The benefits of open, integrable software for fashion fulfilment 

There is no doubt that preparing the fashion fulfilment centre for the future is a tall order. What’s needed now and what’s needed in the future will be two very different things. But a well-designed open platform software system for fulfilment controls provides one efficient and reliable solution for future-proofing fashion fulfilment and distribution centres. Let’s explore the benefits of an open software system and what happens if the software system is not designed for new integrations.

By Frank Orthaus & David Hiebler

Why choose open platform software for your Warehouse Control System?

Open platform software is an open-ended software architecture that is able to communicate with other interfaces. It uses the Internet Protocol, meaning it is built using a language every software system understands and every web browser communicates with. The more open the software foundation, the easier it is to integrate and attach different systems to a Warehouse Control System (WCS). We have already seen how webshops have been integrated into fashion fulfilment systems through open software interfaces.

As such, the benefits of open software in a fashion fulfilment centre’s WCS become readily apparent – the software never becomes outdated and unusable; it remains relevant and young.

  • Relevant: Through its flexible and dynamic software structure that supports open integration with well-defined interfaces, the WCS can continue to stay relevant to fashion fulfilment operations. Open integration allows for the future integration of new software, including software from third party suppliers – which is critical to avoid becoming dependent on the vendor.
  • Young: Open software systems use the practice of ‘continuous delivery’, whereby software is developed in short cycles, released with greater speed and frequency. This allows for easy and reliable upgrades of software, new features, enhancement and updates.

Open software structure for a fashion distribution centre’s WCS ensures that the most relevant and latest version of the software can be installed without the disadvantage of having to upgrade the entire WCS software – only certain services will be involved in the upgrade.

Integrating older systems with modern open software WCS

Many fashion fulfilment centres with older systems may well feel the impetus to change their entire software ecosystems to meet the changing purchasing behaviour of their customers and the need for omnichannel distribution. At the same time, however, they may have software libraries that are not communicating in a modern way but can’t be changed quickly.

Fortunately, given the modular, multi-layered design of open software systems, these fulfilment houses do not need to embark on complete software overhauls all at once. In fact, with open software it is possible to update older systems, step by step, without disturbing old functionalities. This is good news for the fulfilment centre that would rather implement incremental changes with limited functionality that can be tested and proven along the way, before pursuing more changes.

The potential of data analytics with open software WCS

One of the biggest benefits of a modern open software WCS is the ability for the fashion fulfilment centre to gain insights from the data collected during its operations. This can be achieved because modern and open WCS architectures communicate through events, which can be easily collected by data analytics tools. Such data can then be used to reveal the WCS’s performance, condition and efficiency in order to optimise the system fulfilment or distribution processes and make continuous improvements. It is possible through data analytics, for example, to detect changes in fulfilment operations that a human might miss.

And increasingly, machine learning technologies are being employed to push the power of data even further. By learning from the data and identifying patterns, machine learning enables the WCS to make decisions with minimal human intervention. Fashion distribution centres can be using machine learning to support its operators in making faster and more accurate decisions.

While collecting the data is straightforward nowadays, the analysis and interpretation of that data can be another matter. The special skills of a system integrator that has a deeper understanding of the WCS are often required to achieve optimal performance.

What is a Warehouse Control System – and what does it do?

In a nutshell, the WCS is a software application that communicates to automation hardware to execute certain jobs on the centre floor. The primary benefit of a WCS is speed of communication and decision making, where microseconds can make a difference.

The WCS software is comprised of different modules or services. In a fashion fulfilment operation, these could include transporting a container from a source location to a destination location, levelling the workload between different loading stations or picking stations, as well as executing the returns process.

The main responsibility of a WCS is to provide a bridge between the WMS and the fashion fulfilment centre’s conveyors, sorters, inline scales and scanners, picking, storage and retrieval technologies. It is software that is fundamental to the continuous operation of a fashion hub.

The importance of open software to the WCS

Given the importance of the WCS to the fashion fulfilment centre, it is only logical that the first question to be asked is whether the WCS is able to be integrated with other solutions in the future. And this is where a WCS system built on open software comes into play.

If the WCS is not built on open software architecture, the fashion fulfilment centre runs the risk of entrapping useful information in one part of its IT system and preventing it from being imported to another where it could be the most helpful. It is also in danger of missing out on integrating all other systems that may exist, especially in an e-commerce world.


Running a fashion fulfilment centre requires a WCS software solution that has the ability to integrate with software solutions of the future to meet the ever changing needs of the business. The open WCS software is built on known protocols in languages understood by other systems. It is therefore a flexible and extendable solution, able to interface with future software developments and future-proofing fulfilment centre investments.


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