A Warehouse Management System (WMS) can completely revolutionise the way a warehouse or distribution system is organised.
How Does A WMS Do This & What Are The Benefits Of Having One?
After all, warehouse businesses have gotten by without WMS applications quite happily for years and many still do, although the growing complexity of warehousing operations makes this less common than it once was. Learn more about what a Warehouse Management System is with this article - What Is A Warehouse Management System?
Do I Really Need A WMS?
A common objection to investing in a WMS is that all the business functions systems it can help with, such as inventory management, batch tracking, supply chain design and reporting, are already managed by other software systems. For instance, you may already have an ERP in place, working alongside a CMS, spreadsheet-based stock management system and so on. Why reinvent the wheel by implementing a completely new system without any obvious benefits?
The Strategic Benefits Of A WMS
This objection gets to the core of the value a WMS can offer your business. While other software applications – or even a paper and pen – are capable of managing a warehouse, a WMS gives you centralised and precision control over all the functions of your distribution centre within a single systemfrom one hub.
Relying on multiple, non-warehouse specific applications to manage your operation reduces your access to business information, and makes it harder to make and implement ‘big picture’ strategic changes. A WMS gives you the tools and abilities to manage your warehouse operation efficiently and link it in with your supply chain.
Moreover, you don’t have to clear the decks and abandon all your old systems. A WMS will integrate into is a top-level, strategic application that works with and improves your existing IT infrastructure beneath your ERP or main business systems. It can communicate do this either directly or through a middleware interface.
How A WMS Improves Core Warehouse Business Functions
Without a WMS, many small inefficiencies can easily slip between the gaps and either go unnoticed or be difficult to address effectively. This inefficiency correlates directly with higher operating costs than necessary, which can be significant over time. The vision and control bestowed by a high quality WMS helps you address these issues and improve the function of your warehouse or distribution centre in many different areas:
Setting Business Priorities
In each functional area of your warehouse, such as picking and dispatching, there are a number of individual processes and functions that work together to make the process effective. Managing these processes requires careful planning, up-to-date data and an efficient way of analysing this information. A WMS helps you make sense of the data and to prioritise and integrate these functions in terms of essential, desirable and unnecessary processes. The resulting Functionality Matrix can be used to identify weak spots in your process and ensure that priority operations are given the resources and space they need.
Accurate Inventory Management
Using a WMS helps you supply your customers with the goods they need, at the time they need them, in the most cost-effective way for your business. A lot of this depends on knowing where each and every item of stock is located and maintaining the right levels of stock, at the best locations in your warehouse. Using an advanced WMS lets you organise your inventory based on the popularity of each SKU, and from this optimise your product locations to facilitate easy dispatch and restocking. This brings some significant benefits. Firstly it prioritises your stockholding so that the most popular, fastest moving items are positioned in the best locations. Secondly, it reduces the time you need to pick, replenish and put away stock – having a direct, positive impact on output and a reduction in operating costs. Thirdly, as a WMS informs you of the status of each product, your stock levels and location, you reduceovercome the risk of stock outages.
This example is typical of how a WMS can help you implement practical changes and efficiency measures throughout your warehouse. Your WMS gathers operational data based on overall throughput, productivity and turnaround time, as well as SKU location. You can use this information to optimise your warehouse layout and to analyse the productivity of individual warehouse operatives, leading to decisions on how best your staff resources can be deployed. Using a WMS allows you to assess your business priorities based on objective data and analysis, opening the door to direct savings and improvements in efficiency.
How To Choose The Right WMS
Choosing the right WMS for your warehouse business is not always a straightforward decision. There are dozens of WMS applications available on the market for different types of business; some designed for single warehouses, with others better suited to large, multi-site enterprises. Some are modules that can be purchased as part of a wider ERP package, and others are stand-alone applications. Depending on the complexity and nature of your business, a commercial WMS may suit you fine, or you may get better value from investing in a bespoke application. To help you make the right decision for your business we have written a free Warehouse Management System Guide. This free resource explains the workings of a WMS to help you decide whether you need a new or different system for your warehouse. Click here to download your copy.