What is a Warehouse Management System?

A Warehouse Management System, or WMS, is software that manages all day-to-day operations within a warehouse and acts as the foundation for any other technology systems a warehouse might implement. The scope of WMS functionality is extremely comprehensive, ranging from receipts and location management to picking, packing, and shipping of orders and everything in between, including inventory management.

Most WMS software includes options for customer management for public warehouses, also known as third-party logistics (3PL) warehouses, that include the option for customer portals and notifications so that customers can monitor their own inventory control. One of the highlights of WMS platforms is the extensive data analytics and reporting options that provide insights into inventory tracking for both warehouse and customer users.

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On-Premise vs. Cloud-Based Warehouse Management System

On-premise warehouse management system refers to software that is hosted and maintained on-site using the warehouse’s own servers. The warehouse’s IT department and resources are responsible for managing both the software and hardware required to run their business. On-premise solutions used to be the industry standard for their customizability to accommodate a warehouse’s specific workflows. However, they lack scalability and force users into the “buy, upgrade, maintain” software cycle with software updates that come at a cost. In addition, when using on-premise WMS solutions, IT departments must download and manage updates, making implementation complicated, bugs and errors hard to manage, and inefficient to maintain.

Alternatively, cloud-based warehouse management system software is hosted online in the cloud, often with no downloads needed. Instead, the warehouse accesses the software online, so users can securely login to the system on any connected device, not just at on-premise terminals that have the software installed. Additionally, cloud-based WMS software providers publish updates automatically, drastically decreasing downtime spent implementing upgrades, and build the software to standard specifications for broad warehousing needs to help align warehouse workflows to best practices.

WMS Integrations

For those fulfilling ecommerce operations, especially with an omnichannel fulfillment strategy in which the warehouse handles transactions across a wide range of sales channels with a unified approach, the WMS software is great for integrations with shopping cart platforms, marketplaces, and application programming interface (API). Such systems can also communicate with other customers, vendors, and suppliers through technologies like Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), UCC-128 label printing, and receiving against advanced shipping notice (ASN).

Top warehouse management systems are also able to integrate with a wide range of internal and external software systems including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems, Supply Chain Management Systems, Order Management Systems (OMS), Transportation Management Systems, Barcode Scanning Systems, accounting programs, and ecommerce platforms.

Automated Warehouse Processes

The key objective of a WMS is digital automation. Digital automation refers to eliminating manual processes with software and/or hardware to reduce human error, inconsistencies, and slow speeds of handling repetitive tasks. With digital automation, a WMS creates automatic best practice workflows and processes that are repeatable across customers, which is particularly valuable to third-party logistics warehouses who serve multiple customers.

For example, a WMS automates billing by capturing all billable activities in the warehouse including recurring storage, shipping, and handling fees as well as other charges. At the end of the billing period, the WMS gathers all charges into invoices that the user can then export to integrated accounting software like Quickbooks.

Other processes that a WMS can automate are inventory management with directed putaway and cycle counting, auditing, and tracking of goods within the warehouse; receiving against ASN; shipping and order management; and picking and packing with mobile barcode scanning.

Picking and packing with integrated mobile barcode scanning technology is a major selling point of WMS software. With mobile barcode scanning, the user can scan each item’s barcode at pick and pack real time information to ensure they have the correct item and quantity. This is especially useful in workflows with serial numbers, which previously incurred a lot of human error when the user would have to manually check long serial numbers of incoming and outgoing items. Additionally, mobile barcode scanning is useful in inventory management during cycle counting and monitoring not just the quantity of a particular item but also the quality of items (i.e., if they are damaged or expired).

Warehouse Management System vs. Order Management System

What’s the difference between WMS and OMS? Warehouse Management System and Order Management System are similar software solutions used by warehouses, but the two have different functionalities. Whereas a WMS offers a comprehensive package that captures, records, and analyzes data on all day-to-day functions performed by a warehouse of goods, an OMS only monitors the coming and going of all inventory throughout the supply chain for its entire lifecycle, including in the warehouse, and orders related to it.

Because of this, OMS is not a replacement for a WMS, which does much more than track inventory and orders, but an OMS can complement a WMS in a warehouse technology stack. OMS is also a good solution for private warehouses that do not have multi-client operations or for customers of third-party logistics warehouses that want to track their own inventory.

Who Uses Warehouse Management Systems?

Both private and 3PL warehouses use Warehouse Management Systems to digitize and automate their warehouse operations. A WMS is useful for all order fulfillment types including pallet in/pallet out, B2B, B2C, ecommerce business, and omnichannel, as the software allows warehouse users to manage inventory and transactions from a variety of receiving and sales channels. Furthermore, WMS systems can handle the needs of warehouses serving multiple industries and verticals including but not limited to retail, apparel, bulk goods, raw materials, cold storage, nutraceuticals & pharmaceuticals, wine & spirits, and hazardous materials.

Private warehouses will sometimes opt for an inventory management system (IMS) instead of a WMS because they only want to track inventory, but this software is extremely limited compared to WMS software and would not suit more complicated operations. Because of the versatility, adaptability, and customizability of WMS software, any warehousing operation – whether public or private – can benefit from using a WMS to record data on all the happenings within their warehouse. Both comprehensive and robust, WMS software is the best solution for warehouses to manage order volume demands and keep track of all transactions performed by the warehouse.

Why Use Extensiv WMS Software?

Extensiv is the leader in cloud-based standalone warehouse management systems built to meet the unique needs of the 3PL warehousing community. Serving as the backbone of our customers' operations, our platform, 3PL Warehouse Manager, quickly transforms paper-based, error-prone businesses into service leaders who can focus on customer satisfaction, operate more efficiently, and grow faster. Offering a comprehensive warehouse management platform, we make it easy for 3PLs to manage inventory, automate routine tasks, and deliver complete visibility to their customers. As the proven industry leader for over a decade, Extensiv accurately manages billions of dollars in inventory and processes more than 1 million orders a week from any of our customers and their customers’ systems.

Because 3PL Warehouse Manager is a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), our software breaks the costly and high-maintenance software cycle, freeing up our customers’ time with automatic updates and easy implementation. Additionally, our WMS software acts as an all-in-one solution with extensive capabilities unmatched by IMS or OMS software offerings or other WMS products. We offer integrations to hundreds of ecommerce and omnichannel programs including EDI, API, online shopping carts and marketplaces, and accounting software as well as mobile barcode scanning and many other types of wms software your warehouse may be using already.

Our customer service offerings set our 3PL Warehouse Manager software apart with implementation managers that make sure you get your 3PL warehouse up and running on our system in as little time as possible, dedicated customer success managers that build an individual relationship with your warehouse, and a customer support team available 24/7. As the first WMS provider built specifically for 3PL warehouses, we continually expand and upgrade our platform to meet warehousing needs for omnichannel fulfillment and provide enterprise-class WMS functionality to the ever-evolving 3PL warehousing industry.


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"Partnering with 3PL Central has enabled SEKO Logistics to firmly position ourselves within the retail and eCommerce fulfillment market, which is a core strategy for us. 3PL Central has become a feature benefit presented in our sales and onboarding process and in some cases, is the competitive differentiator that wins us the business. "

— John Christopher
Director of Logistics, SEKO Logistics

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a warehouse management system (WMS)?

3PL Warehouse Manager is a cloud-based software platform that manages all day-to-day operations within a warehouse and acts as the foundation for any other technology systems a warehouse might implement. It can help warehouse staff manage receipts, locations, picking, packing, shipping, inventory, and so much more. Our WMS also includes customer management, including the customer portal and automated notifications. It also features data analytics and reporting to help you view productivity in real-time.

What is omnichannel fulfillment?

Omnichannel fulfillment is a unified approach to managing inventory and order processing from a variety of channels, including a variety of order sources such as Amazon, eBay, and Shopify, for example, from the same inventory bucket. In this way, 3PLs can streamline fulfillment processes and distribution of orders from multiple selling channels without segmenting or restricting inventory per channel.

How can 3PL Warehouse Manager help me receive product into my warehouse?

In 3PL Warehouse Manager, you can create receipts manually, with a scanner using SmartScan, by uploading an import file, or electronically through an EDI or API connection. You can then search and filter by receipts in the Find Receipts page in the Receipts module and perform simple actions like editing, confirming, canceling, and reopening. In addition, you can view open, complete, closed, and canceled receipts, generate receipt documents, and adjust receipt charges. The Receipts module in 3PL Warehouse Manager reflects automatic and manual charges for each customer through the billing functionality. 3PL Warehouse Manager can capture all item-based handling, value-added services, and initial storage charges and fees for your receiving operations.

How can 3PL Warehouse Manager help me ship orders out of my warehouse?

3PL Warehouse Manager can help you manage orders by allowing you to process single or batch orders through the system from receiving, through picking and packing, to printing labels and shipping. With Enterprise and Professional subscriptions, built-in analytics allow you to see the real-time status of orders per customer. 3PL Warehouse Manager’s add-on, Small Parcel Suite, allows you to shop carrier rates from within the platform from a variety of providers. You can even process high-volume orders, print packing slips, and handle returns through Small Parcel Suite. 3PL Warehouse Manager will also generate and link shipping charges to orders, including order processing fees, handling fees, and freight fees.

How can 3PL Warehouse Manager help me manage inventory?

Items are the backbone of 3PL Warehouse Manager’s inventory management. Creating items or importing them into the WMS is the first step toward inventory management with 3PL Warehouse Manager. You can enter item details, from basic details like SKU number, to advanced details like serial numbers and expiration dates to help identify this item in the system and enable dozens of other inventory-tracking features, shipping documentation, directed putaway, and hazardous materials management. Inventory can be grouped by movable unit.

You can also use 3PL Warehouse Manager to allocate, count, and adjust inventory levels, as well as track the transfer of inventory within the system, so that you can be aware of the status of each piece of inventory at every stage of the fulfillment process. Finally, 3PL Warehouse Manager can track assembly transactions, pricing, and storage rates for individual and movable units of inventory.

Can 3PL Warehouse Manager help me implement barcode scanning in my facility?

SmartScan, 3PL Warehouse Manager’s barcode scanning add-on, gives you greater flexibility in fulfillment by allowing you to implement barcodes and receive and pick on-the-go with your mobile device. You can even use SmartScan to perform faster and more accurate inventory audits. SmartScan is flexible enough to work with multiple order types, from high-volume ecommerce to load out for freight shipping. It also helps improve staff throughput with scanning best practices to increase the accuracy and efficiency of your receiving and picking. You can prioritize pick jobs, view picking locations, and what tasks you assign to users in real time with the combination of SmartScan and 3PL Warehouse Manager.

What integrations can I use with 3PL Warehouse Manager?

At Extensiv, we work hard to form partnerships and provide our customers with the best integration experience possible. Through CartRover, now Extensiv Integration Manager, our customers can access hundreds of integrations to ecommerce shopping carts including, but not limited to, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Google Shopping, Groupon, PayPal, Shopify, Walmart, and Wayfair. 3PL Warehouse Manager’s billing integrates directly with QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online to streamline accounting. Further, Small Parcel Suite offers direct integrations to FedEx, UPS, USPS, ShipStation, and dozens more carriers. Don’t see the integration you’re looking for? Our team of dedicated experts can build your custom API or EDI integration through our Developer Services program.

What kind of support can I expect with 3PL Warehouse Manager?

At Extensiv, we pride ourselves on providing a superior support experience for our customers. Not only do we provide our customers with 5 am-5 pm PT phone and chat support, but a dedicated Customer Success Manager assigned to your account is included with your subscription. As a customer, you’ll also get access to the 3PL Warehouse Manager Support Portal where you can monitor usage, pay invoices, and view all your support cases in real time. In addition, 3PL Warehouse Manager customers enjoy access to the 3PL Warehouse Manager Community where you can connect with Extensiv employees and other 3PL Warehouse Manager users and get insight on best practices.

For ongoing training and product knowledge, 3PL Warehouse Manager University provides additional training resources for your team through both live webinars and recorded training videos on specific features within 3PL Warehouse Manager. Finally, the 3PL Warehouse Manager Help Center is full of articles with detailed instructions on how to implement best practices, configure all the features of the product, and more.