You are ready to leave the days of tedious manual data entry behind. You are ready to enjoy the optimization a warehouse management system would bring about. You are more than ready to dive into the world of automated warehouse management systems.
But where do you start? What should you be looking for in a warehouse management system to best serve your business? This article will take you through the core features of a warehouse management system to guide you through the initial confusion.
Below are the key WMS features to cover most of your typical and real-world needs.
Planning. The warehouse management system calculates and allocates resources according to the order fulfillment volume and the season. More staff is needed during the peak season (e.g. sales, holidays, Black Friday) and less is required during the other times of the year. Bigger orders may need more labor, too.
Performance. The warehouse management system logs in and keeps track of KPIs like the rate of work, the picked orders, etc. These metrics help determine who is doing well and who needs more training.
Task assignment. Warehouse management systems automatically suggest the next task based on the shipping schedules and or any other real-time requests.
Safety control. Integrating a security warehouse management system prevents theft (sadly this is a rather common problem).
Route optimization. Analyses and automatically determines the optimal route for picking or item putaway using visual or audio guidance.
Receiving and Putaway. Verification is carried out via barcodes. Identification slips for goods are generated automatically. The warehouse management system also automatically lets the QA team know if any item needs an extra inspection. Last but not least, the system also suggests the optimal storage location based on pre-determined criteria. These recommendations are conducted based on the forecast of trends and product demand.
Tracking. The warehouse management system should be able to provide various types of tracking.
- First is location tracking, since knowing where the items are in the warehouse is crucial.
- Next are the goods’ expiration dates – this is especially important when the goods have a short shelf life (e.g. bread, dairy).
- The third is lot tracking to monitor the movement of the products in the warehouse.
- Last, serial numbers need to be tracked to avoid duplication.
Stock level control. The WMS will let you know if the stock level is too low. You can also set up a customized threshold – if the number is lower than a certain number, a notification will be sent out. An automatic re-order can be set up, too.
Cycle counting. WMS offers regular cycle counting to monitor the inventory accurately.
Picking. The picking will be generated automatically. If multiple items need to be picked, an optimal route would be suggested by the system. The picking rules can be built in to guide the staff. Additionally, orders can be grouped, prioritized, and scheduled to serve different picking methodologies such as wave picking, zone picking, and so on.
Packing. The shipping slips are printed directly from the warehouse management system with the necessary information. The system also suggests suitable packaging material and the amount needed for the item. If the order is too big, the system will work to split up the order. Quality assurance is simplified, too, since product information and standards have all been logged into the system.
Scheduling. The system schedules the shipment based on the recorđed information. The best carrier is also chosen via integration with the carrier’s system.
Route optimization. The smartest route is determined by analyzing maps, road speeds, real-time traffic information along with fuel regulations. Various orders may be merged if they are shipped to the same address.
Records shipping history and payment. The data is kept for future data analytics or forecasting.
The warehouse management system will take care of the smaller steps including generating the return route, producing a tracking system for the item, updating inventory, flagging up the returned product for the next action, and even issuing the refund.
Report generation. The WMS produces reports about pricing, tax, peak sales season, various types of cost management, etc. that are easily accessible. These reports provide increased visibility into the whole operation, thus delivering significant improvement.
Invoices. Invoices are generated automatically. Any discounts or customizable fees are included as well. The system supports sending the invoices via email or EDI depending on you and your customer’s requirements. Having everything in one place makes management much easier and saves a lot of time.
Forecasting. The system processes the large number of raw data collected and generates reliable forecasts:
- labor demand forecasts – based on previous trends or on the volume of shipments;
- inventory forecasts – based on sales or recent trends.
Those are some of the warehouse management systems features you should be on the lookout for. We hope this article has made your quest of building your desired warehouse management system a little easier.