Integrated Warehouse Management Systems: The Benefits

Warehouse Management Systems

Every sort of business can benefit from better organization. Whether you’re training up your staff, optimizing your layout, or increasing backend efficiency, when you take steps to organize your business better, you increase efficiency and profitability.

For both online and physical retailers, a good warehouse management system, or WMS, is a key organizational tool for even a large portable building. A strong WMS improves inventory control, makes workflows more efficient, and speeds up the warehouse’s operations. Modern WMSs come with a host of features intended to cut down on the number of errors and increase the efficiency of your warehouse. These systems aren’t soulless, though; like every good retail tool, a good WMS can and should be focused on making your customers’ experiences as positive as possible.

Here are some of the biggest benefits to look forward to when you implement a warehouse management system:

More Efficient Space Usage

Smarter inventory management reduces the total amount of warehouse space you need. Not only does a WMS make your stocking and pulling activities more accurate, but it also produces insightful records of the flow of goods through your warehouse. Accurate high-level insights on your true inventory needs will allow you to cut down on both overstock and understock problems. The net result is less overall space required.

Greater Customer Satisfaction

As noted above, a good WMS increases the accuracy of all warehouse operations. Cutting down on the number of errors created while fulfilling orders translates directly into happier customers. A quality WMS will also reduce accidental damage and help get purchased goods into customers’ hands faster. Your warehouse management system can make a significant positive contribution to customer satisfaction and reduce the number of complaints you need to deal with.

Quality Control Features Can Reduce Shipping Errors

One common source of customer complaints is mistakenly shipping them an incorrect or incomplete order. This is a correctable problem, and an integrated WMS with quality control features can fix it. Quality control in warehouse operations simply means checking picked items against their purchase order before sending the order out for shipping. With a good WMS, this step can be smoothly integrated into standard warehouse operations.

Problems corrected by WMS quality control include:

* Erroneous shipments

* Loss of money and time correcting shipping errors

* Negative word-of-mouth generated by unsatisfied customers

 Better Management Of Multiple Facilities

With a warehouse management system, governing an inventory split across multiple facilities becomes far easier. The WMS can identify potential problems like unbalanced stock across multiple warehouses and even generate instructions to correct the problem (by transferring stock from location to location) automatically. Giving you the ability to coordinate between multiple facilities increases the speed and accuracy with which you respond to customer orders.

Establish Quantity Buffers

Retailers who sell through multiple locations, such as combining online and physical selling, face additional inventory management challenges. With a WMS capable of setting quantity buffers, you can prevent inadvertent over or under-selling. A buffer does this by capping the number of products made available through a given storefront.

Here’s how a quantity buffer works: Say your warehouse contains 500 pairs of socks. If you want to limit the number of pairs you sell through your website, you can set a maximum buffer of 100 and let your WMS hold the remaining units in your warehouse. After the online inventory is sold, your WMS can either update the stock automatically or notify you to take further action.

Better Inventory Management Across Multiple Points Of Sale

Operating a warehouse management system gives your retail business a useful safety net by keeping your inventory aligned across different points of sale. When your WMS is connected to a physical POS, for instance, the system will adjust the available stock in your warehouse to reflect sales made through other POSs or online. Keeping your inventory consistent across multiple sales channels eliminates the guesswork from managing your stocks.

Many WMSs that provide this functionality describe it as a feature called “quantity sync.” This is designed to keep your inventory consistent regardless of the number of different sales channels you’re operating. This enables you to catch and stop sales when your WMS reports your total stock is insufficient to meet a customer’s demand. The tight integration throughout your inventory also minimizes the risk of letting popular products go out of stock.

Faster Inventory Counts

Thanks to modern technology, customers’ expectations are on the rise when it comes to shipping speed. Meeting these demands can be challenging if your inventory isn’t being managed well. A WMS enables you to count your inventory faster and speed up the shipping process in a variety of ways. Examples include:

  • Digital picking
  • Better physical warehouse organization
  • Barcoding

Digital Picking

The pick list is a physical summary of all the various inventory items it will take to fulfill a specific order. Pick lists are one of the points where your fulfillment system is most vulnerable to human error.

A WMS with digital picking features can significantly reduce this vulnerability. A sufficiently advanced system can actually provide pickers with physical directions and even adjust them on the fly when necessary. Integrating the picking process with inventory management can also make inventory tracking real-time accurate.

Forecasting From Accurate Warehouse Reports

Modern businesses that use technology wisely can make decisions and predictions with greater confidence. This is one of the areas where a good WMS can become particularly powerful. By compiling comprehensive data on inventory changes and transactions, the WMS can generate accurate and insightful reports on what happens in your warehouse. You could, for example, use year-end reports to assess warehouse performance and make well-informed decisions about adjusting your warehouse operations for the coming year. The data collected and reported on by your WMS also delivers tremendous insights on sales. You can use sales reports to inform your future decisions on when, where, and how you source your products.

The many formidable advantages of a warehouse management system make it a must-have for merchants operating wholly or partially in the eCommerce sector. While it’s never too late to upgrade your warehouse operations, the wisest course of action is to plan a smart WMS implementation from the outset. Good systems grow with your business and protect you from inventory headaches as you expand.