Warehouse management software – or WMS (Warehouse Management System) – is an application created to optimize logistic and storage processes. It is the answer to the needs of an ever evolving market in which warehouse management plays an increasingly crucial role in terms of competitiveness, reliability and efficiency.
WMS software is designed to implement and speed up all goods management operations: from the inbound/outbound flow of goods, to their placing, picking and shipping.
It introduces some valuable features such as warehouse mapping and real-time inventory control, with solid improvements in terms of inventory management and tracking of goods along the supply chain.
And while a WMS improves the management of a traditional warehouse, its maximum potential is achieved when it is combined with an automated vertical storage system.
Automated vertical storage systems are in fact a must when the goal is to reduce costs, times, errors and obviously space. In fact, the vertical storage of goods leads to an up to 90% reduction of the footprint, increasing both the speed and safety of operators given that they are able to receive any required item with a simple click.
The combination of a WMS with a vertical storage system ensures better control of:
- Stock management
- Rotation rate
- Optimization of routes and flows
- Operator management.
The final fundamental step needed to maximize the benefits of automation and of the logistical efficiency guaranteed by a vertical storage system and a WMS is the integration of the software with the company’s ERP and other IT systems.
From the moment of installation, automated vertical storage systems are “connected” and integrated to simplify, speed up, and optimize all warehouse processes, ensuring maximum efficiency from a management and logistical standpoint.
Of course, each warehouse management program is different from others, just as each company has its own specific needs.
When it comes to choosing a WMS, it is important to have a clear idea about the warehouse software that best suits a company’s needs. For this purpose, the most common situations are illustrated here below.
First of all, to get the most out of a WMS it is important to have a precise plan regarding the critical data to be monitored.
1. Configurable WMS: from the storage system to your ERP
The first situation is that of a company that already has an ERP and decides to install an automatic vertical storage system managed by its own WMS software.
In this case, what really makes the difference is the ability of the software application to integrate with the existing system: this depends on the configurability of the WMS.
By this we mean the software’s ability to integrate (by means of specific interface protocols) with the processes and methodologies adopted internally at the operational, logistic, and accounting levels.
WMSs are designed to simplify the daily management of the warehouse and are the result of research on the operational processes of storage centers. They are designed to identify and suggest the least time consuming solutions at each stage: from the management of inbound/outbound goods to that of operators, up to the transfer of accounting data to the ERP.
With a configurable WMS it is possible to define the program’s functions and actions based on the company’s modus operandi and the activities managed, automating and optimizing them.
2. The “Bridge” solution
Another situation is that of a company with an ERP already set up to perform some of the functions of a WMS and equipped with an automatic vertical storage system. In this case, it is possible to create a “bridge” solution, that is, software that connects the two and enables control of the logistics and storage operations from the management system.
This solution has some limitations, however. A warehouse management program, designed and dedicated specifically for this purpose, will always ensure a greater level of detail, interaction, and monitoring than that offered by an ERP.
3. A custom WMS
Finally, the third option is to work with a software designer to create a custom and tailor-made WMS: this is an excellent solution from the point of view of the final results, but very expensive in terms of design costs and times.
As noted, modern warehouse inventory software is already set up to meet the “functional” needs of warehouses. These systems were specifically created to simplify the operational management of the warehouse, not to complicate it.
With a well-designed WMS, even the most complex methodologies and processes of a company can be advantageously configured.
Choosing a warehouse management system
Thus, as seen in this article, two factors are particularly important in the selection of the best warehouse management software: the configurability of the software application and its integration with the company’s ERP.
When choosing the ideal WMS for your company, you must undoubtedly consider your budget and business needs, as well as future needs.
In fact, the revolution brought about by WMS in the field of storage and logistics, together with the greater management control ensured by digital applications, opens the doors to new possibilities and developments for companies.
How to optimize picking operations?
Picking is the heart of any warehouse, and it is an activity that must be designed and organized very carefully. Download our in-depth analysis on how to optimize picking.