Features a Warehouse Management System (WMS) must have

Warehouse Management Software

Features a Warehouse Management System (WMS) must have

Features a Warehouse Management System (WMS) must have

In our previous blog “What is a Warehouse Management System (WMS)” we explained the basic concepts and the reasons why a manufacturing and distribution company should buy and implement it. The kicker is that there are hundreds of companies claiming to provide the best WMS. How to sort the good from the bad? How to select the best-suited one for your needs?

In this article, I will tell you how a real Warehouse Management System (WMS) works and what essential features it must have. These functionalities should mesh perfectly with the process so that you track every single product coming in and out of your warehouse with an actual process. You truly track inventory, out of stocks, expired products,  knowing exactly what product is on what palette and bin.

Feature 1.  Receiving Purchase Order App

First and foremost a WMS needs to have an option to receive goods. This feature minimizes the errors in the receiving process by tracking mismatches between the purchase order and the actual products received. This warehouse application is tied directly to your ERP system where you can see the inventory live. From the back office, you’re going to place your purchase orders and fulfill sales orders.

How does it work?

  • Each of your warehouse employees should have a scanner, like the Zebra TC26, running the Receiving module of the WMS.
  • All the products in the order are scanned against the existing purchase orders within the mobile warehouse app.
  • Once scanned, the system will calculate and/or compute any difference between the PO and the physical product. This information is loaded into the ERP.

Feature 2.  Product labeling

Any good warehouse management system is based around labeling. You need two labels: a racking label and a pallet or case label. These labels contain the product’s information, lot number, product expiration date, and serial number, depending on the type of product you have. Your WMS must be capable of printing these labels wirelessly from the scanner.

How does it work?

  • Once the product is received, the receiving person hits the print button in the app so that you can print your product, case, and pallet labels.
  • These labels will be attached to the cases and/or the palette containing them.

Feature 3.  Check-in

A good warehouse management system must have a check-in app running in the scanner that will prompt the receiver to check in the products at a bin location. This app feature allows you to optimize the placement of products within the warehouse.

How does it work?

  • Once the whole PO is received and the labels have been printed and attached, the receiving person loads the pallets in the forklift and opens the Check-in app.
  • The system will tell the receiver exactly what bin locations are available for that inventory, based on where it fits, what areas are authorized for it, and your warehouse policies.
  • When the forklift arrives at the recommended bin, the receiver will scan the label in the bin location and the label in the pallet. Now you know unequivocally that this product, with all the information coded in the label, is residing within that bin location.

Feature 4.  Sorting and picking

A good WMS will sort bin locations and will configure the most efficient pick sequence considering the product rotation according to your policies, whether FIFO, LIFO or FEFO. It must also have the capability to transfer products between different areas in the warehouse. These functionalities will decrease the costs by reducing the time and errors of the picking process.

How does it work?

  • The picker will tap on the “pick order” option on his scanning device.
  • The system displays all the pending orders in the system.
  • The picker opens the order he wants to serve.
  • The system will show the products on that order and what bin locations are located on, sorted by the most efficient pick route.
  • The picker follows the picking route. For each product in the order, he scans the bin and the product label.
  • When all products are picked, the picker prints a label with all the information related to the sales order.
  • Then the pallets with the picked products are taken to the picking area. When the picker is there, he scans the bin where the order will be placed and hits the “transfer” button.
  •  The system automatically deduces the products picked from the overstock bin and adds them to the picking area bin.

Feature 5.  Physical inventory / Cycle count

A complete physical inventory count is a time-consuming process that halts the warehouse operation. That is why most warehouses use the “Cycle Count” process, in which workers count just part of a company’s inventory as a representation of the entire inventory. A good Warehouse Management System will support cycle count by suggesting products to be counted, their location, and making the adjustments that result from the count in the ERP system.

How does it work?

  • The counter will select the “account” option on his scanning device.
  • The system will prompt the inventory site to be counted and their bin location.
  • When the count is done, the system will apply the adjustment to both, your inventory and your accounting.

Feature 6.  Route Returns

Route returns are specific to distributors or companies who have delivery trucks where inventory goes onto a truck. Most products are delivered, but at end of the day, the truck comes back with returned or damaged products. A Warehouse Management System must have the capability to classify products returned and, when integrated with a “DSD Route Accounting Software” and a “Route Management Software”, check the integrity of the product delivery routes.

How does it work?

  • The driver executes the delivery route. At each stop he will scan the products delivered, the products rejected and the products damaged in the store.
  • When the truck returns, the receiver will scan the products on the truck and will classify them as damaged, return them to the overstock bin, or send them back to the picking bin to be delivered again.
  • The system takes the action corresponding to the return class; transfer to picking or overstock, or deduct from inventory. I will also cross the products loaded in the truck versus the products delivered. If the difference does not match the return, a flag will be raised.

I hope this guide will help you select the appropriate WMS for your company. One word of warning: the RIGHT implementation of a Warehouse Management System with all these features will take time and requires a deep interaction between your organization and the vendor. This implies implementation expenses, training hours, and procedural hours to put the process in place and make sure your inventory is tracked. You need to consider that you are not just solving a small problem. You are literally tracking the heartbeat of your business. You will fix your out of stocks, your expired products in the warehouse; you will make sure nobody is stealing from you, and you will, almost always, eliminate all shrinkage. In summary: you will be so successful within your inventory, that your business will transform and become exponentially more successful as well.

If you are interested in following this blog or if you want to learn more about Laceup’s WMS solution just register at this link.

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