At the heart of any warehousing operation lies the warehouse management system (WMS), a series of software programmes and processes that control goods from when they arrive to when they leave.
A warehouse management system ensures the goods move through your warehouse in the most cost-effective way as it can manage their arrival, storage, picking and dispatch and keep track of them.
Such a system also has a key role in the wider management of the supply chain by handling order fulfilment processes, from receiving raw materials to dispatching finished goods.
Selecting your WMS
Warehouse management systems vary and can depend on the size and nature of the organisation and its warehousing operation.
They can be standalone systems or modules and can be designed to meet specific requirements depending on your business.
An e-commerce business will want different warehouse functions to a bricks-and-mortar retailer and a sports goods retailer will not have the same requirements as a grocery chain.
A key function of a WMS is tracking stock, enabling warehouse managers to know the amount of inventory available and when restocking is required.
By using minimum and maximum levels, the business can order more stock at the right time and in the right amount to avoid shortages or oversupply in the warehouse space available.
And of course, being on top of your inventory creates space for other materials to be stored in the warehouse.
A second main WMS function is receiving and put-away, which allows inventory to be stored and retrieved when necessary. The WMS will often feature pick-to-light or pick-to-voice technology to help warehouse workers locate goods.
Feeling the Benefits
Your WMS establishes all the parameters for all the work that takes place within the warehouse space, ensuring the layout and location of goods is in an ordered and efficient arrangement.
It will use criteria such as the weight and size of the goods and external factors such as need for accessibility, customer demand and shelf life to manage the space.
It will designate picking and packing goods, including zone picking, batch picking, and other commonly used warehouse picking strategies, and enable warehouse staff to use lot zoning and task interleaving functions to guide the pick-and-pack tasks in the most efficient way.
The impact of an efficient WMS can be best demonstrated by its picking and shipping function. The WMS ensures the correct product is picked, using the basic retrieval strategies or business rules; for example, first in, first out – known as FIFO.
It makes sure certain orders are shipped to the right clients at the right time, meaning your transport is efficient and less costly through avoiding mistakes in the picking, packing and dispatch stages.
Shipping involves the WMS sending bills of lading ahead of the shipment (documents which set out the details of the shipment), generating packing lists and invoices and sending advance notifications to the receivers.
Implementing a WMS can help you to reduce costs, improve inventory accuracy, improve flexibility and responsiveness, decrease errors in picking and shipping goods, and improve customer service.
At Quickline, we can help you bring in the best WMS for your business and ensure your warehouse infrastructure does an effective and efficient job, just get in touch to find out more.