What could a WMS do for your business?

What could a WMS do for your business?

29 November 2018

  • invest in a WMS


There are so many benefits to investing in a warehouse management system (WMS) and yet a surprising number of warehouses still don’t have one. 

By using a WMS your business can benefit from: real-time visibility of stock, orders, and processes; less time needed to fulfil orders and invoice customer payments; improved accuracy of each order; lower materials and shipping costs, better use of warehouse space and your workforce, plus more efficient activity planning and routing throughout the warehouse.

In short, a WMS will manage and automate the entire warehouse operation, resulting in a more efficient supply chain and more satisfied customers. If as a business you find you are not completing the day’s order pool and regularly need to hire in additional manpower, you should consider either implementing a WMS if you don’t have one, or examining what systems you are currently using to check they meets your future needs.


What are the latest trends influencing developments in WMS?


Technology: How is innovation and integration improving WMS?

There are many technology innovations influencing the development of warehouse management software (WMS) systems. These range from more established technologies like voice directed working, to emerging technologies, such as robotics and automation. Internet of Things (IoT) and Wi-Fi advances mean software integration capabilities are significantly improved and it’s now possible to connect many different third-party systems and hardware with a WMS, to provide true real-time working.

Generally, WMS systems have evolved to become more visual and mobile device friendly, but beyond that, it’s not so much that the WMS technology itself is changing per se, but that many more advanced technologies and systems are being connected with it. For instance, driverless vehicles with automated route optimisation, drones for ongoing inventory management and robots on packing lines to reduce reliance on warehouse operatives.


Automation: How to reduce errors and improve the working environment

New technology is bringing real-time visibility of what’s happening in the warehouse to further improve warehouse operations. Beyond the four walls, automation is reducing the reliance on human labour, speeding up processes and decision making, removing errors from processes and it also means less wear and tear on individuals who work in a warehouse.

Indigo are seeing a lot of robotics implementations, especially in smaller companies that previously used a couple of operatives for repetitive tasks like packing and this trend is being driven in part because of the current skills shortage. There’s an increasing division between a WCS (warehouse control system) and WMS and this will further increase over the next few years as WCS technology becomes more advanced.


WMS data accuracy: How can you ensure maximum ROI?

Once the decision to invest in a WMS has been made, it’s important to get the maximum return on your investment, by ensuring that data being used for decision making is correct and consistently relevant.  This requires keeping the WMS database as up to date and relevant for current operations as possible. For instance, having regular audits of picking and replenishment tasks, so that picking locations and replenishment targets are appropriate for the time of year, product type and meet the needs of the business.

From experience, once an implementation is completed, companies don’t always appreciate that they need to keep on top of system maintenance. They need to create a heat map of the warehouse to check that fast moving products are placed in the right locations and be constantly mining the data to ensure that product placement, putaway rules and replenishment triggers remain relevant throughout the year.

The most efficient WMS users are in seasonal industries, like apparel and fashion.  These businesses are forced to review their product placement regularly and optimise slotting.  It is all too easy to become complacent once the system is in daily use, but it’s important for users to keep reviewing and improving things to make the best of WMS technology.


Stay up to date: Are you benefiting from the latest software versions?

Make sure you keep the software you are using up to date and implement the latest versions to stay on top of new features, even though you might feel comfortable with what you are currently using. The benefits of keeping WMS software up to date outweigh any risks of installing a more recent version. For instance, most WMS solutions are now fully mobile, but this functionality will only be available in the latest versions of the software, so if you are on an old release, you won’t benefit.


Has your warehouse reached the critical tipping point?

Companies tend to reach a point at which it becomes critical to use a WMS, because without one, they have to check quality into every process, resulting in burning time and over-spending on resources. Although your business may be trading very successfully and you may have introduced a number of efficiency saving technologies into the warehouse, not having a WMS means you probably won’t get the full benefit of other systems you have invested in. It’s the missing link in the efficient management of every supply chain.