Manufacturers, retailers, and other businesses that need to keep track of what’s going on in warehouses and similar facilities can benefit from using a warehouse management system (WMS). These tools help in a variety of ways, ranging from gaining visibility into your inventory levels to finding ways to optimise the warehouse stocking process. In turn, that helps businesses operate more efficiently, often to the benefit of employees, customers, and the bottom line.
In this article, we’ll dive into more depth on some of the more common features within a WMS and look at how using a WMS tends to help businesses.
Key features of a warehouse management system
Although the specifics can vary from platform to platform, a WMS tends to provide several features that help businesses improve warehouse and inventory-related operations.
“WMS applications offer capabilities such as receiving, put-away, stock locating, inventory management, cycle counting, task interleaving, wave planning, order allocation, order picking, replenishment, packing, shipping, labor management and automated materials-handling equipment interfaces,” explains Gartner.
For example, a WMS might be used to track that a shipment has been received and provide instructions on where to stock those items. Then, when an item from that shipment has been sold, a WMS can help warehouse staff locate that item and get it ready to ship.
Altogether, a WMS helps digitise, streamline and automate more of the processes that take place within a warehouse or similar facility.
Top benefits of a warehouse management system
Using a WMS can help optimise operations in several ways that can ultimately strengthen businesses. Some of the top benefits include being able to:
1) Manage inventory in real-time
A WMS often has real-time inventory tracking capabilities, which helps employees know what’s in stock and where it’s located. That way, a company is less likely to be caught off guard when an item goes out of stock. Ideally, staff can see that a new order needs to be placed and do so in time to replenish inventory.
2) Improve order accuracy
A WMS can also help improve order accuracy. By knowing what’s in stock in real-time, you can be less likely to make errors, like selling an item online that’s no longer available. A WMS that helps with fulfillment can also reduce the risk of errors like getting orders mixed up, where the items for one customer go into a package that gets sent to another customer.
3) Optimise inventory levels
Knowing what your inventory looks like can also help you optimise inventory levels. Not only can you replenish items when needed, but you can identify issues like overstocking. That could then allow you to take corrective action, like reducing the volume of your next order, or perhaps you can shift inventory between facilities to maintain optimal levels.
4) Improve staff efficiency
A WMS can help employees do their jobs more efficiently, such as with warehouse scanning systems that help staff quickly log that an order arrived. Some tools also provide automated stocking directions. For example, one WMS provider, Logiwa, explains one of its features as follows: “Easy-to-configure directed put-away algorithms let you optimise inventory based on velocity, volume, fragility, temperature requirements, cross-dock, zone, or any other criteria important to your warehouse efficiency.”
So, instead of having warehouse employees struggle to figure out where an item should go, or when to put away an item, a WMS can provide the benefit of more efficient, clear stocking processes.
5) Reduce waste
Improving stocking efficiency and inventory management can also lead to benefits like reducing waste. For one, putting temperature-sensitive items away accurately and efficiently can help reduce spoilage. Inventory tracking and improved logistics can also reduce waste in ways like making sure that older items go out before newer ones, helping you reduce the risk of items expiring. You can also avoid waste such as by minimising ordering mistakes that lead to excess inventory.
6) Get more out of related systems
A good WMS can go beyond inventory software purposes and also help you unlock more benefits from related software, like a transportation management system (TMS).
“By combining TMS with WMS platforms, warehouses create a dedicated solution that shows inventory, shipping information, and more in a singular location. A singular view into your supply chain allows for greater accuracy and better decision making,” explains 3PL Central, a WMS provider.
7) Save money
Lastly, a WMS can help you save money in several ways. Reducing waste means less money spent on items that don’t get sold. Minimising errors can also save money, such as by reducing shipping costs if you don’t have to resend an order to a customer.
And a good WMS can help with staffing, as you can gain a better understanding of how much support you need in areas like stocking and shipping. You can save money if you don’t overstaff during slow periods, and you can also improve employee experience by not understaffing during busy periods. That can lead to benefits like reduced employee turnover, which carries costs around recruitment and training.
Choosing a warehouse management system
With the many benefits that a WMS provides, you may be wondering how to choose one so you can start enjoying these advantages. The answer depends on factors like the size and quantity of your warehouse facilities, current software that you want to integrate with, budget, and more.
If you’re ready to explore your options for adding a warehouse management system, YourShortlist can help. We’re a technology consultancy using procurement best practice and data insights to save companies time and money. Our goal is to make business technology procurement simple, transparent, and cost-effective. We won’t charge you anything, and we won’t share any of your project details without your explicit approval.