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A WMS (Warehouse Mangement System) is a software application that controls daily warehouse operations by automating processes and coordinating the warehouse’s many moving parts, including staff, equipment, inventory and orders.

A warehouse management system can provide real-time insights into any aspect of warehouse operations, from the location of each item to the number of employees on the packing floor. It helps manage and optimize warehouse processes ranging from workforce scheduling to picking items and shipping orders.

The software can make each of these steps more efficient, saving time and money since the supply chain is a major cost center for most companies.

Warehouse management systems can be used to manage key warehouse operations, including:

  1. Warehouse organization: By inputting warehouse size and inventory information (such as pallet size, object size and product use), a WMS can generate a warehouse diagram that will help a business optimize inventory storage by making the best use of available space.
  2. Optimizing daily schedule: Taking into account current orders and available staff, a WMS can devise daily plans that schedule the right amount of labor and estimate labor costs. A WMS can also connect to transportation providers to schedule shipping and receiving times and locations. That ensures truck drivers arrive at the right dock at the right time and staff is ready for them.
  3. Managing inventory: A WMS can gather information from mobile devices and machinery to record the movement of inventory throughout the warehouse. An associate can scan items when they’re received and again when stored, picked, packed and shipped. The WMS adjusts inventory levels in real time to help minimize waste while avoiding stockouts.
  4. Order fulfillment: A WMS can facilitate fast and accurate order fulfillment. To fill each day’s orders, the picking team can use a highly detailed packing list—often on a mobile device that they carry with them—listing exactly what they need and where it’s located.
  5. Monitoring and reporting: A WMS can document standard operating procedures to ensure employees follow them at all times and monitor warehouse operations to detect problems. The company can then analyze the data collected by the WMS to assess warehouse performance, find areas for improvement, create goals and track progress over time.

Using a WMS can benefit your warehouse operations in multiple ways, boosting your bottom line while ensuring customers receive the right products on time:

  1. Reduce waste: Better space, inventory and labor management can help minimize waste and cut costs.
  2. Optimize warehouse processes: From receiving inventory to picking, packing and shipping, a WMS can use data analytics to pinpoint bottlenecks and inefficient processes.
  3. Reduce human error: Devise simple, efficient practices for putaway, picking and packing to increase order accuracy and decrease time spent walking across the warehouse.
  4. Track materials in real time: Trace inventory with lot and batch numbers to see exactly where a material or product is during each stage of its journey through the supply chain.
  5. Improve customer and supplier relationships: Coordinate inbound and outbound operations by communicating with suppliers and transportation services to ensure orders are received and shipped as efficiently as possible.
  6. Increase flexibility: A WMS can adapt to changes in order volume after a seasonal uptick in sales or help a business respond to an unexpected disruption like shipping delays due to inclement weather.
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