For wholesale and distribution businesses, warehouse management is a crucial part of business success. Proper warehouse management has an impact on all aspects of business operations - including your bottom line when it comes to planning inventory levels and purchasing to meet demand, on customer service by helping you get the right product to the right customer on time and on meeting regulations by your ability to properly track and record the movement of product from your supplier to your customer. ERP warehouse management is just one of the many features found in ERP software to help run your business and will include functionality for managing multiple warehouse locations, receiving, picking, packing and shipping product, and tracking bin and shelf locations (to name a few). However, for larger, growing businesses with more complex warehouse operations, ERP warehouse management features may not be enough. Instead, many large businesses will either (1) purchase a standalone WMS system to integrate with their ERP, or (2) consider finding a solution like Blue Link, which includes advanced ERP warehouse management functionality. Blue Link’s advanced warehouse management functionality (which we call “WMS Lite” – Warehouse Management Software Lite) is a great option for those businesses that are too small for an expensive standalone WMS but still need more functionality than is what is included in most ERP solutions.
Features of WMS Lite
To better understand the difference between Blue Link’s WMS Lite component and the software’s built-in ERP warehouse management features, we’ve included a list of some of the advanced functionality available in WMS Lite.
- Put Away/Move Inventory – Blue Link logs every single movement of product in the warehouse. This includes from different shelfing units, to carts and forklifts, to loading docks and put-away stations, and the system differentiates between what is physically available but already allocated to a specific order, to what is available to add to a new order.
- Pick Review – this includes a list of sales orders that are ready to be picked based on their status.
- Pick – users can pick products as they walk the warehouse floor using sophisticated barcode scanning with mobile pick functionality.
- Count – users can perform inventory counts using barcode scanners.
- Show All Warehouse Stocking Locations – this allows users to see a master list of all stocking locations and optionally filter for empty locations to help determine where to place inbound items.
- Multiple Stocking Locations - this is the ability to manage and track multiple storage locations for the same SKU.
- Receive – this allows a user to receive a Purchase Order direct to WMS Shelving, then pass that data to the Purchase Order screen in Blue Link ERP for the “real” receipt.
In addition, Blue Link’s WMS Lite allows you to set up stocking and non-stocking locations, set stocking location priorities and ratings and it allows for cross-docking which is the ability to receive and ship product without putting it away.
Benefits of WMS Lite
One of the main benefits of using Blue Link’s advanced ERP warehouse management functionality is that it creates an extremely easy to understand pick workflow that is as error-proof as it can be. Essentially, with Blue Link’s WMS Lite, it tells employees:
- Go to this location in the warehouse
- Identify that you’re at the location by scanning the barcode on the shelf/floor/cart etc.
- Physically pick the first item according to the electronic pick slip
- Scan the item as you pick it to ensure that you’ve picked the correct item
- Scan the cart that you’re putting the item on
- Move to the next item on the list and repeat
With WMS functionality, you can optimize the pick, pack and ship process to help you get the right product to your customers more quickly. With a properly organized and decorated warehouse, you significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to pick product and put-away items and with barcode scanning you essentially eliminate picking errors.
Since WMS is designed for picking, packing, shipping and receiving in the warehouse, special consideration needs to go to help decide which type of hardware will run the software. Since the WMS screens are part of the main Blue Link ERP application, any physical device that can establish an RDP connection can run the WMS features, however, Blue Link has a couple of recommendations when it comes to choosing which hardware to purchase:
- Rugged Tablet Devices – these types of devices are great for using the software if you want to be able to hold the device in your hand, and scan barcodes directly from the tablet
- Mounted Tablet with Bluetooth Scanner – another option is to mount a tablet to a cart, and then use a smaller, handheld Bluetooth scanner to scan products
- Mounted Tablet with Long Range Scanner – long-range scanners allow you to easily scan hard-to-reach products or items that are higher-up on shelves, and require forklifts or other equipment to reach
To truly reap the benefits of Blue Link’s WMS functionality (and our ERP software in general), employees must be properly trained on how to use the system and on best practices and proper warehouse processes. If you’re new to warehouse management functionality than there will likely be a bit of a learning curve as employees get used to a new way of thinking when it comes to managing inventory and picking, packing and shipping orders. With WMS Lite, first and foremost, you need to train employees to never mover product in the warehouse without a scanner. Using a WMS system requires discipline by all employees who set foot in your warehouse, and it is critical that no one ever places product into a location or takes product from a location without using a scanner to scan it into/out of that location. This is one of the key differentiators between warehouse management and advanced WMS functionality. Failure to do this will result in bad data in the system that will prevent users from being able to pick and ship orders. On the flip side, following procedures will result in a dramatic reduction in the amount of time required to pick orders and will also dramatically increase the accuracy of inventory.