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Warehouse Management Blog

Our team of Fulfilment Consultants share warehouse management best practice and advice.

10 reasons why a SaaS WMS works for Enterprise

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WRITTEN BY Jonathan Bellwood /

24 June 2015

What we talk about when we talk about ‘enterprise’ businesses are those well established companies that operate as a solid function across all departments within the business. Gartner define being enterprise pretty well here.

For a long time now, enterprise retailers have chosen traditional warehouse systems to manage their inventory and that is often because traditional systems are designed for retail warehouses. With the progression of eCommerce, however, these solutions are fast becoming unsuitable for enterprise businesses looking to branch out into the world of online sales.

The functionality of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) warehouse management system (WMS) is starting to prove itself as a much better solution for the enterprise market and this blog post is about to tell you how.

1. Open Integration

In the past, companies may have had just one core ERP system but that is not the case anymore. Enterprise companies need to integrate with several applications to run efficiently: an eCommerce platform, accounting software, and marketplace management software to name just a few. The right SaaS provider will have an open Application Programming Interface (API) into which integrations can be easily written.

2. Self-Service

For the enterprise market, a WMS should be as self-service as possible so they can take advantage of a quick implementation. Marks of a self-service WMS would be having a knowledge base and user guides for the client to review and learn from.

Traditional warehouse management systems would have custom documentation created for each client instead of having everything included as part of the package like with SaaS.

3. Growing up

With eCommerce in particular, some of the biggest brands and enterprise businesses are starting very small in eCommerce with it making up perhaps only 2-3% of their revenue. As such, what they need is a system that can start small, be implemented quickly and scale up as they grow.

A SaaS WMS can work very well for the small as well as the large as it’s designed around a scalable infrastructure. On the other hand, traditional warehouse software doesn’t often work for the small, only for those with more established operations. For example, our client Mothercare were using a traditional enterprise WMS for their retail operations and needed a SaaS warehouse system for their enterprise eCommerce operations.

4. Retail and eCommerce fulfilment

When using a SaaS WMS for your eCommerce warehouse, realistically it will need the capability to handle the retail operations, too. The good news is that a SaaS system is actually pretty well-designed to cope with this transition whereas a traditional WMS is not so strong.

The reason for this is because the requirements for eCommerce are wildly different to those of a retail warehouse and, while retail processes have been defined for many years, eCommerce is ever changing and evolving. As such, warehouse management systems that have not been designed to adapt will not do so when needed. A SaaS WMS, on the other hand, has always been designed to be flexible.

[Related: Best practice for combined retail and eCommerce warehouse]

5. Innovation

To dabble in eCommerce, you have to seek a competitive advantage over everyone else in the arena. This means that innovation is hugely important, particularly as eCommerce is still evolving and its requirements are being redefined every day. As an example, sites like Groupon changed the way that processes were completed in the warehouse so that a picking method could be designed to pick several hundred of a single item.

SaaS systems have one code base which means that innovation can be worked on consistently and issued out to the clients quickly. For enterprise retailers entering the eCommerce race, this is crucial. With a traditional on-premise WMS, not only does a vendor need to innovate, they have to deploy to each client one-by-one which delays the roll-out.

6. Low IT resource

When implementing a traditional warehouse management system, you will need to have people within your business that have the technical know-how to assist with the implementation and maintenance. With SaaS warehouse management software very little IT overhead is required at all which means that your technical guys can stay focused on making your eCommerce platform look spectacular. With less IT resources required from the vendor, too, this is also reduces the cost.

[Related: SMB Owners: The 4 pillars of warehouse software selection success]

7. Server resiliency

Implementing a traditional WMS requires a server on site, a database expert or at least a third party provider to do database management, backups and resiliency checks. All of this is a big overhead on staff and IT and enterprise companies would want to avoid further investment, or upsetting their existing architecture, if eCommerce is not core to the business.

With a SaaS WMS for enterprise, the security, backups and resiliency are included as standard by the provider, often to a far higher specification than the retailer could offer through their internal teams. This means that established companies can start to put steam into the eCommerce train without needing to dedicate too many resources.

8. Ease of use

When you put a new system into your enterprise eCommerce warehouse, you want it to be as easy to train people on it as possible. With its simple user interface that most people are familiar with using, new staff can betrained on a SaaS system in as little as 30 minutes for pick, pack and despatch.

Not only does this mean that you can bring in new users at peak and have them ready to work immediately, it also means that you save time and money on sending workers out on external training courses.

9. Features

One of the strongest aspects of a SaaS solution is that, in many cases, they are focused on one particular niche. As such, they can dominate that niche and constantly redefine and hone what it means to be enterprise-level software. Examples of this are what Base have done for growing sales teams or what Ometria have created for eCommerce companies.

Traditional systems generally tend to be the big all-rounder with no particular focus. While this may have worked in the past, when diving into eCommerce, you’ll want a system that was designed for that purpose so that you can capitalise on its strengths.

10. Trapped vs Loyal

Last but by no means least, if you buy a traditional warehouse system, the vendors will charge an up-front lump sum, with added costs along the way for upgrades and customisation. This may seem like less over a period, however many of the costs included with a SaaS solution are hidden by traditional vendors. For example, upgrades, server licenses, and database management.

With a SaaS WMS for enterprise, a client’s custom must be earned every month as they pay on a subscription basis. This kind of method fosters a loyal customer base over one that is trapped because they have already paid in full.

Key takeaways

>> SaaS is more adaptable than a traditional WMS

>> Very few internal resources are needed to implement and manage SaaS

>> SaaS has to earn your loyalty while traditional demands it

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