According to the most recent census in 2010, there are over 27.9 million small businesses in the United States. With that in mind, the business software industry has made sure there is a solution that supports any and every function of a small business. A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is a software solution that supports all warehouse operations. A good WMS for small businesses should make these processes more efficient through automation and centralization of data for quick retrieval and decision making. Although operating on a more compact scale, small businesses should still be thinking about the effectiveness of their warehouses and how a WMS software could help them meet their goals.
When a small business is just starting out, it may be acceptable or even necessary to make decisions without having all the information available. If you’re using spreadsheets, maintaining them can sometimes take a backseat to the actual functions that need to get done. WMS systems can keep a more organized record of information and help automate some of the chief operations of your warehouse. This gives you the time and information to make more strategic decisions for your business.
As an SMB it’s more important now than ever to identify opportunities for growth while cutting costs to ensure you have the finances to take you there. A WMS makes this easy. But in order to decide which system is right for you, you must determine which functions are a top concern for your business.
Inbound and Outbound Operations
Without solid inbound and outbound capabilities, the rest of your warehouse functions will be too often spent playing catch-up. Having a strong system in place for quick check-in and fast and accurate put-away will help you avoid mistakes later on. On the same note, having a strong outbound system can help prevent returns, increasing customer satisfaction and lessening the load on your inbound resources.
You may have a smaller set up, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to manage your inventory. Big guys like Amazon and Walmart have set expectations so high that customers no longer expect (or forgive) mistakes. Having a clear and comprehensive view of your stock is the only way to keep up and minimize errors.
You want to be sure whenever you invest in a new system that it can be used alongside your current software. Luckily, WMS can come as a standalone product, part of a larger SCM module, or as part of an ERP. You’re pretty much guaranteed a way to make it fit with your existing solutions, just choose wisely!
This capability can help reduce human error during labor planning. If you have a lot of redundancy in your warehouses, such as repetition of the picking or put-away process, this may be an asset to you.
Analytics and Reporting
Business Intelligence is a major component of any successful endeavor, and the more places you can access it, the better. As described above, there are many situations where it’s impossible to know the cause or extent of an issue without precise analytics.
Additionally, most systems today offer cloud deployment. The real-time visibility that you can only get with the cloud makes any analytics and reporting more viable. With up-to-the-minute data, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions and more accurate predictions.
Now that you have a bit of a better understanding of what you might be looking for in a WMS, here are the top 5 solutions for SMBs:
Fishbowl is the number one system on our Warehouse Management Leaderboard overall. It’s also specifically designed for SMBs, making it an easy choice for some. Further, it’s the only system on this list with payment processing functionality.
Fishbowl also rates highly for its labor management capabilities, which include easy integration with QuickBooks and its online timekeeping feature. In spite of its rating, this component does not track KPIs or forecast labor needs. Without this, you aren’t able to optimize labor costs as well.
As part of a larger SCM solution, Infor’s software will go a bit beyond the capabilities of the other systems on this list. Since SCMs focus on both distribution and production, it boosts cost-effectiveness across the entire supply chain and not just in your warehouses. However, WMS solutions within an SCM aren’t always as specific in their functions as a best-of-breed system. With an SCM you’ll have to check and see if there will be overlap with any existing systems.
JDA is a solid WMS software. It supports a variety of inbound functions, such as multi-method receiving, yard management, and put-away. It’s inventory functionality is spectacular, allowing users to see real-time data on all items, including in-progress and finished products. It also optimizes pick location, improving labor productivity. JDA finishes with strong outbound functionality that improves distribution efficiency.
But for all its strengths, this system doesn’t support barcode or RFID integration. For some companies, this level of automation is a make-or-break component.
Outbound operations are this solution’s strongest suit. Tecsys provides system-directed task interleaving, a process that increases labor productivity by determining the order of tasks based on the location of the previous or next task. Instead of an employee going to each end of the warehouse to perform sequential tasks, task interleaving locates several jobs he or she can do along the way.
However, Tecsys isn’t an excellent choice for those looking to integrate popular accounting systems Xero or Quickbooks. These specific integrations are not supported.
Here is another system with RF tracking to simplify inventory management. Its automation of inventory tracking makes many functions, like receiving, put away, and replenishment, easier.
What it lacks is a powerful labor management tool. So while your inventory management processes will be optimized, the way in which your workers perform them won’t be.