Challenges and Benefits of Implementing a Warehouse Management System (WMS)
The software utilizes real-time information to manage and optimize the warehouse's stock. Warehouse management systems have been used since the implementation of computer systems, enabling a simple way to manage storage locations. WMS systems are standalone systems but can also be incorporated into more complex systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERP). Advanced technologies, such as voice recognition, Auto ID Data Capture (AIDC) and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) are incorporated into the ERP systems.
Several vendors offer WMS systems; you may already have WMS functionality if you run an ERP system. If you don't, you can obtain an add-on WMS package. Requirements of your operations may require a best of breed solution rather than getting an add-on from your ERP vendor.
WMS Implementation and Considerations Successful WMS implementation is complex and involves:
• Project planning
• Collection of data for safe racking for warehouses, racking system, and inventory and materials
• Identification of strategies needed in successful operation of the warehouse
• Operation of the warehouse while the system is implemented
• Shipping products while the system is implemented
Businesses vary with respect to the complexity required in their WMS systems. The comprehensive structure and processing within a WMS can vary considerably from one vendor to another; however, the underlying base program will use a combination of item, quantity, unit of measure, location and order information to assess where to place, where to pull, and in what order to complete these procedures.
Some factors to be taken into consideration are:
• Characteristics and physical dimensions of every item in the warehouse, to include:
- Size of items
- Weight of items
- Dimensions of storage areas
• Storage possibilities for every item in the warehouse, to include:
- If the items are stackable
- If items require separate storage in a box or pallet via pallet racking
• Limitations on storage, to include:
- Items that require refrigeration
- Hazardous materials that have special storage requirements
• Entry and removal of items into and from the Warehouse Management System, to include:
- The order in which items are entered or removed
- What types of materials are entered and removed
- Methods of entering and removing items
Costs and Benefits of WMS Implementation
Implementation of WMS requires substantial resources that are usually allocated to the day-to-day operations of the warehouse. This can be quite a strain on warehouse operations. To successfully implement WMS with the least amount of headache, key personnel involved in the system’s implementation should have adequate backup and support to avoid impairing warehouse operations.
Warehouse Management Systems require extensive data; the software is intensive in nature since warehouses are in constant flux. New items are added, and racks are moved. New processes are developed, and placement and removal strategies are changed. Even after the implementation of a WMS, companies may find they need more resources to successfully operate than before the system was implemented. Accuracy is of the utmost importance in order to keep the software in optimum performing condition. Data must be entered accurately, in a timely manner. Ultimately, most Warehouse Management Systems trim labor costs by more efficiently placing and removing materials; however, an added warehouse management position may be required just to operate the software.
Implementation of WMS, despite its complexities and additional required resources, offers significant benefits. These include:
• Reduction of placement and removal cycle times
• Improvement of the accuracy of inventory
• Better organization of stored materials
• Increased storage capacity
• Increased flexibility of warehouse operations
• Improvement of the timeliness of order fulfillment