What is a WMS – Warehouse Management System?
A WMS is a software tool that focuses on the inventory movement in a warehouse. Most systems have six key features:
- Order Picking
- Inventory Counting
We’ll get into these features in more detail later. WMS software should focus on tracking item quantities, their movement and locations in the warehouse, and validating the items needed for various business processes.
Of course, there are many ways to skin the warehouse management cat, but most warehouse management systems use bar coding, QR coding, RFID or some hybrid. They also often have various additional modules to aid in other processes. And integration with other systems is typically a component in their sales/implementation process.
Warehouse Management Process Overview
Note: This is a high-level overview of the concepts. Details and nuances will be covered in future blogs.
- Receiving –This is the process of bringing inventory into the warehouse. The receiving process is typically linked to a purchase order (PO) so you know when ALL of the items you purchased have been brought into the warehouse.
- Moving – This is taking warehouse inventory from one warehouse location to another. This should be tracked so you can find your inventory very quickly. Some common types of movement are put aways of recently received items, replenishment of floor locations from bulk locations, and simple relocations of goods from one location to another.
- Order Picking – When a business receives an order, the warehouse retrieves the items on the order and takes them to a packing location. Some forms of order picking are paper vs. paperless, voice picking, pick to light, robot assisted, and more.
- Packing – This takes the picked order and prepares it for shipping. Depending on the type of order and shipping method this varies. Packing involves consolidating picked items into boxes, crates, or pallets. It also involves preparation of all paperwork needed for shipping labels, manifests, BOLs, etc.
- Shipping – Some shipping methods include parcel (e.g. UPS), 3rd Party Ground Freight -Less-than-Truckload (LTL) and Full Truckload (FTL)or your own trucks. Warehouse Management Systems have varying levels of involvement in this process. At the very least, it should probably track when your packed orders are shipped.
- Inventory Count – This is the process of counting the items you have in inventory and reconciling them against what you thought you had. With a WMS, this process should be automated. One popular inventory counting method is called Inventory Cycle Count. With inventory cycle count, random subsections of your inventory are selected to be counted for accuracy spot checks. We like to incorporate inventory cycle counting during other processes like moves to make the process automatic and smooth.
We love talking about this stuff. Call us to discuss or learn about our systems: 561-613-5693