A WMS solution (Warehouse Management System) is a software system designed for managing inventory storage and distribution throughout warehouses or other logistical locations. There are many different businesses which use warehouses and inventory management techniques throughout their business processes and may be considering an integrated or stand-alone WMS.
If you are considering a software implementation to help manage inventory and warehousing, read the following post to understand the prerequisites for selecting a great WMS.
Who Needs a WMS?
Logistics companies, distributors, manufacturers, wholesalers and any other company touching large amounts of inventory are all in need of a WMS to manage their inventory operations. No matter the industry or stage of the distribution chain a business falls in, the key defining aspect of a WMS is properly managing significant inventory on location.
Varieties in inventory management determine much of the issues necessary for selecting the right WMS solution. Multiple warehouses, JIT management, managing retail and wholesale relationships, consignment processes, shipping and more are all important parts of a WMS system. In order to begin the selection process, make certain you have considered all the business processes you currently use in building your inventory management systems. Your process needs to be written down, as well as any additional changes you want to make through the implementation of a WMS system.
A good WMS fulfills the following issues in order to run your business well-
- Tailored Product – Businesses are unique. Your business has processes, product, and people that are in no other business, and your software must be tailorable to your unique needs. Although this may include many different aspects of your business, simple tailoring needs are the ability to integrate your WMS with other software products, the ability to create and manage your individual workflow processes, and automated inventory tracking systems.
- Implementation Partner – A good WMS requires a good implementation team. This team will understand your industry, similar sized and positioned businesses, and what it takes to implement a WMS successfully. How do you roll out the software? What process is there for testing and review before a full-scale roll-out? What process is there in place for teaching employees the new system? These questions need to be addressed by your implementation partner before choosing a WMS to make certain that the implementation team is able to adequately transition your business to the new software.
- Integrate with ERP, CRM, etc. – A WMS provides inventory and warehouse specific functionality to a business, but how does it work with accounting, reporting, customer relationships and other aspects to your business? The best WMS will integrate with your ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and other software systems.
- Inventory Tracking – Does the WMS have adequate tracking resources? From barcode scanners to automatic updates of various management systems, your WMS needs to provide the process management tools necessary to track inventory no matter where it is at in your business or who has handled it last.
- Scalability – A good WMS works for as many warehouses as you are operating, and as many business processes are touching your inventory. A scalable software system needs to meet the needs that you will likely have in your business. For example, a business which sells much of its inventory on consignment in multiple locations will need a more flexible and scalable software system than a business that operates all of its inventory out of one large warehouse.
- Security – The users necessary, locations managed, and software integrations included in your WMS are all parts of the necessary security systems. Selecting the right WMS must take into account the many aspects of security necessary for properly managing your business. Multiple users can be securely managed by the cloud, and this may be essential for managing large inventory systems and business networks. Similarly, your WMS may have processes for automatically placing orders but will need specific user permissions to give an OK before sending orders to your suppliers.
- Reduction of Costs – An ROI (Return on Investment) should be performed on your inventory management systems currently in place before selecting a WMS system. The costs of implementing and maintaining a good WMS will be offset by the cost savings from higher quality warehouse and inventory management systems.
- Increase Quality of Inventory Management – Where is quality affected by your inventory management systems? What parts of the warehousing systems cause loss of inventory, delays in shipping, power overruns, or increased labor? The best WMS needs to be able to address your systems and your cost issues to provide your business the best service.
- Automate Processes and Tracking – Automatic inventory and warehouse management does not need to be all robotic and automated factory systems. For many businesses, the automation which will provide the best return on investment is simply tracking inventory in and inventory out using barcode scanners and updating accounting software accordingly. This will cut many opportunities for error from your business processes while not requiring the purchase of anything more fancy than a scanner.
The Qualities of the Best
The best inventory and warehouse management solution for your business is going to be different from the best for any other business. Because of the unique needs you have with your warehouses, understanding the many variations of the best is an essential first step to selecting and implementing a great software solution to manage all your inventory, materials and warehousing needs.
The qualities of the best software include a relationship with your software implementation and development team to ensure that your WMS consistently meets your needs, no matter the changes you may face in the future.