This guide is a continuation of our previous article, How To Set Up An eCommerce Warehouse 101, which dives into the warehouse design and equipment procurement process for setting up your eCommerce fulfillment warehouse.
In addition to having the proper equipment and warehouse layout, the underlying technology that you use inside of your warehouse has many implications on the productivity of your employees and total costs of labor.
In this guide we will cover the four main pieces of technical equipment that will empower your employees to work more efficiently within your warehouse: Warehouse Management System Software, Barcode Scanners, Thermal Label Printers and Weighing Scales.
What is a Warehouse Management System (WMS)?
Tracking your inventory and getting visibility into how your products move throughout your warehouse from the loading dock and to your shipping station is critical to the success of your eCommerce business. Without a reliable solution in place, items could get lost in the process, labor hours wasted, and even worse - a negative customer experience could arise from the mismanagement of your inventory.
That is why the thoughtful selection of a Warehouse Management System (WMS) is key. In today’s omnichannel world, eCommerce warehouses need the ability to not only maintain their inventory logistics operations internally but also need something that connects to a variety of sales and fulfillment channels for a truly seamless experience.
Below is a quick overview of the top warehouse management systems that rapidly growing eCommerce companies often turn to when needing a cost-effective, streamlined solution.
InfoPlus dubs their software as the “beating heart of your warehouse”, which a properly-built warehouse management system should be. Product flows in and out of your warehouse, and it’s your WMS’s job to make sure that everything ends up where it needs to.
InfoPlus is a completely cloud-based solution that also leverages AI to help you analyze your operations. Here are some key features/benefits of InfoPlus:
- End-to-end inventory management
- Automated quality control workflows
- Warehouse design & planning tool
- Ability to integrate light manufacturing workflows on top of inventory management
- Order management and process
- Variety of sales channel, shopping cart, and carrier/shipping integrations
InfoPlus’ solution is specifically geared toward 3PL and eCommerce companies and is suitable for small to midsize B2B and B2C operations.
mobe3 has many features included in the standard eCommerce WMS solutions, but what makes it stand out is its promise to get it integrated into your warehouse 75% faster than other alternatives on the market. According to their website, mobe3 enables businesses to integrate the software “3x faster with little to no disruption of your day-to-day business”.
mobe3 also fully integrates with a variety of ERP systems, omnichannel sales outlets, shipping partners, and more. It also boasts a sleek, intuitive interface with a mobile application to enable your warehouse team to work on the go.
mobe3 is targeted more toward enterprise operations, meaning large scale eCommerce businesses would likely see more value in investing in a solution like mobe3.
Oracle Warehouse Management Cloud
Oracle is a widely recognized and well-trusted name in the cloud technology space. The Fortune 500 company’s WMS offering also upholds its reputation, boasting a 4.2-star review by Gartner.
Oracle’s Warehouse Management Cloud, like mobe3 and InfoPlus, is cloud-based, has omnichannel fulfillment capabilities, and offers end-to-end inventory management. A full walkthrough of the Oracle WMS solution can be found here.
Because Oracle’s solution is a cloud-based solution, there are no requirements for specific hardware, software, or IT specialists needed, unlike other on-premise systems which can be tricky to integrate. If you’re already using Oracle’s ERP systems in your warehouse, going with their WMS could be the best fit for your eCommerce business as the two platforms have a seamless integration.
Oracle’s WMS is dubbed as “enterprise-grade”, however, the software is capable of being integrated into businesses of all sizes, from garages or small storefronts to large warehouses and distribution centers.
Fishbowl, like Oracle, has an entire ecosystem of products and software that are geared towards streamlining warehouse operations. Unlike Oracle, however, their core focus is specifically geared towards manufacturing and distribution centers. In addition to offering Fishbowl Warehouse, their flagship warehouse management system, they also have barcode scanners, point of sale hardware, barcode printers, and everything an eCommerce warehouse needs to support the technological requirements.
Fishbowl offers two warehouse management solutions for eCommerce - an on-premise version (called Fishbowl Warehouse) and a cloud-based version (called Fishbowl Online).
With either edition, Fishbowl’s warehouse management systems include key features such as:
- Easy integration with Quickbooks
- Out-of-the-box eCommerce integration with Amazon, WooCommerce, Shopify, and more
- Ability to work with FIFO or LIFO systems
- Shipping integrations with USPS, Endicia, FedEx, UPS, and ShipStation
A free 14-day trial can be found on their website, which makes it easier for small to mid-size eCommerce stores to evaluate their software before purchasing it. Because of the transparent pricing and ease of access to demoing their software, Fishbowl seems to be targeted to businesses that need enterprise-grade features but don’t have an enterprise-level budget.
Choosing a Barcode Scanner For Your eCommerce Warehouse
A warehouse management solution is not complete without a system of barcode scanners to help you track your inventory as it moves throughout the warehouse. Barcode scanner technology has evolved quite a bit over the last few years, especially with the ubiquity of mobile phones. Barcode scanning technology can be integrated into an iPhone or Android mobile device to transform it into an integral warehouse tool.
Despite this, in a modern warehouse setting, you’d most likely want a more rugged solution that will withstand daily use within a high-volume eCommerce warehouse. Reliability is key when choosing a barcode scanner, as a non-functional barcode scanner will directly impact the tracking capabilities of the inventory of your warehouse.
The Leader in Barcode Scanners - The Symbol, Motorola & Zebra Family
Symbol once led the market in barcode scanners in the late 1990s to early 2000s. The historic stronghold on the market of their barcode scanners still leads many retail operators to call a barcode scanner a “Symbol gun”. As technology progressed and the ratification of IEEE 802.11b become more prevalent, Symbol scanners eventually caused them to lose market share. This resulted in their acquisition by Motorola in 2008. Then, in 2014, Zebra Technologies acquired Motorola, and now all Zebra, Motorola, and Symbol scanners are owned by the Zebra Technologies brand.
Although the Zebra/Symbol/Motorola brand has dozens of different standalone barcode scanners, two popular models stand out:
The Zebra TC8000 barcode scanner boasts a dual-core 1.7GHz processor and repositioned touchscreen that eliminates the need to tilt and verify after each scan, which helps reduce wrist motion by 55% and increases productivity by 14%.
The TC8000’s durability is demonstrated by its 8-foot drop and 2000 3.28ft tumble specifications. If your eCommerce warehouse demands a rugged barcode scanner, this is a model to consider.
Learn more about the Zebra TC8000 barcode scanner at the Zebra Technologies website by clicking here.
The Motorola MC9190-G is the modern version of the popular MC9190 barcode scanner. What makes the MC9190-G different from other barcode scanners is its ability to connect to a wireless network using the 802.11 a/b/g protocol, supporting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless frequencies. Also, with the support of Bluetooth 2.1, security and power consumption are optimized with the MC9190-G.
The Motorola MC9190-G’s focus on security is another key differentiator. Out-of-the-box, the 9190-G includes government-grade security and compatibility with Motorola’s Mobile Security Suite which allows for authentication, encryption, and integrity monitoring to protect the data going to and from your barcode scanner. This barcode scanner is made for eCommerce warehouses that prioritize data protection.
Choosing a Thermal Barcode Label Printer For Your eCommerce Warehouse
Another key component to maintaining accurate inventory within your eCommerce warehouse is a thermal label barcode printer. Without a reliable label printer to mark your products, you not only risk inaccurate inventory levels and lost items in your warehouse, but you also expose yourself to potential fines (in certain industries) if your barcode labels are unreadable.
Barcode label printers also need to rely on consumable printheads to function and accurately print the labels that end up on your inventory. By choosing a trusted brand of label printers, you can save money on ongoing costs by avoiding unnecessary reprints and save money on having to purchase unneeded printheads due to wasted ink.
Below is a list of the top barcode label printers that are commonly used in eCommerce warehouses.
By far, Zebra Technologies is the leader in the thermal label printer market. Zebra’s thermal label printers are available in a variety of configurations, including:
- Industrial Printers - For mission-critical eCommerce applications
- Desktop Printers - For eCommerce companies that need a smaller footprint
- Mobile Printers - For eCommerce companies that need labels on the move or field service capabilities
Honeywell’s acquisition of Datamax-O’ Neil and Intermec makes the legacy Datamax O’Neil brand a reliable thermal printer brand to consider for your eCommerce warehouse. Like Zebra, Datamax-O’Neil also carries a variety of Industrial and mobile printers to fulfill the requirements of your barcode label printing needs.
The Datamax-O’ Neil H-Class H-4212, for example, competes directly with Zebra’s rugged industrial printers to deliver modern-day performance at an affordable cost.
Printronix’s thermal label printer offerings are mostly designed for more industrial, heavy-use applications such as high-volume eCommerce warehouses. Printronix’s latest model, the ODV-2D, has the unique ability to validate AND print barcode labels from a single device. With the ODV-2D, you can print, verify, and validate both 1D and 2D barcode labels.
The fully integrated nature of the Printronix ODV-2D is a must-have feature for eCommerce businesses that operate in regulated industries where accuracy is a top priority. The ability to print and validate barcodes from a single-label printer helps eliminate unnecessary inventory errors and keeps your warehouse flowing smoothly.
Getting Accurate Inventory & Shipping Data For Your eCommerce Warehouse
When it comes to shipping costs, quality in equals quality out. Most shipping companies leverage both volumetric dimensions as well as weight to quote shipping costs, and discrepancies in these inputs can greatly affect your overall shipping expenses when extrapolated at scale. That’s why it is critical to invest in a quality scale to assure that when your products reach the packing station, you’ve got the most accurate data available to feed into your shipping calculations.
If you’re looking to invest in a quality scale to incorporate into your eCommerce fulfillment processes, you can’t go wrong by choosing equipment from the following vendors.
Mettler-Toledo is known as the leader in the weighing scale industry. If accuracy, durability, and quality are your top priorities for your shipping scale needs, Mettler-Toledo’s world-class analytical instruments should be at the top of your list. Mettler-Toledo offers the following types of scales for eCommerce operations:
- Shipping scales - Includes the ability to communicate proper weight data to any software program on PC or cloud-based systems.
- In-Motion weighing - For eCommerce companies that need to verify inventory quality as they come inbound, and not just outbound.
- Counting - For eCommerce companies that rely on selling items in bulk or high quantities. Implementing counting-based scales could greatly increase the productivity of your fulfillment processes.
Another reliable weighing scale vendor to consider is Arlyn Scales. Arlyn Scales, like Mettler-Toledo, also offers a variety of industrial scales, counting scales, floor scales, and bench scales. For eCommerce companies that want the most accurate data, their line of Ultra Precision scales boast the following benefits:
- 20x to 40x readability
- Capacities from 5KG to 90KG, with guaranteed accuracy within as low as .02g (depending on the model and weight of your items)
- Designed to handle 2.5 times the rated load without damage
- Ability to connect to PC software using Ethernet, USB, and RS-232
- Upgrades available for the Arlyn UpScale Touchscreen Indicator
The Importance of Choosing The Right Technology For Your eCommerce Warehouse
Choosing the right material handling equipment to handle the logistics within your warehouse is important, but having the right technology to support those processes can mean the difference between being in the black or red. Furthermore, investing in reliable brands of equipment that are made for the modern-day warehouse can save you headaches down the road in terms of downtime, expensive repair costs, and a poor customer experience.
When building your eCommerce warehouse from the ground up, or revamping your eCommerce warehouse to become more efficient, keep these tips, vendors, and information in mind to uphold the integrity of your logistics processes.