Getting Started with a WMS

Your first question might be “What is a WMS?” WMS stands for Warehouse Management System. A WMS is a combination of mechanical components and software used to support inventory warehouse operations. For example: Receiving, Put Away, Picking, Counting, Verification and Shipping.

WMS solutions have been around for quite some time. Most people envision a WMS as a very expensive system of interweaving conveyers and elevators traveling around a warehouse with LED displays on every rack extending to every corner of the warehouse.

If you’re a small to mid-size business owner, several reactions may come to mind such as “Overkill”, “Way too expensive”, “Don’t have the space”, etc…

While WMS solutions have traditionally had a price tag that makes them cost prohibitive for small and mid-size distributorships and manufacturers, there’s a lot of WMS functionality that is very valuable and desirable for these smaller markets.

Fortunately, advances in mobility and cloud based technologies are now enabling highly affordable solutions for these markets. Eliminating servers and incorporating iPads and small hand held devices bring the concept of owning a WMS closer to reality.

Why should you consider a WMS?

WMS systems have a positive impact on two significant areas of operations.

First, a WMS allows you to do more with less. WMS systems are designed to streamline operations, allowing you to scale your business rapidly to service new and expanding business without adding significant overhead to warehouse personnel.

Second, and more importantly, a WMS system serves to reduce, if not eliminate, costly errors in your operations. Errors that eat into margins, or worse, drive away business.

To understand if a WMS holds value for you, let’s start with some simple questions:

  • Do you ever ship the wrong product to a customer? And if so, how often?
  • Do you ever think you shipped something to a customer, only to have the customer tell you their product was not in the box?
  • Have you ever had lines on an order go unfilled when you actually had the inventory in your warehouse?
  • Do you have extra personnel hired specifically to ensure the accuracy of a single order after it’s been picked?
  • How accurate are your inventory counts?
  • What’s the ramp up time for new employees to be successful in the warehouse?
  • Are your fastest moving products close together and on the shortest routes in your warehouse?
  • Does it take you multiple days to document the receipt of a shipment before you can recognize inventory as available for sale?
  • Do you ever misplace received inventory during the put away processes?
  • Can you easily locate any inventory in your warehouse without assembling an expedition team to do search and rescue?

Depending on your answers, you may be exposed to some significant costs or loss of revenue. The dollar value might not seem as much on a case by case basis, but it does add up over time:

  • Overhead in accuracy assurance
  • Overhead in customer service and support department to handle bad shipments
  • Overhead of warehouse personnel to handle returns
  • Overhead of warehouse personnel to pick and ship order corrections
  • Extra cost of shipping to correct a bad shipment
  • Loss of product revenue or discounting of products to avoid customer returns
  • Loss of revenue for products actually in stock, but not findable for filling an order
  • Loss of customer confidence, satisfaction, referral and potential repeat business

What are the benefits of a WMS?

As stated before, do more with less, and reduce cost and errors. However, the critical key to a successful WMS solution is a tight integration to your ERP accounting system. Lack of integration leads to double entry, data synchronization challenges, communication errors and very little ROI.

So let’s look at some key features of most Warehouse Management Systems that provide real value:

Directed Put-Away / Picking: Feed pick and receiving requests to the WMS in order to direct personnel on inventory movement with scan confirmations to ensure proper storage or picking of inventory. NO MORE PAPER

Shipping Feedback: Eliminate extra paperwork and personnel to record picking and shipping feedback, and automate processing of credit cards and invoicing customers

Immediate Receiving: Update known availability immediately upon scan of inventory. No need to wait to receive the Purchase Order in its entirety

Quarantine: Isolate inventory that needs to be evaluated before returning to available for sale

Cross Docking: Save time and energy by moving inventory direct from Receiving to Shipping to fulfill outstanding back orders

Cartonization: Based on product dimensions, let the system tell you what size containers to use, how many and what products go in what box. Save steps by picking directly to the shipping containers

Cycle Counting: With real time understanding of inventory location and quantities, cycle count a partial or all of a product at any given time throughout the work day

Zone Picking: Break an order across multiple pickers by zone and then consolidate at the end

Wave Picking: Pick multiple orders simultaneously while being directed to separate inventory to an appropriate container either during or at the end of the process

Multi-Bin Management: Know where all inventory is at all times. Define capacity for bin locations and enact replenishment rules to keep primary locations continuously filled

How can integraSoft help you get started?

Communication and feedback loops between your ERP system and a WMS are critical to success. integraSoft has over 20 years of experience connecting ERP to WMS to ensure reliable operations and communications between these systems.

integraSoft provides base functionality along with multiple API’s that will help you connect to the solution that’s right for you. integraSoft has partnered with and integrated to several solutions on the market including:

**NorthStar Automation  **HighJump  **FastFetch

**White Systems  **Voxware  **EDGE  **IntelliTrack

As you start out on this journey, here are few check list items that you can do yourself:

  • Get your inventory counts accurate and know where everything is located.
  • Get your warehouse organized. The general rule of thumb is one product per bin location.
  • Barcoding is your friend! Get bar codes on your products, your bin locations and your documents.

And then give us a call and let us help find the right solution for you. You can be a small or medium size business and still turn your warehouse into an efficient world class operation, drive down those costs, elevate customer satisfaction and grow your business.   563.332.5030

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