With so many out there, how do you even begin identifying which WMS system is the best fit for your company?
Knowing where to start looking for a new warehouse management system (WMS) can feel like a overwhelming task. There is a wide array of suppliers, all claiming to be the best solution for your business, even though these solutions each have different functionality and offer unique benefits. So how do you establish which WMS system is the best?
You need to break through all the hype and sales pitches surrounding these suppliers to discover the warehouse management system (WMS) that will address your business requirements. The right solution can help improve order fulfilment, boost inventory visibility, and automate data collection.
What are the potential benefits of having a WMS ?
Warehouse management systems (WMS) can process data quickly and coordinate movements within the warehouse. They can also produce reports and handle large volumes of transactions, such as those inherent in e-commerce operations.
Key benefits include:
- Efficient and effective labour management
- Stock visibility and traceability
- Accurate inventory counts
- Fewer picking errors
- Fewer returns
- Accurate reporting
- Improved responsiveness
- Remote data visibility
- Automatic replenishment
- Improved customer service
- Minimised paperwork
A WMS is not a quick-fix solution, and it is more than an inventory control system and data collection tool. It is a system that helps automate your warehousing operations as much as possible.
So where do we go from here?
When identifying which WMS system is the best fit for your company, several factors come into play:-
- Setting your budget / ROI
- Integration & Evaluation
- Reporting Data
- User-friendly Interfaces
- Server based or Web-based Data Storage
- Technical Support
Setting your budget & Return on Investment
The justification process of ROI is important because it helps you set a budget for your project, and focus on the functional must haves rather than the nice-to-haves when selecting suppliers.
The key areas to consider are:
- The potential for a WMS to provide improved stock accuracy by reducing errors, providing real-time information, and enabling perpetual inventory counting.
- The potential for increased productivity and cost savings through improved labour, equipment, and space utilisation.
- The need for improved traceability. A WMS can provide two-way traceability, almost as a by-product of being in place.
- Improved customer service through overall improved warehouse control, and greater pick and dispatch accuracy.
The more daily transactions—such as pallet moves and picks—and locations in the warehouse, the greater the potential for ROI, and the greater the justification. In addition, warehouses use expensive equipment where optimisation can bring significant savings—sometimes to such an extent that less equipment needs to be purchased and fewer staff employed.
The methods WMS vendors use to set pricing fall into four main categories:
- The software licenses needed to run the system are typically charged by user—i.e., the PC or radio data terminal user. Some vendors now offer different models, including paying by transaction and/or paying monthly, rather than outright purchase of the system.
- Professional services are the costs for project management, training, and go-live support.
- Development costs cover requirements not included in the package, such as interfaces to third-party systems.
- Support costs typically consist of an annual price based on licensing and development fees. The scope of service and cost varies significantly from supplier to supplier.
Integration / Evaluate your Existing Systems
Modern WMS are highly configurable—typically by the end user—and should be capable of working in virtually any type of warehousing environment.
If your enterprise resource planning or business system already has a WMS module, analyse it first. The same due diligence applies to this selection as to any other system, but normally any small shortfalls in functionality are outweighed by reducing any risk of systems not interfacing with each other reliably and accurately.
Similarly, if your warehouse is highly automated—with cranes, conveyors, or sortation systems—you may wish to focus on which WMS system is the best provided by the equipment’s automation systems company. This is typically known as a warehouse control system.
Make sure the WMS system you decide on can be easily integrated into your current systems.
User Friendly Interface
A WMS without a user-friendly interface will not allow your staff to maximise its capabilities. If the interface is confusing and difficult to understand, then this will surely slow warehouse processes – which is the opposite of what a WMS should be doing.
A good WMS interface should allow you to quickly access accurate warehouse quantity levels, locations of your inventory, picking and shipping data, and sales reports all within a few clicks. If the interface does not allow you to easily navigate through this kind of vital information, then that particular WMS is probably not worth your time.
Web based or Server Based
A web based WMS virtually stores your data on the Internet – allowing you to access your warehouse inventory information from your phone, laptop or tablet from any location (as long as you have Wi-Fi).
A server based WMS stores your inventory information on a local server, and can only be accessed from a single computer.
Because server based WMS use a physical, tangible hard drive to store data, your information is susceptible to data loss/corruption from fires, thefts, power outages or general hard drive failure. A web based WMS does not use a tangible server/hard-drive to store your data. This allows for on-the-go inventory management, and doesn’t require any physical software installation on your computer.
Technical Support and beyond
A warehouse management system is obviously a big investment, both in terms of time and money. Choosing the wrong software will only add more zeroes to the total bill and hurt your operation. That’s why it is so crucial to identify and implement the right solution the first time.
You should be able to rely on your WMS vendor to keep abreast of trends in the industry and to support new ideas with a continuous stream of new functionality that helps you to reduce costs, improve operations, and optimise processes with each new release.
A modern cloud based system can offer the functionality to a 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.
Lastly, bear in mind, to find which WMS system is the best fit for your company, – how much do you plan on growing your business in the coming years? A good WMS should have the capabilities of growing alongside your company. Sure, any WMS can probably account for your current inventory, but what if your inventory doubles? Triples? There is no point in investing both time and money into a WMS that your company will quickly outgrow. You want to invest in one that is not only capable of growing with your company, but capable of helping your company grow.
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.