It’s impossible to imagine an effectively functioning logistics system without warehouse management. While the role of a warehouse is sometimes falsely viewed as a simple storage facility, the truth is that the supply chain only functions as quickly and efficiently as its warehouse efficiency permits.
Why is Warehouse Management so Important?
Well, the short answer is that warehouse management allows you to deliver products at the right time to the right place.
Warehouses are a place where goods can be identified, sorted, stored and finally sent out to where they need to go next. Therefore, while warehouses themselves may seem rather static, their function is anything but. Goods continuously flow in and out of a warehouse, so therefore its management requires you to ensure that the items are secure and can be located quickly.
Once the time comes to move those items, they must be quickly retrieved, grouped, packed, checked and dispatched. The efficiency of these processes is very important; according to a research paper by Dr. N. K. Batra, a warehouse acts as a supporting function for logistics and plays a key role in the firm’s logistical supply chain system.
Basically, everything from the moment that products reach the warehouse to the time they’re shipped out falls under the umbrella of warehouse management.
Since there are so many vital stages of the product’s journey that are part of warehouse operations, warehouse management software solutions are essential. They help move the goods through the warehouse at an efficient pace, improving the order fulfillment process on multiple stages.
An effective fulfillment process means bigger profits, but an even bigger impact can come from improved customer satisfaction. Because of reduced shipping errors, on-time delivery and consistent stock numbers, customers learn to trust the company as a reliable provider of goods and services, which not only increases customer retention, but improves the brand’s reputation in the process as well.
But in order to get the best results with a warehouse management system (WMS), it’s important to choose a software solution that fits well with your company’s needs. To find that out, we must look at some of the most important features that a WMS must have in order to provide all the necessary benefits to its users.
Key Features of WMS
Warehouse management solutions come in many different types, and are catered to different types of organizations. It can be offered as a standalone solution or as a part of a larger enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or supply chain management (SCM) system.
The software can also vary in its complexity. Some of the simpler or free WMS solutions use spreadsheets or spreadsheet files, while the more complex systems that are being adopted by a growing number of SMBs use the most recent technology in order to reap all the benefits that modern WMS solutions can offer.
Although there are a lot of features that are offered by different WMS software vendors, here are a few of the most important ones that must be included in any software solution that are worth considering:
Receiving and Shipping
Since warehouse management is all about quickly sorting, storing and dispatching items to their next destination, it’s not hard to understand that receiving and shipping functions will be at the forefront of any comprehensive WMS.
The software must be able to offer a quick process for identifying and sorting received items, in addition to reconciling the shipment against the original purchase orders. All of this information should immediately be visible on the software dashboard. This way, companies don’t have to rely on manual methods for reconciliation such as pen and paper, which require going through each order manually by checking the purchase order, confirming that the correct goods have been received and finally inputting it into the system. With a warehouse management system, no paper documentation is required — all of the data is instantly recorded electronically and transferred to the ERP database.
A WMS can also completely change the entire process of shipping, allowing users to accurately monitor each order to make sure that it’s shipped to its destination in a timely manner.
The efficiency of the receiving and shipping processes is also improved by increased employee accountability. Warehouse management software requires employees to use their own individual accounts when entering data, which makes it possible to trace back any errors and make the necessary adjustments.
The leading warehouse management systems that are available usually come with advanced inventory tracking systems such as AIDC or RFID, as well as barcode scanners that allow you to quickly locate goods when they need to be dispatched.
The software is able to track serial numbers, expiry dates and other crucial information. The added visibility comes with numerous benefits that can help quickly spot any potential issues.
With a WMS, businesses always know exactly where every single item is located, which not only improves dispatch times but is also very important in order to maintain stable stock levels and make accurate inventory management projections.
The inventory management features can also help reduce expenses in numerous different ways, ensuring that the warehouse space is used effectively, preventing the additional expenses that come with overstocking. With the help of a WMS, item locations in the warehouse can be optimized to make the picking and dispatching tasks more efficient. Over time, these changes can amount to considerable savings on costs, which can make day-to-day operations run much smoother.
This doesn’t just mean savings in money. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, inventory tracking that employs barcodes on medication reduced errors in administration by 41.4% at an academic medical center, and the costs of mistakes can sometimes be much bigger than any direct expenses associated with warehouse management.
Finally, any worthwhile WMS software must come with effective labor management solutions, as costs associated with the workforce still account for a large part of warehouse expenses.
With the right labor management tools, companies can access real-time data about each warehouse employee, which allows you to monitor the performance of the workforce and discover which employees are the most and least efficient.
This helps to better manage the entire workforce, making improvements in the productivity of each individual worker, which improves the efficiency of the warehouse in the process. Since the efficiency of each employee can be monitored, companies can implement pay incentive policies to motivate the workforce to maximize their productivity.
Logistics and distribution companies often face challenges in improving performance because of the current market conditions and workforce shortages. However, warehouse labor management can be a vital tool in getting the most out of your available employees, making sure that the warehouse performs efficiently and meets its goals.