Modernizing warehouse management with software is the smartest growth investment a company can make right now. What is WMS software? How have modern supply chain trends make it essential? And what does the cloud-based WMS return on investment look like?

Volume is outpacing warehouse operations

The ecommerce explosion of 2020 was quite the wake-up call for warehouse operations teams. ​​Online ordering permanently switched into turbo mode, with peak season bringing an additional $183 billion in U.S. e-commerce spending—the equivalent of an extra holiday season in the same year—according to the 2021 Adobe Digital Economy Index

Great for the business; but for the person managing a warehouse run on tribal knowledge, clipboards, spreadsheets or enterprise resource planning ERP systems, the “new normal” feels like Black Friday every day, all year long. 

This dramatic shift in buying underscores the reality that modern commerce is growing faster than most warehouse operations were ever built to handle. Many companies face a record number of orders flowing in, but lack the executional agility to convert that volume into sustainable growth. Conquering the uphill battles of modern supply chains requires breaking free from slow or siloed processes that are holding growth hostage. 

Warehouse management systems remove the handcuffs

Warehouses need a more practical inventory management approach that doesn’t force operational wildfires to get orders fulfilled “at all costs”. The days of adding more humans, paying more overtime, absorbing high shipping costs for rush orders, or simply losing the sale because of execution problems—are over.

Let’s look at why and how companies are making cloud-based warehouse management systems an essential part of their growth strategy. 

These solutions drive long-term value through productivity, cost reduction, accuracy and reduction of human error, speed and agility, enterprise visibility and massive throughput improvements.

What is WMS software?

Gartner defines a warehouse management system as “a software application that helps manage the operations of a warehouse or distribution center.” These systems incorporate mobile devices along with barcodes and RFID scanning/sensing to streamline warehouse operations and workflows, such as:

  • Receiving, put-away, stock locating
  • Inventory management, cycle counting, task interleaving
  • Wave planning and order allocation
  • Order picking packing, replenishment and shipping
  • Labor management and performance tracking
  • Automated materials-handling equipment interfaces

Extended capabilities, as components of an advanced warehouse management suite, may include labor management, slotting, yard management, voice picking, parcel manifesting, value-added services, light manufacturing/kitting and integrated billing for third-party logistics (3PL) companies. 

Cloud-based WMS return on investment

Warehouse management systems have a direct and positive impact on growth. On the floor, across the enterprise, in competitive territory, and in support of the growth roadmap. On average, companies can reap a 25% increase in productivity, 20% gain in space usage, and 30% improvement in stock use efficiency using a warehouse management system with integrated order processing.

The ROI of a cloud-based solution happens in 5 main areas that are essential to growth:

  1. WMS on the floor – automated order picking, packing, shipping
  2. Warehouse data collection – centralized order tracking, customer insights, replenishment
  3. Value-added services – kitting, self-serve billing integrated with tracking and fulfillment, SKU proliferation, personalization
  4. Scale the sales footprint – introduce multi-location, multi-channel, omnichannel, Direct-to-Consumer (D2C)
  5. Customer relations – full transparency to order tracking, accurate available-to-sell/promise inventory, real-time delivery estimates on website

Here’s a closer look into these:

On the warehouse floor: maximize labor, improve accuracy

One of the biggest ROI areas for warehouse management deals with the hot topic of labor costs and labor shortages. Order picking tasks alone make up around 50% of a warehouse’s labor costs. A warehouse management system automates order picking to increase results, not headcount.


In addition, warehouse management software virtually eliminates human error–-which is the #1 root cause of fulfillment issues for 62% of companies. This translates to a significant reduction in fulfillment times, while giving managers the ability to accurately evaluate performance for all workers, ensuring the best use of labor investments—with optimal workflows and full traceability at any given point. 

Data collection: track, sync, analyze, improve

WMS solutions help companies to quickly analyze and track orders, identify up-to-date customer insights, and prepare earlier for emerging trends. These solutions centralize this data so that all teams have excellent and timely posterity of customer insights to make the best decisions. 

Data analytics in warehouse management also improve replenishment, closing costly gaps between Available-to-Sell / Available-to-Promise inventory. Teams can quickly identify which products are doing well and which are gathering dust on shelves. Better syncing and management of this balance will significantly eliminate overselling and backorders, which can erode profits by $15 to $20 per backorder.

Value-added services: differentiation

WMS software enables you to enter new competitive territory with value-added services like kitting and self-serve billing integrated directly into order tracking and fulfillment. It also positions your company to offer a more attractive product mix to increase revenue, such as a broader assortment or personalization.

This video with Plant Therapy shows a great example of what is WMS software:

 

Expand the sales footprint: scale omnichannel

Given that 55% of consumers will pay more for a guaranteed good experience, a key growth strategy is to focus on perfect inventory execution no matter where the products are coming from. 

The software lays a scalable foundation for new growth initiatives including multi-location, multi-channel, omnichannel and Direct-to-Consumer (D2C). Having cloud-based enterprise visibility and collaboration empowers a company to minimize the growing pains and accelerate new profit sources with speed, scale and precision.

Improve customer relations: trust and transparency

Customers expect more. If you don’t give it to them, someone else will. Best-of-breed warehouse management systems get warehouse operations organized and streamlined to the fullest, enabling instant tracking, faster order fulfillment, faster customer service response times and visibility, and confidence that every delivery is exactly as desired. 

Advanced WMS solutions give customers full transparency into inventory tracking and real-time delivery estimates on your website. Providing this degree of transparency improves brand trust, attracts and retains customers and creates top-line growth. 

Companies are looking to parlay their return on investment in these 5 areas and scale that formula to drive future growth–evident in widespread investments in both physical warehouse expansions and the technology stack to support them.

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