Getting the most out of your small business
If you have a small business, you may have wondered if it’s worth the cost of investing in a warehouse management system. It would seem that many of the advantages of a warehouse management system would be more suited to bigger businesses like 3PLs, distribution and fulfilment centres that need to keep track of and coordinate inventory across multiple warehouses. However, a warehouse management system can be beneficial to small businesses too.
- Inventory Management – Just because you have a small business is small, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a lot of inventory to keep track of. While you may not have warehouses full of inventory, you also probably don’t have dozens of employees, either but trying to keep all your inventory organised can be a headache. A WMS can help you with this as well as figuring out the best way to organise your products so that your employeescan find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently.
- Customer & Supplier Management – Keeping track of suppliers and customers in a small business is often difficult, partly because they may have specialised needs that can be hard to remember. A WMS can be programmed so that you can have a database at your fingertips that will remember even the smallest detail for you.
- Improving Employee Productivity – Small businesses typically have a limited number of employees, which can make it difficult to keep everything running smoothly. A WMS helps you organise and optimise your inventory flow so that your employees can find products more quickly and easily, letting them spend more time on tasks like great customer service.
In today’s web-enabled, interconnected, social-media intensive world, even a small business can have a presence that allows them to match their bigger competitors. But this can come at a price if you are not maximising your warehouse. If you want to succeed against the biggest players you’ll need to offer similar levels of service.
Unless you’re in the enviable position of having a unique product that only you can provide, your customers won’t stick around for long if your competitors can fulfil orders quicker and provide a better shopping experience for them. Being cheaper won’t help if customers want their orders quickly.
Failure to adopt systems early will slow growth, increase costs and result in missed opportunities.
Creating a great website and investing in marketing to attract customers is a great start.But what happens if you can’t show your customers your available stock and when they can expect to get it? They’ll expect this information as a minimum but the fact is that most e-commerce solutions aimed at smaller, growing businesses won’t be much help.
Just as importantly, you must be able to locate the ordered stock easily so you can fulfil orders quickly and manage throughput. You might also need to manage different supply chain channels, delivery patterns or prioritise certain products or customers. Perhaps items are coming towards a sell by date and you want to avoid unnecessary wastage. Chances are your e-commerce platform won’t be able to tell you. And neither will a spreadsheet or piece of paper if that’s what you currently rely on.
You need a system that can interface with your e-commerce solution to take the guesswork and doubt out of stock control. This is where the WMS comes in. A properly configured WMS will enable you to track items from before their arrival to when they leave your warehouse and beyond. Along the way it will help you make key decisions quickly and effortlessly using accurate and real-time information.
You can also use the data in the WMS to provide stock availability information to customers and enhance your overall service. The problem is that most WMS systems on the market are too big, cumbersome or expensive to meet the needs of the smaller and growing business. The upfront cost and likely implementation timescale simply put them out of reach.
A modern cloud based system can offer the functionality to a small business that needs a solution without big upfront costs and long timescales. With effective handling procedures and advanced multi-location control, you’ll know how much stock you have and where to find it. You’ll be able to optimise storage space, increase pick efficiency and achieve near total despatch accuracy. A product that’s intuitive and easy to learn will need minimal time to commission, but once up and running it will deliver benefits which transform the efficiency of your business.
Getting started on the journey to implementing a WMS for a small business does not have to be painful. Here are some ideas on how to get started while reducing risk, implementation time, and disruption:
- Do a self-assessment of the ten signs and decide if it is time to consider implementing a WMS.
- Find and retain an unbiased warehouse/distribution centre expert5 with experience implementing WMS systems in your industry, to act as your guide and advocate. Ideally they will have expertise in all angles, such as assessing warehouse/DC layout and flow, WMS solution selection, change management, warehouse best practices and metrics, data and integration, and agile implementation.
- Create your internal team, with clear roles and responsibilities, making sure to engage with employees early and often.
- Define your high-level goals and roadmap, and a minimum viable implementation to get started.
- Create a simple plan of what you are trying to accomplish, including measurable improvements, sequence, and timeframe.
- Evaluate and select a WMS solution.
- Take care to get change management right, continuously communicating with workers, allocating adequate resources to the project, doing thorough testing, and providing sufficient training.
- Use the early success of your first implementation to fund further expansion and improvements, as warranted.
No matter the size of your business, a WMS is always going to be a smart choice. While your WMS might entail a small startup cost, it will save you money as your business grows more efficient and productive. If you get a WMS that includes a mobile app, you won’t even need to worry about your system getting outdated, because the app will provide automatic updates.
The one thing you will want to keep in mind when shopping for a warehouse management system for your small business, though, is finding one that will grow with your business. After all, if your business becomes more efficient and productive, you’ll likely need to expand in the future.
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.