Warehouse management systems, or WMS, are software that simplify the way businesses manage and track their daily warehouse processes and operations. The basic functionalities of a WMS include monitoring inventory from any location, suggesting optimized inventory layouts and arrangements, managing incoming and outgoing orders, and checking up on the warehouse’s performance.
While warehouse management software offer several benefits in general, a closer look shows that different systems are built to suit different business processes and requirements. So what may be the perfect system to use in one warehouse may not be as perfect to use in another. That is why in this article, we will be talking about how you can find the right warehouse management system for you.
What do I look for in a warehouse management system?
Here are a few important features that you should look for in a warehouse management system before purchasing:
Businesses that deal with several products from different SKU’s may have trouble figuring out what goes where when putting away items or picking them for an order. With a WMS in place, the solution should be able to keep track of the exact location of every product you’ve stored in your warehouse. Additionally, some systems can compute the shortest and easiest possible route to take to pick them. This feature can definitely be considered for large warehouses where taking a shorter route can save you a considerable amount of time.
Receiving and putaway
Quick receiving and putaway processes are essential for every warehouse hoping to operate efficiently. For this reason, your warehouse management system should help you identify and categorize your received inventory according to product type or however you store them so that your putaway process is accurate. Once that’s taken care of, the system should be able to automatically match your received shipments to the original purchase order, and reconcile them. This way, you can eliminate the need for paper documentation and the errors that accompany it.
Top inventory management systems typically come with built-in inventory tracking systems like an AIDC (Automatic identification and data capture), RFID (radio frequency identification), and barcode scanners. With all these advancements, the system will be able to:
Monitor serial numbers, expiry dates, and other similar data.
Stay notified with demand forecasting and real time stock updates for every product in your warehouse. You don’t want to overstock and end up crowding your space, but you also don’t want to under stock and run out too quickly.
Ensure you are being careful and effective about using all the space that your warehouse provides. With time this can even help you save costs.
Most warehouses are operated by multiple people making it difficult to keep a constant eye on what everyone’s working on and how they’re performing. A built-in labour management tool can give you real-time updates on their work, let you monitor your staff’s productivity, and help you manage them more effectively. And using KPIs (key performance indicators) can give you even more detailed information like which employees are performing above or below a certain standard.
The bigger your warehouse grows, the more complex it becomes to manage it. In such cases, having some extra help (integrations) could do wonders. By integrating your main warehouse with all your other warehouses, online stores, market places, shipping partners, and 3PL providers, you can view and access your sales and purchase transactions, inventory and stock counts, shipping statuses, and more, all through a single platform. This is why solutions that already have all the necessary integrations in place or allow for customized integrations, are more desired than solutions that don’t.
How do I find the right WMS for my business?
Over time your business may outgrow your current warehouse management solution. At this point, you can either choose to upgrade your current solution or replace it with a completely new one all together. In recent times, the top three reasons why businesses purchased or upgraded their system was because:
The business was previously not using any sort of system for their warehouse management needs.
Their existing system was outdated.
They needed new functionalities taken care of.
When evaluating your own business’ needs, first figure out if you even need to make a change in the first place. If you do, then work out whether you need an upgradation or a new solution. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself to help you make an informed decision:
Is your current system having trouble handling large quantities of data? Are you experiencing delays?
If you face any of the following issues with your current system or process then it’s time to upgrade or switch to a new system:
Your current system is finding it difficult to handle high amounts of data making it harder to use your system during busy times because of the heavy influx of data.
Every once in a while, your system slows down and causes delays while you track goods in and goods out.
Your system is incapable of processing orders for fulfilment. You often feel the need to reboot your system.
Are you facing a substantial amount of errors when processing orders? How high are the losses that these errors result in?
It’s important that your current system can process orders efficiently and then fulfil them accurately. If the right products haven’t been picked or the relevant shipping labels haven’t been attached then your customers will not receive the correct order. If this happens repeatedly it can greatly affect profitability.
Does your present solution have high lag times in-between processes?
Do you feel like you or your employees spend more time waiting for your system to start up and get work done than you spend actually using it? If this is the case, your current solution is old and outdated, and it’s time to get a new one.
Would it be cost-effective for you to update your system?
Another important question to consider is, will changing your current system help you save costs? A WMS should be able to track your inventory which can tell you exactly how much of each product you are storing and also where they are located. This can help you avoid:
Understocking or running out of products and having to turn away orders or delay fulfilling them.
As well as overstocking products and not selling them quickly enough, so they end up taking up valuable and expensive space for too long. This could contribute to high carrying costs and inventory holding costs.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to spend money on a new system or an update just to have to spend more money later on. One of the reasons to get a system is to reduce your expenses, not create more.
Are you confident about how secure your data is with your current system?
Like all software solutions, your warehouse management system is also at risk of several security, specifically cyber security, issues. Cyber attacks, or having your system hacked into, can affect your data privacy and result in temporary or permanent data loss. And since your solution deals with your business’ confidential data, it’s extremely important that you protect your system. Typically, systems that are old and outdated face a higher chance of being hacked since they may not be compatible with security software. If you feel like your system is susceptive to viruses that can threaten the security of your data, and the preventative measures don’t seem efficient, then it’s time to make the switch.
Just like any other voluntary addition to your business, a warehouse management system is an investment, and the only way to reap full benefits from one is to use the right one. Unfortunately, finding the right WMS may not be the most easiest task to do, since there are so many options available, each with their own set of benefits. Analyze your business and business processes to figure out your requirements, and then ask yourself these questions to help you narrow down your choices.
Zoho Inventory is a cloud-based WMS that can help you manage multiple warehouses, customer orders, and transfer orders. It can also give you real-time data about your inventory, as well as updated reports on your warehouse’s performance, to help you ensure better efficiency. To learn more about how Zoho Inventory’s warehouse management capabilities can benefit your business, checkout our article. And for a more practical approach, go ahead and sign up for our free trial!