A Warehouse Management System (WMS) plays a vital role in the ability of distribution centres to maintain constant flow and management in supply chains.
A WMS finds the most efficient way to perform end-to-end warehouse activities, so reducing unnecessary business costs by streamlining operations and facilitating the efficient management of resources.
WMS software systems can be scaled up or down to suit anything from a modestly sized storage unit to a large modern distribution centre. Although WMS software properties can vary considerably depending on cost and market sector, the fundamental functions of a WMS remain the same regardless of sector or goods.
At its most basic, a WMS must receive goods, store them effectively in a location, extract (pick) them, and provide reporting functions.
These key features will be outlined below along with modern innovations that are advancing WMS technology to better meet changing market demands.
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Key Operational Features of a Warehouse Management System
Intake of Goods
A WMS must receive and record goods as they are delivered to the warehouse. This is often done through barcode labels. The label will be scanned and data concerning individual goods will be recorded in the system, allowing the WMS to track inventory. Modern systems can manage palletised products or mixed pallets and loose items, such as cartons or cases.
Storage/ Resource Optimization
Goods must be stored within the warehouse with their precise location recorded so that they can be found easily. The best warehouse management systems make the most of all the resources available, so that you use your labour, space and equipment as efficiently as possible. A WMS automatically allocates space, eliminates unneeded put-away, and helps warehouse staff to manage distribution and procurement, increasing storage efficiency.
A WMS tracks inventory movement and provides inventory reports. It should be able to perform stock-take activities and record when products are removed from inventory, where space has been freed for new products, and how many orders are processed. It should be able to internally transfer and adjust stock, improving the control you have over movements within your warehouse.
A WMS must have an integration feature that enables you to integrate the system with other software like accounting, inventory management and manufacturing. Without this, the WMS is extremely limited in what it can do.
Recording and Reporting
A WMS must record data, make reports and perform analysis to allow you to track the performance of your business and forecast future needs. A WMS should allow you to oversee your resources and warehouse movements, helping you to isolate areas of improvement.
A WMS should accept sales orders directly, or via integration to external applications (such as an ERP system), which it processes as picking instructions. It should be able to manage customer personalization and a combination of small and large outbound orders.
A customer order initiates the picking process, which is essentially the extraction of goods from a storage location. A modern warehouse management system can be programmed for various picking methods, including wave-picking, cluster picking and bulk picking.
A customer order then needs to be processed. This can include any customer-specific modifications that need to be made to the item; consolidation with other goods; as well as quality inspection, wrapping, packing and labelling. All of which the WMS needs to accommodate.
A WMS needs to facilitate physical dispatch from the distribution centre and any tracking services that your business provides.
Some larger enterprise-level systems will support advanced functions for labour management, yard management, and even transportation management. This feature tracks the performance of employees and ensures that they keep on track with their tasks. It assesses key performance indicators, such as the number of orders packed or items picked, and the use of pin/QR codes to record when an employee clocked in or out. This function is very useful for staff scheduling and defining labour standards.
Key Advanced Features of a Warehouse Management System
If your WMS has in-built automation connectors and can support automation, your warehouse will be able to operate despite staff shortages. Automation can cut on costs and make your operations more efficient.
Since business often fluctuates with the seasons, your WMS needs to be able to adapt to increases and decreases in demand. It also needs to be easy for new staff to understand so that productivity does not drop during the training process.
Whether you purchase your WMS from a vendor or develop it in-house, you want complete control over the system without having to rely on third parties. Businesses are dynamic and a WMS needs to be able to adapt to your changing circumstances quickly, meaning that you need to be self-sufficient in managing it.
Integration with ERP Platforms
Increasingly, warehouse management systems are based in the cloud as opposed to on business premises. Going paperless has many benefits in the modern era as technology is constantly advancing.
Data in a WMS can be integrated with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform to provide real-time tracking services and greater system accuracy.
Stock position is updated constantly to the software when each transaction is completed and organisations are able to get the most current critical data impacting their supply chain.
Information from all over the business can be stored on one platform, allowing employees from all departments to access data remotely.
This feature simplifies access to data stored by the WMS. If a sales assistant is handling a customer complaint and needs to check tracking on an outbound order, they can find the information without needing to understand the WMS.
ERP integration also gives instant access from mobile devices, making all departmental operations more efficient as people can do their jobs without wasting time chasing after information.
Features of the ProSKU WMS
The ProSKU WMS is a modern integrated, end-to-end, cloud-hosted system. It has several key features that differentiate it from its competitors:
The ProSKU WMS has been developed by an experienced logistics software company with over 25 years’ development experience. The system has been installed in many major UK distribution facilities and works well in logistics operations of any size, providing a framework to manage stock and validate all related physical processes. ProSKU is supported by an exclusively UK-based technical team who can respond swiftly to your needs and questions.
More Than Stock Management
Beyond stock and inventory management, the ProSKU system offers greater control for managing physical product and the activities involved. You can gain a true stock picture and make your buying decisions based on secure information. Used in conjunction with good operational practice it will raise and maintain productivity levels, reduce costs and increase your profitability.
The ProSKU WMS can streamline your receiving operations, capture data easily and improve the flow of goods. You will be able to manage greater volumes of goods without increasing your costs. ProSKU is also faster and easier to implement than other systems, reducing the time between decision and go-live to a matter of weeks.
With the ProSku WMS, you can integrate applications for a seamless fulfilment process from customer click to completed delivery. You can be confident that all your orders will reach the customer with the right product and quantity, with short lead times. You will have fewer customer enquiries and complaints due to lost or mistaken items.
ProSKU is a product that reflects the best in web technology, with powerful and reliable systems suitable for your needs both now and in the future. It is a true cloud-hosted application developed and maintained in a highly secure IT environment, available 24 hours a day. You can have on-board new business channels within days with open API access for rapid cart, e-commerce and carrier integration.
ProSKU is a monthly-rental product that you can fund from operating budgets to preserve essential capital for other investment areas.
With ProSKU cloud-based technology, this WMS solution can be deployed anywhere via PC, tablet or mobile, with an intuitive Android App for task execution. It is a system that offers advanced features in an intuitive, accessible form based on best-practice storage techniques.