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What is warehouse management software?
Warehouse management software (WMS) is a tool that allows organizations to control the movement and storage of goods within warehouses. It helps in managing operations such as inventory tracking, warehouse designing, picking and packaging goods, shipping, managing yards and docks, and staffing.
The benefits of warehouse management software
WMS assists in handling inbound and outbound operations by streamlining most manual operations and increasing overall efficiency. There are many benefits of using warehouse management software, including:
- Inventory optimization: WMS allows users to monitor the movement of goods along their supply chain. This further helps them monitor and control stock levels. WMS supports multiple inventory management models such as LIFO, FIFO, and just-in-time.
- Enhanced inventory visibility: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices and barcode scanners act as tangible extensions of WMS in warehouses. Barcode scanning and RFID tagging of goods along different checkpoints in the supply chain gives users clear visibility into the movement of their shipments.
- Reduced operational costs: Leveraging data such as expected inbound and outbound shipments and space availability, WMS solutions facilitate optimum warehouse space utilization. Some solutions also offer simulators that allow users to create virtual floor plans - including placement of pallets, shelves, and loading docks - to identify ways to make the best use of available space.
Typical features of warehouse management software
- Barcoding/RFID: Identify and track items using barcodes or RFID tags.
- Inventory management: Manage inventory traffic to ensure optimal stock volume and a proper outbound supply.
- Shipping management: Organize and track order shipping processes.
- Kitting: Consolidate individually picked materials into one kit for processing a work order or shipment.
- Order management: Organize, track, and monitor customer orders as they move through the supply chain.
- Quality management: Review and manage product quality against defined standards.
Considerations when purchasing warehouse management software
- Usability: When shortlisting WMS, look for a system that offers a customizable screen layout for quicker navigation. Well-designed software saves time on implementation as well as user training and onboarding.
- End-to-end transaction management: Check if the software you are investing in can handle end-to-end transactions. These transactions may involve maintaining records of received orders, inventory stocking, pick-up/ship-out time of orders, and tracking shipment statuses. End-to-end support allows you to track all warehouse-related workflows.
- Billing support: In addition to enhanced inventory visibility, WMS-RFID/barcode combinations can also support warehouses' financial operations. The inventory movement data captured by RFID/barcode devices allows WMS solutions to contribute to bill generation (e.g., by providing information about how long a shipment/goods spent in storage). WMS solutions will also automatically store billing information.
Relevant warehouse management software trends
- Robots are replacing humans in warehouses: Manually scanning items and keeping tabs on inventory levels are time-consuming and error-prone processes. In response, warehouses are upgrading to robots and drones. Robotics-enabled automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and automated guided carts (AGCs) can transport inventory around a warehouse by following magnetic paths or tracks set on floors. Some WMS solutions allow users to design these paths using algorithms. 2XL, a Belgian logistics company , is using AGVs to transfer and move inventory in and throughout its warehouses.
- Automated storage (AS) and retrieval system (RS): Warehouse robots work in combination with warehouse execution software, which is responsible for directing operations. The software selects the AS and RS algorithm based on the task and type of good that needs to be moved. The robots work either as shuttles (moving along fixed tracks) or as cranes that retrieve goods. The progress of robots can also be viewed on the software. Alibaba, one of the largest retailers, was able to cut down human effort by 70% by using AS/RS at its warehouses in China.
- Warehouses are becoming smarter with IoT adoption: Warehouses are now leveraging wearable sensors and other IoT devices to connect workers, items and movable equipment, and feed their data into a single system. Warehouse management software lets warehouse managers accurately locate and track inventory movement across their warehouses. Sensors detect the location of people, vehicles, and merchandise and then transmits the information to a central system. Users can view this information in real time, and can speed up or slow down operations based on customer demand and stock availability.