The success of your warehouse and your supply chain is highly dependent upon the Warehouse Management System (WMS) you’re using. Whether you’re working in a large, complex distribution center with many different types of products coming and going, or you manage a smaller warehouse that handles specialized products, your WMS system should meet all of the functional requirements for your business.
Your specific software requirements will depend on a number of variables:
- What are your customers’ requirements and expectations?
- What industry are you in and which type(s) of products are you moving?
- What are your specific business objectives? Which system requirements do you need now and what features do you anticipate needing 6 months, 12 months or 24 months down the road?
- What is your warehouse layout like? (Think size, capacity, accessibility and the way goods flow through it every day.)
In this article, we’ll cover a few of the qualities every reputable WMS should have, as well as some of the must-have WMS modules for any type of business. We also discuss the WMS selection and provide you with a few resources to guarantee a seamless selection process.
THE MUST-HAVES OF ANY REPUTABLE WMS
Every reputable WMS should have these 4 capabilities:
1. INTEGRATES WITH MOST SUPPLY CHAIN TECHNOLOGIES
Among the most important WMS system requirements is that it should be fully integrable with your ERP, and other assets you already have. Whether or not you’re already using advanced technologies like voice picking, RFID or automation, make sure your WMS can incorporate these solutions into your supply chain later on without any problems. Most standard supply chain technologies will be supported, but as your business grows, you’ll be glad you have these additional technologies available. (Note: tailoring your WMS to your specific business should involve minimal modifications to the core software.)
2. INTEGRATES TO YOUR ERP
Integrating your WMS and your ERP at a detailed level can be a difficult, laborious process. Selecting a WMS that does not integrate well with the ERP tends to lead to two competing systems, leaving you with no central version of the “truth” regarding inventory holding. Therefore, it is critically important to select a WMS that is highly integrable with your current ERP systems. Ideally, you’ll have the opportunity to visit reference sites where they can show you their WMS working seamlessly with the same ERP you use.
3. USER-FRIENDLY, INTUITIVE INTERFACE
For your business’ sake — and for the staff who will be using the system regularly — you’ll want a software with a small learning curve. This gives the operators the chance to minimize manual data entry, eliminate paper records, and take advantage of vendor support capabilities through phone, email or live chat whenever they have questions. This translates into less frustration and greater job satisfaction for them, and lower training and labor costs for you.
4. ENHANCES SAFETY OUTCOMES
Every WMS should encourage safety best practices in your warehouses and distribution centers and ensure all employees are trained properly in warehouse SOPs and safety protocols.
CORE WMS MODULES TO LOOK FOR
Regardless of your distribution niche, you’ll want to be able to easily manage multiple stages of your supply chain operation in one centralized location. Must-have items on your WMS requirements list should include modules for:
- Shipping: This includes functionality for wave release, picking tasks, packing and shipping.
- Receiving: Receiving operations are broad but could include cross docking, appointment scheduling, receipt management, customer returns and put-away.
- Inventory Control: In your supply chain, what’s more important than inventory management? Make sure the WMS supports cycle counting, replenishment, quality control, lot/serial tracking and inventory counting tools to keep your warehouse or distribution center more organized.
- Transportation: Optimize routes with GPS, track and calculate freight rates, and make better carrier selections with a transportation management system (TMS) module.
- Order Fulfillment: This could include everything pertaining to purchase orders, work-in-progress (WIP), kitting and assembly, and more.
- Analytics: Nowadays, data is key. Having a clean KPI dashboard to track relevant metrics, cloud-based functionality and backup capabilities, labor and performance tracking, warehouse layout optimization, predictive analytics and forecasting, and reporting all contribute to greater data visibility, ease of sharing, and organizational transparency.