For all companies that have a warehouse, there are processes that make it possible to manage the warehouse operation well. They take care of every step in the chain; from the time goods come in, during the time they’re processed all the way to the final delivery. Many companies start without special systems and upgrade later on to a full-scale WMS system when the need arises. Therefore, it’s good for companies with inventory management to ask themselves the question: “What is a WMS System?”
A warehouse management system (WMS) is a system support that helps control and manage the daily operations of a warehouse. The WMS software manages stock receipt and removal and also optimizes the picking and shipping of orders. You can say it’s the brain of your warehouse business, designed to act as a support.
WMS is primarily intended to control the following processes:
- Receipt of goods
- Warehouse Control
- Make the data visible to everyone
- Pick and shipping
- Customer service
What can a WMS help your business with?
The point of a WMS, abbrevation of Warehouse Management System, is to make the work in your warehouse easier and more efficient. The system helps to automate various processes that are part of daily work at a warehouse. Such as receiving goods and order picking.
When these everyday processes are automated, the work in the warehouse is streamlined which also reduces the margin of error. It also leads to much faster order picking and better organization.
Another thing that a WMS should support your warehousing operations with is to store data from all the various processes and activities. If the data is visible to everyone, it will become easier for anyone within the company to access the information and use it when needed.
A WMS reduces unnecessary paperwork and failing communication to access the information you are looking for. You can also be sure that the data is up to date.
An additional effect of this is improved customer service as you have better control over which products are available. You can easily find out what is available, when you need to order more and how much of it you’ll need.
This also leads to faster and easier inventory routines. A WMS also helps storing information about the products at all different stages, which makes it easier to trace the different processes and respond to customers’ possible questions and feedback in a much better way.
The storage of product information can also improve customer satisfaction in the long run, even in other respects.
For example, if you receive a lot of complaints regarding a particular product, you can quickly trace the product’s every step; from purchasing to inventory management all the way to the final delivery. Therefore, you can make sure to rectify any faults before you start delivering to more customers.
A good WMS system can help your business answering your customers’ needs and expectations at the high pace which is expected from the customers today.
More efficient processes lead to faster delivery times. A WMS simply turns your efficient logistics to a competitive advantage!
Any difference between a WMS and a inventory management system?
The answer is no. However, there are certain differences between different types of WMS systems. One system is better suited for your business compare dto another. It depends what you’re after.
For example, some WMS systems offer voicepicking functionality that tells the warehouse workers what to pick up and where to find it. It can increase productivity and simplify the work process in many large warehouses.
The warehouse worker confirms what is picked up through the voicepicking system, which significantly reduces the error picking in many cases.
Different WMS systems can have different functions in terms of logistics planning, efficiency, delivery security and/or traceability.
Find out what your customers value most! Is it the fastest delivery possible or the opportunity to track their order at every step? Choose a WMS system whose functions help you meet ingyour customers’ needs and wishes in the best way.
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When do I know it’s time to upgrade from Excel to a WMS?
The need to upgrade often comes naturally as your business grows. But when do you know it’s time to take the step and invest in a WMS?
If you notice that:
- The logistical activities become too much to handle
- The human errors are occuring more often than they should
- It is difficult to get relevant data exactly when you need it
- It is difficult to keep track of who does what in the work process
Then it’s time to get help from a WMS. When the amount of work going into building organizing flows and structuring logistics takes more time than it gives, then it’s time to invest in a WMS to automate the activities that and create shorter lead times.
In many warehouses you still work with lists that are printed manually from the ERP system when you pick and manage orders. Something that in many cases works.
However, this way of working becomes incomprehensible and inefficient rather quickly. If there is a lot of the human factor involved in the processes, the margin of error also increases.
A WMS creates an overview and acts as a support for the staff. In addition to better work quality warehouse, a WMS also leads to more satisfied staff , which in itself is positive for the company.
How to implement a WMS?
It is common to seek help from outside consultants when you’re implementing a new WMS system. In many cases it’s good to get impartial opinions and expertise about the system itself when it comes to a new implementation. However, it’s important to include your own experts, the warehouse workers!
Those who actually work in the warehouse on a daily basis often have valuable skills and opinions. Especially regarding the everyday activities that are often forgotten when a major change is implemented.
If you have a dialogue with the warehouse workers during both the decision-making and the implementation process, you can avoid traps in the various warehouse processes early on. This way you can prevent costly last minute changes or unnecessary corrections.
When you decide to hire external consultants, it’s not enough that they’re experts on your new MWS. They must also have an understanding of your business.
It’s important that they understand the features that best support your business processes and see what opportunities the new WMS can generate.
It’s important to identify all so called time thieves in the processes before implementation. Then you can evaluate how these can be reduced with the help of your new WMS.
At the beginning of the implementation of your new WMS, virtually all warehouses become somewhat inefficient. It’s fairly common during a short run-in period and something to include in the calculations, both when it comes to planning and budget.
The goal is, of course, that the run-in period should be as short and painless as possible. You will reach the goal by recruiting smart and conscious skills that can help you with your implementation.
When choosing to invest in a new WMS, you also need to investing in your staff and their knowledge of the system. It’s just as important. Set aside resources to retrain your staff in step with the implementation to keep it flowing as smoothly as possible.
There is no point in investing in a new lavish WMS if no one knows how to use it.
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How do I know which WMS is best for my company?
One of the most important aspects when you’re choosing a WMS is that the system should be easy to integrate with your ERP system. Something you usually refer to as a seamless integration.
Information should be able to flow smoothly between the different systems. If your WMS isn’t fully integrated with the ERP system, the information will be stored double to some extent. It will lead to unnecessary and time consuming storage and data sorting. But also unnecessary misunderstandings.
If the same information is found in two different databases there are also two answers that are correct to a question. It happens that these do not completely match, which can lead to misunderstandings and ambiguity within the company.
The reason you often need a WMS in addition to your ERP system is that a WMS often offer better and more specialized features to optimize your warehouse work compared to the standard features many ERP systems offer.
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When choosing a WMS to suit your business, it’s important to keep in mind that you should be able to adapt the system to your processes and your logistics. Not the other way around.
The system should serve as a support for the activities and processes in your business. They should not control them completely. Adapting the work completely to a new system is often a very extensive and costly work.
It can be smart to take help from the system provider. Ask if they have worked with other companies that have similar work flow as your own business and how it has worked out for them when it comes to adapting their WMS.
It’s also important that the process of transferring information from your previous system, if you have worked with another WMS provider before, is easy.
The key to finding the right system is that it should be customizable , both according to your inventory operations and your past and present systems.
But you shouldn’t settle after the implementation of a new system is done. There are always processes that can be redone and optimized.
Put together an optimization group or appoint someone in the management who is responsible for this. Otherwise, it’s easy to forget.
Today’s WMS systems are constantly being updated and optimized. Your business need to keep up with that pace to stay as efficient as possible!