Warehouse Management System: WMS Beginners Guide 2021

What is a Warehouse Management System?

You can easily customize the workflow of the system with this feature of the warehouse management software. It used logic to ensure that each facility is allocated with the right inventory.

Apart from that it also performs tasks like bin slotting that ensures maximum warehouse space. This also helps during the seasonal inventory variance.

Table of Contents

What is a warehouse management system?

Benefits of warehouse management system

How a WMS can help you overcome your competitors?

What is the size of your business?

A guide to all features provided by WMS

List of common features

A detailed explanation of all the features

Warehouse design

Inventory tracking

Receiving and putaway

Pick-and-pack

Shipping

Reporting

Warehouse management buyers’ top-requested features

FAQs

What basic operations can a warehouse management system perform?

What questions should you keep in mind while purchasing warehouse management software?

Does this system offer industry-specific functionality for the unique needs of your operation?

What deployment model does this system follow?

Will this system grow with your business?

How much support will the vendor offer after you purchase their software?

What kind of cross-functionality does this WMS offer?

Will the WMS user interface be easy to learn?

What are some drawbacks I should watch out for?

Conclusion

Benefits of Warehouse Management System

There are multiple benefits of a warehouse management system that can significantly improve the way you handle things at your workspace. There are two kinds of warehouse management software in the market currently.

Companies either offer it as a part of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or in the form of a supply chain management suite (SCM). Some important functionalities that this software can perform for you include:

  • Make Doing Tasks More Efficient:

A lot of WMS offer certain programs that help you reduce inaccuracy due to human error while improving speed simultaneously.

A common task that can help you achieve this is the barcoding and RFID scanning method that makes tasks like receiving a breeze, sorting, counting, picking, etc easier to tackle.

  • Customer Satisfaction:

We can all agree that the end goal is to make your client happy with your work. A WMS software does exactly that by cutting down a lot on the packaging, picking, and shipping times.

Hence sooner they receive the purchase the more satisfied they will be. A well-managed warehouse will ensure that more and more people are attracted to your service and at the same time also help you strengthen the bond between you and your buyer.

  • Cut Down Costs:

A lot of the products in your warehouse can actually be prevented from going to waste by incorporating the WMS tools. It helps you with demand forecasting and vendor-managed inventories that help you predict a lot of circumstances.

How a WMS Can Help You Overcome Your Competitors?

A Warehouse management system has certain inbuilt fundamental programs that help you gain an advantage over other dealers working in the same field as you. It ensures that you are always on the top of your market by:

  • Regulating complex data:

Once you start making big in the industry as your business gets bigger and you start getting more deals, you will want to install an efficient system that keeps tabs on all your data and works with accuracy.

In that case, all you need is to invest in a scalable WMS that easily helps you regulate and standardize your warehouse.

  • Increased transparency:

It is always a good idea to have a customized report of all your data around you.

Not only does it help in maintaining a clear exchange of information between you and your clients but you can utilize it to plan well ahead of your time according to the rate of demands.

What is The Size of Your Business?

Different business companies pay for different warehouse management software models. It is mostly priced in tiered modules that determine whether the sum is paid in the form of a subscription fee or purchasing a perpetual license.

These are the following categories of businesses that determine what kind of WMS will work best for you.

  • Small Business:

This is the most basic and simple package that can easily be afforded and benefitted from by small businesses. It is usually referred to as the “starter package” which means that it comprises all entry-level facilities.

It works best for companies with an employee count of less than 50 and about one to five individuals utilizing the system. It usually doesn’t come with a lot of advanced features. However, you need not worry about that as small businesses don’t really need them.

  • Medium Sized Businesses:

Businesses with an employee range of 50 to 500 usually benefit from this package. It helps you easily coordinate with multiple locations and their stock levels.

A maximum of 10 software users can work on this program without any difficulty. It is also one of the best packages that you could get with all the important features at a considerably lower price.

However, you might also want to check the minimum user range that acts as a limit to what kind of businesses can utilize its services.

  • Enterprise:

These are large companies with centers all around the country or the world. Multiple warehouses directly mean thousands of employees which concludes that about 100 users can perform operations on it at a time. This tier allows access to a complete range of features as well.

A Guide To All Features Provided By WMS

When you are looking for a WMS that assists you in all the tedious data tabulation work of your warehouse, you need to pay special attention to the features provided by the vendors.

Jot down all the functionality that you are looking for in an ideal warehouse management system and compare them to the tasks they can provide.

List of Common Features

Take a look at the most common warehouse management features provided by companies:

  • Warehouse design:

It enables customization so that workload and bin space are adequately distributed among users.

  • Inventory Tracking:

Moving and storing products can be a difficult job and might involve human errors in a lot of cases. The barcoding system makes it more accurate.

  • Pick-and-pack:

It enables real-time tracking of all your products thus cutting downtime by reducing the number of extra trips to the destination that you would have had to make otherwise.

  • Receiving and Putaway:

It helps you keep a record of the locations where all the items you have selected are stored. It reduces the wastage of time that is spent looking for them.

  • Reporting:

This feature enables you to view any one of your warehouse floors instantly, whether it is just a part of it or the entire picture.

  • Shipping:

This feature makes shopping easier by automatically generating labels, forms, or other instruction manuals along with the product that needs to go out for delivery.

A Detailed Explanation of All The Features

Warehouse Design

You can easily customize the workflow of the system with this feature of the warehouse management software. It used logic to ensure that each facility is allocated with the right inventory.

Apart from that it also performs tasks like bin slotting that ensures maximum warehouse space. This also helps during the seasonal inventory variance.

Inventory Tracking

Inventory tracking is an extremely advanced feature that offers the ability to ensure that the inventory is correctly logged on to the software. This makes for easy relocation of the product when the time comes.

The inventory tracking feature is provided by auto-ID data capture (AIDC), radio-frequency identification (RFID), or even barcode scanners.

Receiving and Putaway

After you log in the inventory on your warehouse management software it is “putaway” until the time comes to retrieve it.

A more sophisticated warehouse environment is experienced by this technology that offers both pick-to-voice (voice picking) and pick-to-light (light picking) features.

Pick-and-pack

There are a lot of options available for picking that are offered by warehouses to provide greater flexibility. This could be everything from wave picking, batch picking, zone picking.

Lo zoning and task interleaving services provided by the software helps you minimize the number of trips you need to make to complete a task.

Shipping

Shipment of the item and its tracking and other detailed information can easily be imparted through this feature. Once the item is packed, you can send advanced shipment notifications (ASN) to delivery agents notifying them of the pending tasks.

Apart from that, other messages like itemized bills of lading (B/L) can also be conveyed to the buyer. You can also generate packing lists along with invoices for buyers and assembly instructions as well.

Reporting

Warehouse managers can analyze the rate and quality of work with real-time reporting of shipments and storage. This enables them to find areas of improvement and work on making the service better.

Some reporting functions include keeping an automatic count on the cycle of trips and tracking different subsets of inventories according to the day.

Warehouse Management Buyer’s Top-requested Features

A test was conducted on 385 random businesses that requested warehouse management software from a vendor in a period of 12 months. They were asked about the features that they would want most for their business except the inventory tracking feature.

Since it is a crucial part of every warehouse management system, it was excluded from the list of given choices. The surveyors then counted the ones that were the most in-demand then

As a result, the most votes were garnered by the pick-and-pack, shipping, and scanning features. It comes out as the most obvious result as these are some of the most common services that the warehouse functions on.

We can as well assume them to be a needed functionality. On the other hand, receiving and location tracking was not any less popular among business owners as well.

These were some of the most common features that a warehouse management system is capable of providing. However, we should know that there is a far more complex feature in the software as well that caters to more complex tasks in the warehouse.

A simple way of explaining this is through a statement made by Gartner in the I Gartner’s 2019 Magic Quadrant for WMS, where he says that “extended WMS capabilities are value-added capabilities that supplement core functions, such as labor management, slotting, yard management, and dock scheduling.”

FAQs

What Basic Operations Can a Warehouse Management System Perform?

The benefits of deploying a warehouse management system for your company are numerous. Let me list the most important ones for you:

  • Optimised Tasks:

The warehouse management system not only optimizes your tasks but also improves your workflow with the help of features like barcoding items, automated picking instructions, item tracking and so much more.

The smoother your workflows the happier your employees, clients, and suppliers will be

  • Improved Inventory Visibility:

Not only can you track your product’s location but you can also track expiration dates to reduce product loss. This ensures speedy order fulfillment and putaway. You can also view real-time stock levels with software dashboards.

  • Get Rid of Human Error and Consequent Waste:

A lot of your money can be saved once you automatize your system that reduces inaccuracy. As a result, your employees will waste considerably less time picking runs to the same bin. Moreover, you will have a reduced number of expired or lost products in your hand.

  • Happy Customers:

Once you start giving faster shipping and delivery times along with transparent product availability to your customers, you will automatically have more pleased clients than before. They might even become loyal to you for a longer period of time.

What Questions Should You Keep in Mind While Purchasing a Warehouse Management Software?

When you do your research on a warehouse management software provider online, you will find very limited information available about the product.

In order to get a complete idea of what package you are getting yourself into, you could ask for a demo, You will get a thorough understanding of what it is like to work with their software.

The representative could also talk you through the questions you have in mind or places where you find difficulty in understanding.

However they might still not be able to impart a lot of information, Therefore it becomes your duty to prepare a list of questions that will help you understand if their model works for your company or not. Here is a list of a few questions that you could ask them:

Does This System Offer Industry-specific Functionality For The Unique Needs of Your Operation?

A most common example of this kind of requirement could be support for first in first out (FIFO) or kitting. If the vendor responds with a no, you can enquire if they can customize it to fit your market-specific needs.

What Deployment Model Does This System Follow?

There are two kinds of WMS software available in the market. It could either be on-premise deployment software or cloud-based software. There are certain pros and cons to both these functionalities. Therefore, it is completely up to you to figure out what works best for you.

Some factors that you should work upon are the pricing models (the on-premise software is usually a one-time purchase while the cloud-based system has a monthly or annual subscription fee).

And the resources required for it like the hardware and other support systems.

Will This System Grow With Your Business?

This is an extremely important question to keep in mind since it is tied to the future of your business. When the operations of your company expand and you start needing more help with the extra load of work, the warehouse management system should be there to support you.

Ask your vendor if they will be able to provide additional features to the existing software whenever you require them. Also, talk about hidden fees or challenges that might cause a problem.

How Much Support Will The Vendor Offer After You Purchase Their Software?

While some vendors provide you with regular upkeep that comes as an added benefit with the subscription fee or the initial purchase; some might ask for an extra maintenance charge that you will have to schedule as and when required.

What Kind Of Cross-functionality Does This WMS Offer?

Talk with the vendor about integrations that you might want for the software and the existing logistics. Functionalities that could be integrated include order fulfillment systems and transportation systems.

This integration can be explained by the following scenario: the system allows for consolidated purchase reporting that lets you keep a track of all your expenses that are incurred for the current year.

Will The Wms User Interface Be Easy to Learn?

Whenever you install modern technology into your system, an important challenge faced by many is the difficulty in learning the way to operate it.

Ask for training sessions and understand the qualification required to operate such software. They might provide you initial guidance and troubleshooting helps when a problem seems to occur.

What Are Some Drawbacks I Should Watch Out For?

The market is full of vendors trying to sell you the “best” warehouse management system. Although this might lower down the pricing and bring the qualities to ascertain standard, there is no doubt that you will have to pay a pretty good price for it.

There are plenty of options to choose from. Look for those that promise exceptional quality with excellent features at an affordable price. Do not forget that the better WMS you invest in the more money the system will make up for you.

Keep in mind, that it takes a lot of expertise and understanding of the system to truly benefit from its purchase. You might be able to solve simple problems with it, but with the right implementation of its functionalities, you can earn a huge profit as well.

Therefore invest your time in providing proper training to your employees on how to use it. Learn new techniques of leveraging it to your advantage as well.

Conclusion

A WMS can not only help you achieve bigger deals in the future for your company, but also appease your clients and suppliers with the efficiency and accuracy you put in your work.

It is therefore recommended that you put efforts into the right software that shall help you reap true benefits in the future. You also need to train yourself to utilize the features provided by the system to grow.

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