise vs. Cloud Based Warehouse Management Software: A Clear Comparison
While on-premise solutions offer direct control and data security, they come with higher initial costs and maintenance responsibilities. The infrastructure of an on-premise solution is owned and managed by the user, giving them complete control over their system and enabling greater customizations.
In contrast, cloud-based solutions provide scalability, lower upfront costs, and the convenience of automatic updates. Additionally, the long-term maintenance costs are taken care of by the cloud-host provider and they can integrate with other key solutions such as ERP, CMS, or eCommerce platform.
Businesses with the resources to operate, maintain, update, and keep an on-premise solution running may prefer an on-premise WMS that they can fully customize to their unique needs.
However, owners who prefer to use their internal resources to operate and grow their business may prefer the hands-off convenience and flexibility of a cloud-based solution offered by a third-party provider.
What to Look for in a WMS
As with every product you can buy today, not every option available is right for you. This is no different when it comes to choosing a WMS to better manage your products. Ecommerce retailers will have vastly different criteria than a large-scale retailer who owns their warehousing operations and delivery fleet.
Since we’re focusing on warehouse management software best for ecommerce companies, we’ll share what they should look for when selecting a WMS.
Integrate with eCommerce Platforms
Any WMS fit for an ecommerce retailer must easily integrate with their ecommerce platforms. Online retailers often have multiple digital channels their customers can shop from. A WMS that should be able to integrate all active channels and consolidate data from each into an easy to access, easy to maneuver dashboard.
This scenario will give retailers the ability to monitor, track, and align their inventory across all channels ensuring customers get the same quality service no matter where they choose to shop from.
Expedited Shipping and Order Processing
Being able to meet customer demand and compete with retailers who offer overnight shipping options means having an WMS that enables expedited shipping and order fulfillment.
To meet this expectation with ease, choose a WMS that gives you the ability to:
- Offer same-day order processing. This will ensure orders are fulfilled and prepared for shipping as soon as the expedited order is received.
- Integrates with shipping companies. No matter how fast your warehouse can prepare and pack an order, if they can’t work with your preferred shipping company it can cause unwanted delivery delays. Be sure to look for a WMS that integrates with your shipping teams.
- Strategic inventory sourcing. eCommerce may be global, but when it comes to fast shipping times you need products stored in several geographic locations. A WMS that knows how to strategically select inventory from a warehouse closest to its final destination will help save shipping costs and get product into a customer's hands faster.
Transparency and Visibility
There’s nothing worse for a business owner than getting an email or call from an unhappy customer and not having access to information about their purchase or its status. To avoid that uncomfortable situation, be sure to choose a WMS where you have total visibility over every purchase order, its status, and other key details.
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Not being tied down to a physical storefront or location is one perk of running an online business. To leverage the full benefits of this kind of freedom, choose a WMS that lets you access your inventory, shipping, and other purchasing information from anywhere you have an internet connection.
A cloud-based WMS means you don’t have to invest in costly server hardware or other infrastructure and you and your team can access business data from any location.
Comprehensive Customer Support
The quality of care and support your WMS provider delivers will have a huge impact on how well your WMS experience will be. You need a provider who will train you and your team, provide round the clock support, and be a resource you can trust to have your best interests in mind.
The Top WMS Options on Today’s Market (And Why The Fulfillment Lab is the Best Choice for eCommerce Retailers)
SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWS)
What it is: SAP EWS is part of SAPs suite of supply chain management solutions.
What it’s known for: SAP EWM offers features to trace batches over multiple process steps and locations, allowing mixed and layered pallet building, and setting up labor structures for advanced tracking. It also focuses on optimizing warehouse operations and improving retail process efficiency.
Additionally, SAP EWM provides extended warehouse management functionality across the freight management lifecycle, including inbound processing management, storage and internal process control, and fine-tuning for outbound processes. It also offers cross-functional features like managing batches, serial numbers, and scheduled dock appointments.
Why The Fulfillment Lab is better: The Fulfillment Lab provides a more personalized and customized approach. The proprietary software allows complete customization on fulfillment, aligning with customer's SOPs, and offering competitive pricing. The focus on client needs and the ability to provide fully customized solutions at scale makes it more adaptable to specific business needs.
Fulfillment Lab's approach to kitting, customized fulfillment solutions, and transparent pricing sets it apart. Its focus on client needs, end-to-end visibility, and dynamic integration with eCommerce platforms offers a more comprehensive and tailored experience.
Oracle Warehouse Management Cloud
What it is: A cloud-based warehouse management solution provided by Oracle
What it’s known for: Omnichannel fulfillment, inventory optimization, support for complex fulfillment processes
Transform any site into a robust fulfillment center, streamlining multiple channel fulfillment into a single process, optimizing inventory operations, and managing returns easily. It also coordinates the movement of merchandise with advanced wave management.
Supports various industries like retail, wholesale distribution, consumer goods, manufacturing, and third-party logistics. It manages complex fulfillment processes, provides complete inventory visibility, supports both B2B and B2C fulfillment, and offers automation in warehouse operations.
Why The Fulfillment Lab is better: The Fulfillment Lab’s WMS offers a more personalized and client-centric approach. Its end-to-end visibility, dynamic integration with eCommerce platforms, and unique approach to kitting and customized fulfillment solutions provide a more tailored experience.
The solution has a greater focus on client needs. With cutting-edge fulfillment with personal service, plus transparent pricing, our WMS is more adaptable to a company’s specific business needs, regardless of industry.
Get Better Warehousing Experiences When You Work With The Fulfillment Lab
To make the most of your ecommerce business, you need the right tools by your side. At the Fulfillment Lab, we cater to the needs of online retailers and give them the unique ability to access a full-service warehousing operation, but at the price of a 3PL provider.
In addition to exceptional customer experience, a fulfillment marketing partner, and integration of all your store channels, we offer:
- Proprietary software: Unlike other WMS, The Fulfillment Lab's proprietary software allows complete customization, aligning with the customer's SOPs, and offering competitive pricing. Integration with most major eCommerce platforms, and providing a seamless omni-channel experience for retailers.
- Cutting-edge fulfillment and personal service: Each client has the ability to talk directly to our executive team, we treat every client as part of the family.
- Customizable, scalable solutions: Offering world-class software and warehousing services and processes that compete with large warehouses but with enhanced customization and agility.
- Simplified pricing model: We offer transparent pricing solutions with no hidden fees, making it a cost-effective choice.
- Disaster recovery – Discovery 365: A unique offering in the WMS landscape that ensures service reliability and demonstrates our commitment to creating long-term partnerships.
- Kitting: Providing unique SOPs and kitting solutions, enhancing the brand experience directly at the fulfillment stage.
We’ve helped numerous businesses across multiple industries build better inventory management processes and create more impactful customer experiences, and we can help you too.
If you’re ready to make warehousing and shipping a joy, and not a hassle, contact our team today. We’re ready to show you how.