A WMS for SMBs can make all the difference to staying one step ahead of your competitors.

When a business is just starting out, they might be using spreadsheets or manual data entry to monitor their inventory and maintaining these can sometimes take a backseat when other elements of the business take over. To stay one step ahead of the competition, it’s more important now than ever for SMBs to identify opportunities for growth while cutting costs. A WMS for SMBs makes this easier.

No matter the size of your business, a WMS is always going to be a smart choice. While your WMS might entail a small start-up cost, it will save you money as your business grows more efficient and productive. The system can keep a more organised record of information and help automate some of the operations of your warehouse.

The one thing you will want to keep in mind when shopping for a warehouse management system for your business is finding one that will grow with you. After all, if your business becomes more efficient and productive, you’ll likely need to expand in the future.

So where to begin?

Start with asking yourself why your business is looking for a new WMS for SMBs in the first place.

There could be many reasons as to why your business would want to implement a WMS system or switch to a more robust solution.

  • Is your business growing in order and inventory volumes and can no longer manage that inventory using time-consuming manual picking methods?
  • Do you use a legacy system that is no longer supported by the vendor and doesn’t have the functionality you require?
  • Are you using barcodes and barcode scanners or thinking about implementing barcode scanning to reduce the number of picking errors?
  • Do you want to reduce the amount of time spent on fulfilling a single order?
  • Perhaps you need more sophisticated functionality such as the ability to pick the same SKU from multiple locations within your warehouse or mobile picking options.

Answering these types of questions is key to creating a technology roadmap and to narrow down the kind of WMS functionality you need.

Warehouse Design

The size of your warehouse and the way it’s organised can have an impact on the type of WMS functionality (simple or sophisticated) you need so it’s important to understand how your warehouse functions and how inventory is laid out and picked within the facility.

If you’re a very small organisation managing a couple thousand SKUs and shipping between 50-100 orders daily, a sophisticated warehouse management system may be overkill for you. Less complex warehouses where location tracking is not required or cash and carry type businesses looking to manage inventory can benefit from simple warehouse management functionality to achieve its goals.

These features include:

  • Consolidated pick slips
  • In-transit warehouse management
  • Ability to print shipping labels
  • Pick/pack/ship workflow management
  • Verification scanning (more on this below)

If your business and warehouse operations involve working with larger inventory counts and order volumes, it is time to start evaluating advanced warehouse management systems. A common indicator that your business will benefit from more advanced functionality is when you have the following requirements:

  • There are multiple storage locations for the same SKU in different warehouse locations – you need the ability to pick the same SKU from multiple locations
  • Need for barcode scanning and handheld picking to manage receiving, picking, packing and shipping processes

Advanced WMS functionality includes:

  • Empty bin and shelf availability – system will show available locations in the warehouse to add SKUs when receiving product based on what space is empty
  • Integration with barcode scanning devices- on laptops, iOS, Android and Microsoft tablets in conjunction with barcode scanning devices. This allows users to mount tablets to carts, forklifts, etc. for use while picking product.
  • Set up stocking and non-stocking locations – ability to set up locations within the warehouse as either stocking or non-stocking. This shows the true count of inventory within the warehouse, but will separate product available and product already allocated to an existing order. Allows for cross-docking of product.
  • Stocking location priorities -ability to set up stocking location priorities and ratings for more efficient picking. System will create pick list for most efficient pick route, based on these priorities and ratings.
  • Movement tracking of product within the warehouse -system logs every single movement of product in the warehouse. When you pick product from a shelf location and add it to your cart, the system will deplete the units from the shelf and increase the units to your cart. This provides users the ability to see inventory that is still physically available in the warehouse but already allocated to a specific order.
  • Cross docking – ability to receive and ship product without putting it away and the system will also show you where you have shelf space available when receiving product.

Barcode Scanning Technology and Hardware

When it comes to choosing barcode readers for your inventory management system, today’s technology offers many choices from handheld scanners and mobile computers to smartphones and tablets that can be adapted with peripherals and add-ons. Mobile solutions for warehouse inventory management that use barcode technology will not only cut costs by automating workflows, but will also improve workforce efficiency and data capture accuracy.

We often hear debates about whether or not using tablets, smart phones and other mobile devices for scanning barcodes in a warehouse is the best solution rather than rugged handeld scanners & mobile computers. If you’re a small to medium sized warehouse using a mid-range warehouse management system (WMS), finding the best device that offers the best combination of low cost and effective scanning capability while serving the specific needs of your business can be quite a challenge.

What are the key differences between these technologies?

Simple, Verification Scanning Functionality

  • Ideal for companies with a small number of daily orders
  • Allows users to print pick slips (according to bin and shelf locations if this is set up)
  • Employees can pick product and manually check items off the list as they go through the warehouse
  • At the packing station, employees can use verification scanning to pack the items while at the same time cross-checking them against the pick slip.
  • Verification scanners are much cheaper, un-sophisticated pieces of equipment that help companies’ double check product as it gets packed.

Sophisticated Handheld Scanning Technology

  • Automates receiving, picking, packing
  • Quick lookup inventory items such as product in stock, on backorder and product available in other locations
  • Quick lookup of product descriptions, pricing and images in the warehouse
  • Can be used on traditional ruggedised handheld barcode scanners or less expensive hardware such as iOS devices including iPods and iPhones.
  • Pick most efficiently according to bin and shelf location
  • Promotes a paperless environment as picking slips do not need to be printed.

In Summary

When looking for a WMS for SMBs make sure the features match your business objectives and requirements.

The top 10 Essential Features to look for in a WMS are:-

  • Integration with advanced radio-frequency and bar coding technologies.
  • Complete back-office integration with Order Entry, Inventory Control, and Purchase Orders modules.
  • Scalability to accommodate future business growth.
  • Real-time inventory updates.
  • Browser-based interface.
  • E-commerce capability, including Web store integration and B2B EDI support.
  • Advanced reporting capability.
  • Support for multiple picking methods.
  • Compliance labelling and ASNs.
  • Automated inventory receipt and put-away

Selecting the right warehouse management system for your business can have a tremendous positive impact on the bottom line so it’s important to have an idea of the goals you’re planning to accomplish with a WMS for SMBs and the specific functionality you’ll need to achieve those goals before speaking with vendors.

About us:

Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale/retail distribution, online fulfillment, and manufacturing warehousing.