• Jim Southern

What to Look for in a WMS System



There a quite a lot of choices available when it comes to so called warehouse management systems. There are ERP add-on's, plug in modules and in the cloud solutions. So what should you look for when considering a WMS system for your business? What are the key elements that will maximise your warehouse efficiency not just for now but for the future? Here are some of the qualities that you should be considering:

1. Comprehensive Functionality

What can the WMS system deliver for my business? When evaluating WMS systems you need to take a look at your operational requirements, for example, if your order profiles are many orders, small quantities you need wave and group picking features to streamline picking and packing processes. Or, if your focus is on employee performance you need a system that delivers pick and pack work rate and efficiency reporting.

There are many ways a WMS system can help your business but focus on the fit for your business requirements.

2. Ease of Use

The easier a WMS system is to use it will typically reduce the implementation time and the time spent on training. New employees will be "up and running" more quickly. A well designed user interface allows users to concentrate on the important jobs rather than struggling to find the data they need. Clear and visual queries, views and alerts will ensure that everyone will benefit from the introduction of a WMS solution.

3. Manages all Processes

Look for a WMS system that will manage all your warehouse processes from door to door, from Goods In to Pick & Ship. All the basic processes should be covered with no exceptions:

Goods Receiving

Putaway with Rules for Locating

Stock Movements

Cycle Counting

Order Picking & Packing

Shipping

You may also look for more advanced features like QC stock management, Carrier Integration etc.

The bottom line is that you should be able to track everything that is going on in your warehouse including people, stock movements and products. So, when looking at a WMS solution, ask yourself “Does this WMS help me manage all of my resources?”

4. Flexibility and the Future

Any WMS system needs to be able to meet your needs now and in the future to cater for growth and changing markets and requirements. Otherwise it's not a viable long term warehouse management solution.

When considering whether a WMS system is truly scalable and future proof, take a look at the ERP integrations it supports. Why? Because you may change your ERP in the future and you'll want to know that your WMS is capable of integrating with other systems so that you don't lose your investment. Avoid systems that only work with a single ERP and tie you in to a single, narrow solution. If your aim is business growth, make sure your chosen WMS system is flexible enough to support that growth in the future.

5. Visibility and Data Presentation

Data is the bedrock of any system but so is how it's presented. It needs to be presented in a way that is easy to understand and easy to find.

Visibility is the key, especially for fast moving warehouse operations. The situation changes by the minute and the WMS system should be able to provide real time information in a variety of ways to meet the needs of the different employee job roles: Order Statuses, Employee Performance, Stock Situation, QC On-Hold Stock, etc.

So, when evaluating a WMS system, ask yourself, “Does this WMS system give me the visibility I need to be in control of every aspect of the warehouse?”

6. Seamless ERP Integration

Any WMS system that you implement has to work seamlessly with your ERP solution. That is why you should choose a WMS supplier with experience of systems integration. The WMS system you choose clearly needs to integrate with your current ERP but also look at the other installations the supplier has done.

7. Supplier Track Record

You will definitely want to look at the track record of any potential WMS supplier. Look at the industry experience, have they implemented a system within our (or similar) industry sector. This can be a crucial question particularly if you work in food or pharmaceuticals for example with all the rules attached.

Make sure that you get a customer reference and preferably a site visit to see a working installation.

8. Value for Money

Of course, price and budget are always a consideration for any system investment but functionality, flexibility, integration, scalability, ease of use and customer support are just as important and need careful consideration.

When you are evaluating and selecting a WMS system, you will need to consider and weigh up all these factors together. A lower upfront cost may seem attractive initially, but in the long run it may ultimately cost you more if the WMS system you choose is unable to cater for new business and market needs and the ever changing warehouse situation.

Choosing the wrong system, based on reduced functionality and cost, can end up costing more in expensive customisations and work arounds to fit your requirements. This is why it is essential to look at the overall value of the WMS solution – does the slightly more expensive WMS system provide for your current needs and give you room for manoeuvre for the future?

Selecting the right WMS system will cost you less over the lifetime of the product, even if the initial price tag is more than a simple scanning solution that appears more cost effective.

9. Committed to Warehousing Systems

You need to be sure that your chosen WMS partner has a focus and committment to warehousing and logistics. There are many companies out there that offer software and systems spanning many operational requirements which may appear attractive, e.g. one system fits all. This enables these companies to offer diverse offerings but it also means that they are not expert in the very specific field of warehouse management. Often, and this is true of many ERP and financial software providers who offer so called warehouse systems, it ends up being "WMS for accountants" because this is their focus and experience. Whilst a "bolt-on" WMS solution might seem attractive, you will get what you pay for.

A WMS system should be able to handle the basic things like goods receiving and order picking and be capable of handling more comprehensive requirements (like manifests, paperless picking across multiple zones, lot management, expiry & sell by dates etc.).

Choosing the right WMS system can revolutionise your warehouse and increase customer satisfaction, however, making the wrong choice can have the opposite effect by dragging down productivity.

We've implemented many successful systems across many industry sectors over the years - Give us a call to discuss your warehouse management project.

#wmssystem #flexibility #comprehensive #seamlessintegration #visibility #easeofuse

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