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What is warehouse management software?

Standalone or integrated into an ERP or supply chain solution, warehouse management software (WMS) helps managers control day-to-day warehouse operations including inventory, shipping, sorting, and storing. This software can also an include barcoding, RFID, staffing, organizational, and planning capabilities to help your warehouse track inventory and improve shipping times.

Warehouse management software is designed to manage all of the processes in any warehouse. This includes processes related to the intake and storage of inventory, manual and automated picking, and item tracking for shipping. You’ll find that the top warehouse management solutions remove paperwork from your warehouse processes and reduce time loss associated with human error during picking and storing. Many different industries use warehouse management software to coordinate storing and shipping items from warehouses in their supply chains, including manufacturing, technology, and retail.

Find your new warehouse management software

Common WMS Features

Inventory tracking, updates, and movement orders can make the difference between on-time shipment and unhappy customers. Companies who use WMS report increased customer satisfaction, reduced downtime due to inventory discrepancies, and higher order fill rates. One company reported a 99.9 percent fill rate, 99 percent order accuracy, and a reduction of labor costs by 34 percent after implementing WMS.

Warehouse management software not only lets your warehouse go paperless — it also reduces errors and double-picking through warehouse movement control. You can synchronize pick times and organize your entire warehouse to keep your docks clear. In turn, you reduce the need for dock storage. Items can be picked and moved to the dock in the order they will be loaded or shipped, saving time and reducing errors.

Inventory control: Keep tabs on current inventory levels in real time. This prevents time loss due to under-stocking and space waste due to overstocking. Granular statistics for each item will make planning your warehouse layout easy, as you can identify item weight or size and locate difficult-to-move items closer to the shipping dock. Custom inventory rules can also notify you when inventory or picking doesn’t comply with your standards.

Product Movement: Track, manage, analyze, and reduce your fulfillment times with improved transparency on product placement around the warehouse. Measure the ROI for your software in the efficiency of storage and picking. You can use barcodes or radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in the warehouse and during shipment to locate and track products throughout the supply cycle.

Software Integration: Integrations with supply chain and ERP systems keep all parties across your organization apprised of shipping movements and inventory levels. With almost every step of your supply chain automated, you can easily track and respond to seasonal inventory dips or hiring spikes. The data compiled from multiple supply chain systems will augment warehouse analytics, giving you even more power to increase productivity and reduce waste.

Multiple Device Support: The top warehouse management solutions deploy directly to your desktop, but live in the cloud, enabling handheld devices and tablets to connect via WiFi or mobile data connection. This, of course, helps managers and warehouse staff move around the floor and make updates without carrying a clipboard and rekeying data at the end of the day. Pickers can increase speed, and managers are no longer tied to their desks.

3PL (Third-Party Logistics): Some of the best warehouse management software includes features useful for third-party logistics teams. These features track shipments and inventory for multiple vendors, so your outside payments and inventory reports stay organized while you worry about shipping.

What are some tips for comparing WMS solutions?

When you compare warehouse management software, you’ll want to focus mainly on features and pricing. Some systems offer add-ons or premium services, catering to specific industry use or implementation needs; these are important to consider as well.

Some warehouse solutions are included as modules within a larger supply chain management (SCM) suite. Depending on the size and intricacies of your supply chain and corporate needs, you may want to consider whether an ERP is a better choice than a standalone warehouse management system. ERP platforms can track financial, logistic, and asset data for all parts of the enterprise, and building your warehouse management system within the tool can provide a better integrated technology stack.

Another important factor is whether you need barcode/RFID capabilities. If you find that your inventory goes through a lot of movement around the warehouse, you may want to consider an RFID system. RFID uses small radio frequency locators to track items in your warehouse. This is especially useful for high-dollar and sensitive items that need real-time tracking without requiring a barcode scan for each movement.

Finally, you’ll need to decide if you want to purchase warehouse management devices and a device maintenance plan. Many WMS vendors offer these with their software package to increase utility and serve as a one-stop shop for customers. For WMS that relies on barcode scanners or “rugged” mobile devices, a corresponding device maintenance plan is essential. If you plan to use your own mobile devices, find a solution that includes native mobile apps or a mobile-optimized web portal.

Choosing the best warehouse management software

Inventory and warehouse management are critical components of a healthy supply chain and require specialized software. Make sure whatever solution you choose can integrate with your current software stack, including accounting, e-commerce, and ERP. Warehouse management software will make your processes run smoother, reduce overhead costs, and keep your company from wasting inventory and labor.

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