Whether you have your own warehouse or you are using a 3PL for your fulfillment, understanding good warehouse management and how a warehouse management system (WMS) works is so vital and necessary to grow and build your business in a smart and efficient way.
What is a Warehouse Management System?
A warehouse management system (WMS) is software that allows you to optimize the processes of a business. From warehousing to distribution to supply chain to fulfillment, these processes can become easier and more efficient with a WMS.
A WMS provides a way to make sure the warehouse process, from receiving the goods all the way to shipping them out (and if returned), runs smoothly while being efficient and cost-effective. WMS systems are also able to be connected/integrated with other software that helps with other processes throughout the business. This is all to make sure that the process for everything is smooth and efficient, but not all WMS software solutions are made equal.
Standalone WMS vs Integrated WMS
You now know what the warehouse management system is for. Let’s figure out what kind of WMS would best suit you and your business. There are 2 main options when it comes to the kinds of WMS. There are standalone systems that are strictly for warehouse management. They can be integrated with other operational systems, but they are their own system. The second one is an integrated solution. These warehouse management systems share the same database and workflow as your order management and inventory systems.
Standalone WMS specializes in warehouse management. It is specifically warehouse management software. Yes, it can be integrated with other software like your inventory, order management and purchase ordering software. But above everything else, it is all about warehouse management.
Standalone WMS has a wide range of warehouse management functions. There is a wide range of warehouse picking options and cycle counting, advanced reporting features and cross-docking. There are a ton of warehouse functions that using a standalone WMS is the easiest way to keep track of it all.
Although a standalone WMS doesn’t have other operational features, they are able to be integrated with other software. From order and inventory management software to Enterprise Recourse Planning (ERP) solutions to supply chain management (SCM) software you can integrate almost every other software you would use for your ecommerce business.
The standalone systems, although can have a great impact, don’t have all the capabilities that one might hope a WMS would have. Since it is its own system, you must log into every software to complete all your functions. Lets say there is a return. You not only have to update your warehouse software, but then you will have to update every other software to make sure everyone has the same and correct information.
Along with that, there isn’t really a real-time integration. You have to go in to change the data in most of the other systems to make sure everyone has the same data in front of them. That is definitely not real-time.
With all the extra things you need to do with a standalone WMS comes the possibility of it costing a little extra as well. When you have so many different systems that you then need to integrate together, it can get pretty costly.
Integrated WMS is a solution that can either be a separate module that is sold by the same company as your other systems, or it can be a solution that is included in those systems. This means that, either way, your warehouse management system shares the same database as your other systems, like your ERP, order management, or inventory management systems.
There are many pros to the integrated WMS. Having your warehouse management system on the same database as your order management and ecommerce integrations systems, you not only will ensure that all your employees are on the same page and have the same data, but you will also have real-time accuracy across all systems.
Along with that, it doesn’t matter who your customer is talking to, they will have all the information making it easier to make sure customers and clients are taken care of and have all the information they are looking for. This makes it nice and easy to have great customer service.
There is something about the layout of an integrated WMS. You have so much information in one spot, but they have been designed to have a ton of information in one space. That makes it simple and easy to understand throughout the entire system.
With an integrated WMS, your technology spending will most likely be lower. You aren’t purchasing and implementing multiple systems. There is one system that has everything already implemented into it.
The only con for the integrated WMS is that it does have reduced functionality. If you have an ERP WMS module, you will have the basic functions you would need in the warehouse. It might lack some of the more in depth and advanced functions that a standalone WMS solution would have.
What Are the Benefits of a Warehouse Management System?
There are so many benefits to a WMS. Things from making it easier to make data-driven decisions to making sure your order fulfillment doesn’t go dormmate and your processing costs don’t go up. WMSs are also useful to help eliminate error and safe time while doing that. With a warehouse management system in place, you can be sure to keep track of what is happening in the warehouse without spending too much time and money to make sure everything is right and in the correct place or order.
The Warehouse Management Process
The warehouse management process is everything that need to happen in the warehouse to get your products from the warehouse to your customers. This process is simple as well as complex. It starts with receiving inventory, then picking and packing your customers orders, and finally shipping them out, with the possibility of returns coming in as well.
Receiving inventory is when the warehouse gets shipments of products from your suppliers for replenishments. Once the inventory is received it is imputed into the system to make sure the inventory count is correct. Returns and exchanges are also part of the receiving process.
Once an order is made, it is sent to your pickers. They will go through the warehouse and grab the items that are shown on the picking list. It is better to have all this electronic so there are less errors. When you are able to put scanners on your pickers you must scan the barcode on the items to prevent from picking the wrong items.
Packing is the process of putting the picked items into packages to be sent out to the customers. You’ll want to be sure that the packing stations are organized, and all the possible packaging is ready to be used. This will create a seamless and clean way to pack the items to get more out in a shorter amount of time. Having your packing labels automated will also create that quicker pack time to allow you more time to get through more orders.
Warehouses benefit from using the right technology. Making sure you have the right technology for you and your company can help you save time, almost fully eliminate errors, and create an openness with your company, making sure they have insight on what is going on.
Having the right tech can help give you that competitive edge. It can help prepare picking lists and print out all the necessary labels and paperwork. It can give you that flexibility when it creates picking batches, whether you want it done by shipping method, number of items in an order, or any other means, you can have the capability to fulfill your desired orders. Having the right tech can include making the picking process all-digital, like what was stated before. Having those scanners can that your errors down an enormous amount.
Gaining Efficiency using a Warehouse Management System
There are many ways you can gain the best efficiency in your warehouse. From things like making everything automated, so you aren’t wasting your time with processes that can be done automatically, to implementing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), letting documents be shared computer to computer. There are also things like what was talked about before, getting scanners for your pickers and create barcodes for your products to eliminate error. Even choosing an integrated WMS vs a standalone WMS can make a very large difference in how efficient your warehouse is running. Having everything already integrated and on the same database is a huge time saver. Along with all of these, one way to make things run more efficiently is by checking how efficient your warehouse is running. Always knowing how its running and if improvements can be done will keep you running smoothly and effectively.