Warehouses are facing increased complexities like never before, thanks to increasing e-commerce. And the growing trend is here to stay. In the US alone, projections show that 13.7% of all retail sales in 2021 will be from e-commerce, amounting to $657.8 billion.
While a customer can sign for a delivered package with relative ease, behind the scenes, it would take many coordinated steps and moving pieces to happen. A combination of processes which rely on a warehouse management system, WMS, to be effective.
On any given day, a warehouse receives shipped supplies for processing and multiple orders from customers of different sizes need fulfilling. In spite of the best of intentions to operate efficiently, unpredictable disruptions can spring up due to bad weather, equipment malfunctions, and scheduling changes. These challenges involve significant data that require speedy and accurate responses.
A robust warehouse management system makes it possible to maintain tight controls on inventory. At the same time, it is flexible to adapt to business changes. Such system streamlines operations for increased profits and greater customer satisfaction. Put simply, an inadequate WMS will lose business money.
Benefits of Warehouse Management Software
Whether a manufacturer looks to improve on shipping and fulfillment, or a warehouse operates as a stand-alone business, the need to reduce loss or wastage is critical. Reports have cited that warehouse rental rates are rising 5-6% per year on average, compared to the 2-3% of commercial real estate. Add to this, the increased costs of hiring warehouse workers compared to other sectors.
The supply chain ecosystem has responded to these rising costs with technology to facilitate the use of the available labor and space, chief of which is modern WMS software. Below are some significant contributions:
1. Optimize the allocation of resources
WMS software includes tools to reduce operating expenses as part of its algorithm. Proper optimization means managers can process orders and deliveries based on priority (e.g., perishable goods), assign ideal storage shelves for the received stock, schedule work around available personnel, pallets and equipment, and reduce warehouse traffic through batch picking.
2. Access real-time data
The use of barcoding, RFID tagging, and serial numbering in conjunction with WMS software means the location of an item is known from the moment it enters the warehouse to wherever next it is moved.
This system reduces repetitive and error-prone communication. Everyone is on the same page as a result of user-based access. In the same vein, the system provides access only to information necessary for work using level restrictions. Thereby, preventing sensitive data about a business’s competitive advantage from falling into the wrong hands.
3. Generate useful reports
Data obtained from different warehouse activities can be distilled into reports and charts. Information gleaned after analyzing the results can prove a gold mine for forecasting, troubleshooting, and making changes to stay ahead of the business curve.
Also, managers can gain a better understanding of their workforce and make improvements based on long-term or day-to-day trends.
4. Integrate and scale easily
A WMS solution most suitable for an organization will integrate seamlessly into existing enterprise resource planning systems without needing to overhaul a working system. Plus, it will be compatible with other radio frequencies such as scanners, fork truck-mounted RF, label printers, and scales.
It is important that the chosen WMS is a long-term solution that can adjust as the business grows so that a do-over isn’t required in the near future.
Is Custom WMS the Answer?
It’s impossible to deny the different warehouse management solutions available in the market. Making the right choice to alleviate challenges you face might be overwhelming. To begin, you need a clear understanding of what your business goals are and the current status of your warehouse operations.
Typically, off-the-shelf WMS solutions include functionalities to satisfy the larger supply chain ecosystem. The software could prove inadequate if your business processes veer away from the industry average. Indeed, different classes of clients have different needs for warehousing management. Without customization, you might end up with modules you don’t need that only take up space on your system. Even when your business closely matches a pre-built solution, customization might still be necessary.
As you are likely aware, in reality, warehouse workers often devise workarounds to standard operating procedures because they no longer serve operations efficiently. Unfortunately, these workarounds when not documented, propagate when software goes live which defeats the purpose of a custom WMS. Prior to entering any agreement, an open discussion between the WMS vendor and warehouse manager is critical. The manager should provide detailed documentation of all the business processes including the desired processes and any workarounds. This ensures no assumption is made during the software design/customization.
A Warehouse Management System (WMS) that Works for You
Customers regardless of size demand accuracy and speed in fulfilling their orders. Since competing businesses are only too eager to win over disgruntled clients with the promise of doing better, managing warehouse operations to meet expectations can be the difference between business success and failure.
Not only will a functional warehouse management system help you streamline your operations, for maximum profits, but a welcome side effect is also the health and safety of warehouse workers who work in a more organized environment instead of a haphazard stress-inducing one.