Warehouse Management Software – A Blueprint for Warehouse Excellence & Inventory Management
What is Warehouse Management Software?
A Warehouse Management Software (WMS) is one that helps plan, control, and manage the day-to-day manufacturing operations in a warehouse along with the guidance of inventory movement, optimizing order picking, and shipping of customer orders. It helps manufacturers effectively control and administer warehouse operations right from the entry of goods or materials into the warehouse until they move out.
The WMS guides the overall order and inventory replenishment on the factory floor. The capabilities of a Warehouse Inventory Management software vary greatly, from the basic best practices in the pick, pack, and ship functionalities to sophisticated programs that can coordinate advanced interactions with material-handling devices and yard management.
It can also help manage supply chain operations from the manufacturer or wholesaler to the warehouse and then to the retailer or distribution center. The Software is usually used alongside or integrated with a Transportation Management System or an Inventory Management System.
How can a Warehouse Management Software help manufacturers?
From a manufacturing perspective, the WMS is witnessing a rapid adoption to help manufacturers expand global supply chain operations through mergers, acquisitions, and regionally-focused manufacturing strategies. Studies show that the global WMS market would reach around $4.6B by the end of 2025.
Here are the various ways it helps manufacturers:
1. Reduced costs
WMS can significantly help reduce infrastructure costs and enable effective reallocation of existing factory resources to drive productivity improvements. With a streamlined Warehouse Management System in place, manufacturers can save time, effort, and resources dedicated to capacity planning and managing their warehouse and inventory activities.
2. Effective supply chain management
Smart Supply chains are the lifeblood of data-driven manufacturing as a healthy supply chain helps compete with new customers, complete order shipments, and replenish stocks on time. With a good WMS in place, the manufacturers’ competitive intensity significantly goes up and this strengthens the supply chain to deliver better, smarter, and faster and enhance quality improvement in manufacturing.
3. Higher accuracy and visibility for inventory management
A WMS helps provide good visibility into the inventory line up and this directly translates into cost and time savings. By implementing key performance metrics and tracking performance over time using the WMS capabilities, inventory management can be easily improved over a period of time.
4. Greater warehouse productivity
A good WMS can help boost warehouse productivity, using a streamlined approach to pick-and-pack, and then progresses to fine-tuning order fulfillment. When warehouse productivity is increased it ensures that pick-and-pack performance is keeping up with every other work cycle in the factory. WMS helps gain insights from a series of key metrics including orders per hour picked, lines per hour picked and fulfilled, items per hour, cost per hour, and cost as a % of sales.
5. Enhanced automated data collection accuracy and reporting
Most WMS platforms support automated data collection to a large extent. With automated data collection and reporting, warehouse management and supply chain efficiency and order accuracy are also increased.
6. Eliminate shipping and receiving handling errors
Manufacturers lose a lot of time and money in solving errors that occur during shipping and order fulfillment. This could lead to a ripple effect in creating future problems while calculating returns on orders and profit margins. A sound WMS can help eliminate these errors by dynamic real-time scheduling of picking, putaway, order staging, dock and container management, and more.
Essential Features of a Warehouse Management Software
1. Inbound and Outbound Operations
Some features of the WMS are made to handle the very first step of the warehousing process – this includes working with multiple vehicles that dock in physical products and materials. Manifest tools for trucks help input data into the inventory system and prepare the warehouse for incoming goods. Then barcode scanning, radio frequency ID tagging, and other physical processing can help organize items for storage. Also, there are several WMS platforms that also label and identify each item as they arrive.
2. Order and Fulfillment Management
Optimizing the order and fulfillment process is among the key warehouse management system features. As the VMS controls the actual flow of a product through the warehouse, it can help streamline order fulfillment. Also, reorder features can help with the ability to automatically place orders for parts or products that are routinely needed for re-supply. There are other WMS platforms that provide easy access to carrier networks that can speed up shipping practices. With automation integration growing in acceptance, warehouse managers can finally do away with time-intensive manual input tasks.
3. Intersystem integration and backups
Today, most WMS platforms also support disaster backup and this is a key feature as well. Along with this, full integration with other types of enterprise software architecture can also provide the necessary backup information. Some of the leading vendors also provide integration with accounting programs such as QuickBooks, customer relationship management platforms like Salesforce, and other applications.
4. Labor Management Features
A good labor-management feature can assist with factory worker tasks and help find areas of improvement for efficiencies with minimal manual effort. Workers can clock in and out with easy to use QR codes or pins that keep a record of work hours and attendance. Several vendors are integrating sophisticated labor management modules into some of the best WMS platforms that companies use as part of their enterprise automation solutions.
5. Tracking and Analysis
Many leading WMS platforms allow manufacturers to aggregate business intelligence from warehouse operations. Real-time tracking can greatly help in maintaining optimum inventory and get a comprehensive real-time view to always stay updated on when inventory levels are dangerously low or when there is surplus stock. Several workflow management tools identify what’s going on within a warehouse and where attention is needed. Using relevant high-quality data can help manufacturers make quick decisions on changes needed in key business processes while also helping them prepare for the future.
Types of Warehouse Management Software
1. Standalone Software
A standalone WMS is one of the most basic in its features and functionality and usually used for specific warehouse management features. This category of WMS is a typical on-premise type of system that is used with the business’s original hardware and network. Most often, standalone systems are sold without any extra supply chain functions and instead include only the most important features of WMS modules. The two most important features here are inventory management and warehouse operations. Since a standalone WMS can be used as an inventory management system, therefore it can be clubbed with many fields outside of warehouse management. This is why most small businesses prefer this type of WMS. This can provide the following benefits:
- Barcode Scanning
- Cycle Counting
- Picking and Packing
2. ERP integrated WMS
This is a powerful software that combines several capabilities found in other systems. It is considered to be one of the top-performing software and ideal for businesses that want to improve their software solution offerings. Also, useful for those organizations that seek a competitive edge and higher ROI. Using ERP capabilities, manufacturers can offer a stable supply chain execution to their customers. Due to its comprehensive capabilities, this software is higher cost wise but can replace many other software applications due to its large scope. It also helps centralize and consolidate the manufacturing operations management into a single interface. Few benefits of this software:
- Supply Chain Planning, Supply Chain Forecasting and Supply Chain Optimization
- Finance & Accounting
- Customer Relationship Management
- Employee Management & Human Resources Activities
3. Cloud-based WMS
A cloud-based WMS is a typical web-based centralized-computing model that leverages cloud technology. This usually works on a “software-as-a-service” (SaaS) model and is preferred for its scalability, adaptability, and deployment. It provides the same benefits of a more traditional WMS with a faster implementation along with lower supply chain costs. A cloud-based WMS supports lower IT maintenance as it is hosted on a separate or private server. This provides higher data security protocols, which is important for businesses that manage high-value inventory or simply want more security in their WMS. The benefits include-
- Reduced Expenses
- Faster Implementation
- Ease User Interface
What to keep in mind when choosing a WMS?
1. Existing capabilities
Measure and benchmark what your existing capabilities are to show how well your warehouse is already performing.
2. Back-end system integration
How well does your WMS integrate with your accounting system? This might provide complete control and flow of information between your back-office and warehouse floor.
3. Superior Functionality
It is critical for the WMS to streamline your business processes in the best possible manner to help you do more with fewer resources and enhance productivity.
4. End-to-end transaction management
Always look for a WMS that gives you detailed information about every aspect including workers, products, services, operations, etc.
5. Easy-to-follow metrics
As much as data is important, it is also critical to have a good understanding of your metrics. A good cloud WMS should allow you to easily create reports and charts that let you see how your warehouse is running without too much effort.
6. Streamlining warehouse and logistics
How well is your WMS tuned to your warehouse and logistics functions? Does the WMS provide insights into the specific niche areas of warehouse management, is an important aspect to consider.
7. Using Artificial Intelligence for your WMS
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is delivering valuable outcomes across warehouse management and inventory operations. By leveraging AI-driven technology, manufacturers are able to simulate a warehouse’s operations under multiple scenarios and provide comparative efficiency metrics. With these simulations and insights, they can determine how to layout a new warehouse, improve or add equipment, update picking methods, optimize staff for a busy season, etc. Also, improved inventory accuracy is possible using real-time insights that are gathered at every touchpoint in the warehouse’s workflow.
ThroughPut’s proprietary AI software, ELI, helps boost inventory turnover and labor productivity rapidly at scale using real-time machine data. ELI leverages powerful algorithms to eliminate Bottleneck Operations and use the latest industry best practices to automatically provide recommendations over 600 times faster than traditional processes to ensure smoother-flowing production.