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Warehouse Management Software

Warehouse Management software and solutions - two woman working within a warehouse wearing green overalls.
Martin Collier

By Martin Collier Consulant, Updated 17 May 2017

When running a warehouse, it’s essential for managers to be able to track inventory and safeguard the efficient picking and putting away of items. Your warehouse operation needs can be easily taken care of with Warehouse Management Software (WMS), whether it’s a Warehouse Management module included as part of an ERP system, or a best-of-breed bolt-on solution. This introduction to warehouse management software explains its features, and how to choose the appropriate solution for you.

WMS should be able to provide information on products, employees and transactions for each step of the process. This includes:

  • Receiving
  • Storing received items
  • Order picking
  • Shipping
  • Inventory audits
  • Item movements

WMS can then easily help you generate reports and charts based on this data, which tell you how effectively your warehouse is operating.

How to Choose Warehouse Management Software

You may not be aware of how diverse Warehouse Management Software can be, but there are WMS solutions available with features, price points, options and interfaces to suit a variety of business objectives.

Markets and Industries

WMS solutions are available from many different vendors, many of which offer solutions of various kinds for various industries. Though from their point of view this allows them to offer a range of solutions, it also restricts them from gaining comprehensive insight into the specific industry of Warehouse Management. Vendors that specialise in Warehouse Management tend to update their systems more regularly and effectively, and are more sensitive to changes in the market.

Integrated Functionality

In order for your WMS to interact with customer service, procurement, sales, logistics and other parts of the business, it needs to be able to work in conjunction with your current ERP system. Therefore, when selecting a WMS, you ought to check what ERP systems your potential solution can integrate with before purchase.

Flexibility

As your business grows, you may need your WMS to scale accordingly and adapt to meet future requirements, otherwise the solution is not a sustainable investment. It may not be enough to select a solution that works with your ERP system if it doesn’t work with others. You might change ERP systems if your company increases in size, which your WMS might not be able to deal with. You should also check whether or not your prospective solution is built around an open architecture. If the WMS is built around an open architecture, it’s more likely to be compatible with future versions of applications and operating systems.

WMS should be flexible enough to be able to work with different kinds of hardware as well, such as printers, scales and terminals. A good Warehouse Management Solution should also be able to work with different types of business of different sizes.

Value for Return on Investment

A system with a low initial cost does not necessarily mean that it will be an overall cheaper investment. There are many different factors for a solution’s cost to your organisation, such as functionality, flexibility, integration, ease of use and customer support. Your WMS can end up costing you a lot if it doesn’t meet your business needs as your company expands and progresses. For example, an investment that doesn’t integrate well with other software can lead to problems associated with suiting your requirements that are expensive to fix. A cheap investment could potentially mean the failure of your business, as the safety of your warehouse and employees depends on the robustness of your WMS. However, it can also be a mistake to buy a system you can’t afford, no matter how effective the software is.

Interface

Smart software vendors understand that style and substance are in fact connected, and put effort into designing their user interface. A well-designed user interface is easy to use, which reduces the amount of time spent on training staff to use it. Processes become faster, and users will find it easier to adapt to any changes. Software that’s easily navigated means that a user will get more out of it, and can benefit from all of a Warehouse Management System’s functionality. You should check how intuitive the menus and help screens of a WMS are, and ask yourself if it’s something you could happily use every day. If the software has a dashboard that updates in real-time, you will easily be able to see all of the essential data you need at once.

The data should also be presented in such a way that’s easy to understand. An important function is the ability to create reports and charts from this data, in order to let you and your organisation see how effectively your warehouse is operating. Think about what your business goals are and what metrics you would need access to in order to achieve these goals.

Best-of-Breed Service or Integrated Suite?

An important choice when searching for a WMS is if you want it to be best-of-breed or an integrated suite of applications. Best-of-breed WMS tend to be more focused on functionality specific to Warehouse Management, such as more labour management features, picking configurations and built-in integrations with other tools.

Though the functionality of integrated suites isn’t quite so deep, they are equipped to handle other aspects of the business as well. Integrated suites may be something to consider if you are looking for a single system to handle your wide-ranging processes, and don’t need your Warehouse Management functionality to be particularly complex.

Warehouse Management Software is the most effective way to optimise your warehouse processes. However, there are so many solutions available that spending time finding the right system for you can cost your business a significant amount of time and money, and runs the risk of you implementing a solution that isn’t ideal.

Software Advisory Service can help you find the right WMS for your needs. We offer expert, non-chargeable buying advice to help find the right system for you, and can provide a shortlist of potential vendors depending on your specific requirements. Follow the 'click here' box on the right so that we can find the solution you need today!

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