Warehouse Management System: What to Look For

All wholesale and distribution businesses will have to manage their inventory one way or another.  For small and start-up companies, this can often be a manual process when order volume is still low.  However, as your business grows, there will come a time when inventory management and accounting ERP software is the next logical step.  Fully integrated ERP systems are designed to manage all aspects of a company’s operations such as accounting, inventory management and contact management, and will also include basic warehouse management functionality such as:

  • Multiple warehouse management
  • Consolidated pick slips
  • In-transit warehouse management
  • Ability to print shipping labels
  • Pick/Pack/Ship workflow management

Although this basic warehouse management functionality might work in the beginning, if your business and warehouse operations continue to grow, it will be time to start evaluating advanced warehouse management systems.  A common indicator that your business could benefit from more advanced functionality is when you have the following requirements:

  • Ability to pick the same SKU from multiple locations within your warehouse
  • Mobile picking and barcode scanning

When it comes to advanced warehouse management systems (WMS), you have two options.

#1. Invest in a WMS System that can be integrated with your ERP solution. 

True WMS systems are best suited for large, multi-national businesses, and are designed to be integrated with existing ERP solutions.  These types of systems will provide functionality such as:

  • The ability to automatically allocate inventory to a specific location within the warehouse when receiving product (allocate put-away)
  • The ability to show you the quantity of SKUs that can fit into a certain location based on the dimensions of the bin/shelf

Although true WMS systems are a great piece of software for managing large warehouses, because of their sophistication, they also come with a hefty price tag. If your business requirements fall somewhere in between basic warehouse management features and a full WMS system, consider option two below.



#2. Invest in ERP Software with Built in Advanced WMS Features.

Some ERP solutions will also include advanced warehouse management features as part of their integrated system.  Although this advanced functionality is not designed to replace the need for true WMS software, it can aid growing businesses in better inventory and warehouse management, at a much lower price tag and with a shorter implementation timeframe.  Key features to look for include:

  • Integration with tablets and barcode scanning devices
  • Ability to set up non-stocking and stocking locations
  • Stocking location priorities and ratings
  • Empyt bin/shelf availability
  • Movement tracking of product
  • Cross docking

Integration with tablets and barcode scanning devices allow for mobile picking throughout the warehouse.  iPads, the Microsoft Surface or similar Android tablets can be mounted to equipment such as carts and forklifts, which allows users to pull up order information while moving throughout the warehouse.  These mounted tablets can then be used in conjunction with handheld barcode scanning devices in order to scan product during the picking process.

With advanced functionality, each location within your warehouse can be set up as a stocking or non-stocking location with different shelf priorities and ratings.  This functionality allows you to see what inventory is still physically in the warehouse, but will distinguish between those products already allocated to an order and those still available to be picked.  Specific shelf priorities and ratings ensure that when you do pick an order, you’re doing so by following the most efficient pick route.  The system will also show you where you have shelf space available when receiving product, and if necessary you can pick an order before putting product away (cross-docking).

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