A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software application, designed to support and optimise warehouse functionality and distribution centre management. These systems facilitate management in their daily planning, organising, staffing, directing, and controlling the utilisation of available resources, to move and store materials into, within, and out of a warehouse, while supporting staff in the performance of material movement and storage in and around a warehouse. The following article Warehouse Management Systems Explained covers all the key points you need to know.
For example, a WMS can provide visibility into an organisation’s inventory at any time and location, whether in a facility or in transit. It can also manage supply chain operations from the manufacturer or wholesaler to the warehouse, then to a retailer or distribution centre. A WMS is often used alongside or integrated with a transportation management system (TMS) or an inventory management system.
Types of warehouse management systems
Warehouse management systems come in a variety of types and implementation methods, and the type typically depends on the size and nature of the organisation. They can be stand-alone systems or modules in a larger enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or supply chain execution suite as well as cloud solutions.
As technology continues to improve the way business is conducted, a trend of moving applications to cloud has followed suite. A warehouse management system works in real time, informing pickers of orders and allowing them to more accurately do their job. A cloud-based warehouse management system works in this real time environment and is accessible from any device.
They can also vary widely in complexity. Some small organisations may use a simple series of hard copy documents or spreadsheet files, but most larger organisations — from small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to enterprise companies — use complex WMS software. Some WMS setups are designed specifically for the size of the organisation, and many vendors have versions of WMS products that can scale to different organisational sizes. Some organisations build their own WMS from scratch, but it’s more common to implement a WMS from an established vendor.
Warehouse management systems (WMS) fit into the overall supply chain.
A WMS can also be designed or configured for the organisation’s specific requirements; for example, an e-commerce vendor might use a WMS that has different functions than a brick-and-mortar retailer. Additionally, a WMS may also be designed or configured specifically for the types of goods the organisation sells; for example, a sporting goods retailer would have different requirements than a grocery chain.
Warehouse management system benefits
Although a WMS is complex and expensive to implement and run, organisations gain benefits that can justify the complexity and costs.
Implementing a WMS can help an organisation reduce labour costs, improve inventory accuracy, improve flexibility and responsiveness, decrease errors in picking and shipping goods, and improve customer service. Modern warehouse management systems operate with real-time data, allowing the organisation to manage the most current information on activities like orders, shipments, receipts and any movement of goods.
Features of warehouse management systems
Many features are common to WMS products, including the following:
- Warehouse design, which enables organisations to customise workflow and picking logic to make sure that the warehouse is designed for optimised inventory allocation. The WMS establishes bin slotting that maximises storage space and accounts for variances in seasonal inventory.
- Inventory tracking, which enables the use of advanced tracking systems, including radio-frequency identification (RFID), automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) and barcode scanners to make sure that goods can be found easily when they need to move.
- Receiving and putaway, which allows inventory putaway and retrieval, often with pick-to-light or pick-to-voice technology to help warehouse workers locate goods.
- Picking and packing goods, including zone picking, wave picking and batch picking. Warehouse workers can also use lot zoning and task interleaving functions to guide the pick-and-pack tasks in the most efficient way.
- Shipping, which enables the WMS to send bills-of-lading (B/L) ahead of the shipment, generate packing lists and invoices for the shipment and send advance shipment notifications to recipients.
- Labour management, which helps warehouse managers monitor workers’ performance by using key performance indicators (KPIs) that indicate workers who perform above or below standards.
- Yard and dock management, which assists truck drivers coming into a warehouse to find the right loading docks. A more complex use of yard and dock management enables cross-docking.
- Reporting, which helps managers analyse the performance of warehouse operations and find areas to improve.
WMS and IoT
Connected devices and sensors in products and materials help organisations to ensure they can produce and ship the right quantity of goods at the right price to the right place at the right time. All of these features fall under the internet of things (IoT).
Such IoT data can integrate into a WMS to help manage routing of the products from the pick-up point to the end point. This integration enables organisations to develop pull-based supply chains, rather than push-based supply chains. Pull-based supply chains are driven by customer demand, which allows the organisation more flexibility and responsiveness, while a push-based supply chain is driven by long-term projections of customer demand.
A modern cloud based system can offer the functionality to a small business that needs a solution without big upfront costs and long timescales. With effective handling procedures and advanced multi-location control, you’ll know how much stock you have and where to find it. You’ll be able to optimise storage space, increase pick efficiency and achieve near total despatch accuracy. A product that’s intuitive and easy to learn will need minimal time to commission, but once up and running it will deliver benefits which transform the efficiency of your business.
Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.
Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.
ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.