A lot of operations start their computerized inventory management process with spreadsheets, or a home-grown software system. For facilities with a limited number of stock keeping units (SKUs) and fairly consistent order profiles, that’s fine. But as a business grows due to increasing demands from consumers, expanded inventory, more square footage, multiple locations, and more, the time eventually comes to transition from the spreadsheet or outdated system to new warehouse management software (WMS).
While advances in Cloud Computing and newer, Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) purchasing models have reduced the total overall cost of WMS ownership, the software still represents an investment in both money and time. Instead of solely considering the costs, however, evaluate the numerous benefits a WMS can deliver — not only to your warehousing operations, but also to your overall business.
That’s because a WMS manages and coordinates inventory, as well as actions taken within the facility to handle that inventory. Utilizing a WMS streamlines and automate complex processes throughout the end-to-end operation, from receiving to shipping and all points in between. Here are a few areas in which your business will benefit from deploying a WMS.
Faster, more accurate data capture. A WMS automatically captures and stores the information gathered by a barcode scan. At the point of receiving, for example, implementing radio frequency (RF) scanning allows a worker to quickly scan GS1 labels instead of writing down specific information about the pallet on paper, or keying it in. Both of those manual processes are time-consuming and error-prone; conversely, a barcode scan is extremely fast and accurate. Receiving speed is increased, inventory accuracy gets a significant boost, and inventory is made available to fill orders much faster. Likewise, suppliers can receive faster, real-time notification that their products have arrived at your building, allowing them to release their invoices sooner and improving your vendor relationships.
More efficient order management. Operations with more than one warehouse or distribution center can leverage a WMS to determine which location is the most optimal for filling an order. Because a WMS has visibility into inventory availability throughout an organization’s network, orders can be allocated for fulfillment based on multiple, pre-determined criteria. These might include the recipient’s geographic proximity to the closest warehouse, shipping speed required, or inventory availability. Further, a WMS can reallocate inventory from one location to another if demand for a specific product is higher in a different region.
Streamlined staffing. Labor management tools are often integrated into a WMS, enabling managers to better understand key performance indicators (KPIs) by measuring how long it takes to perform certain tasks. This enables more accurate staffing assignments based on demand. For example, if it takes five minutes to receive a pallet and route it to a staging area for putaway, and four full trailers delivering palletloads are due by 10 a.m., management can use the labor management function of the WMS to determine how many people will be needed on the dock in order to complete the work by 2 p.m.
Improved demand management. Because it tracks orders and inventory year-round, a WMS provides insight into periods of peak activity. In a manual operation, the start of the seasonal peak becomes tribal knowledge. Conversely, the data tracked and reported in a WMS enables more precise predictors of an uptick in order volume. That, in turn, enables better precision in scheduling in-bound and out-bound trailers, more accurate staffing, improved ordering of restocks from vendors, and more.
Better insight for decision making. The data collected and tracked by a WMS can be further enhanced with analytical tools that support enhanced forecasting and improve operational visibility. A variety of inputs can be analyzed: equipment data for timely predictive maintenance activities; inventory data for more efficient slotting of the warehouse based on SKU velocity; receiving data for better understanding of which vendors consistently meet their service level agreements and which do not; and so on. With a WMS, all that information is much more accessible than manual recordkeeping, and can be easily leveraged for insights that support more accurate decision making.
Need additional guidance to figure out which WMS is the best fit for your operation? Connect with us; we’re happy to help.
Chris Smith, Senior Software Consultant, email@example.com
Chris Smith brings 15 years of experience in the material handling industry. The vast majority of his experience comes from a software engineering background where he created leading WMS solutions in manual and automated warehouses. His roles have also included Solutions Architecture, managing commissioning and quality assurance, and managing pre-sales engineering efforts on large airports nationwide. He is passionate about leveraging his experience to help grow DCS as a software consultant, and he enjoys spending time with his family and golfing outside of work.