How to find the right WMS for your small business

207,000,000 is the number of results that come up when typing Warehouse Management System into Google…talk about information overload!  Having countless options and information can be crippling to your software search especially if you’re not clear on what your goals are in aquiring a new WMS. 

Selecting the right warehouse management system for your small 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 and the specific functionality you’ll need to achieve those goals before speaking with vendors.

First Things First

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

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

  • Is your small 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. As you start to form your objectives, it’s also important to also consider the following:

Defining Your Warehouse

The size of your warehouse and the way it’s organized 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.

Find actionable steps to help with your WMS selection in our WMS Selection Checklist  

If you’re a very small organization 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 Needs

It is important to note that there are varying levels of barcode scanning technologies and businesses can sometimes achieve the same efficiencies without spending the money on the more sophisticated options.

For businesses that manage a large volume of orders per day, have a big warehouse that is set up with bin and shelf locations, pick similar products and deal with a high number of picking errors, sophisticated barcode scanning is most likely a worthy investment.  However, for those companies who do not meet the above criteria (or perhaps only a few of them), a sophisticated barcode scanning solution is probably not necessary.

Here are the differences between the two.

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 ruggedized 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.  

Do You Need to Manage Lot Tacking?

Some businesses need to track lots and serial numbers, in order to manage, recalls more effectively. Lot tracking, or batch tracking, allows for product traceability to keep track of which customers received specific groups (or shipments) of items and when they were received.

If your business has these requirements, it’s best to implement a WMS with barcode scanning functionality since it allows for easy checks on lot numbers and ensures that they are correctly associated with sales orders. This is a far more accurate process than manually comparing and tracking lot numbers and simplifies the process of pulling information in the case of a recall.

About Blue Link ERP:

Blue Link ERP provides integrated inventory and accounting ERP software for small-medium size businesses and is best suited for those in the wholesale and distribution industry/

 

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Ilmie Sham Ku

About the author…

lmie Sham Ku is the Content Marketing Coordinator at Blue Link ERP. When she’s not living in the world of ERP content creation, she enjoys playing the piano (very badly), reading, DIY projects and looking at cat pictures on social media.

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Ilmie Sham Ku

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