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What to Look for in Warehouse Management System Software (WMS)

By Michael Dautner, June 20, 2023


In today's fast-paced world of supply chain management, having an efficient and effective warehouse management system (WMS) is crucial for the success of any organization. A WMS is a software solution that helps businesses manage and optimize their warehouse operations, from inventory tracking to order fulfillment. With numerous options available in the market, it's important to know what to look for when choosing the right WMS software for your business needs. In this guide, we will explore the key features and considerations to consider when evaluating WMS solutions.


1. Understanding the Role of a Warehouse Management System

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Definition and Purpose of a WMS

A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software solution designed to control and administer warehouse operations from when goods or materials enter the warehouse until they are shipped out. Its primary purpose is to ensure efficient and cost-effective movement of goods, enabling organizations to effectively manage their inventory and streamline their supply chain processes.

A WMS encompasses a range of functionalities, including inventory tracking, picking, receiving, putaway, and visibility into inventory status. It provides real-time information about the location and availability of products, both within the warehouse and during transit.

Importance of WMS in Supply Chain Management

Warehouses are critical in the supply chain, serving as central hubs for storing and distributing materials and products. A well-implemented WMS is essential for ensuring smooth operations and minimizing disruptions in the supply chain. It helps optimize order fulfillment processes, from receiving raw materials to shipping finished goods.

Without an efficient WMS, the supply chain can be slowed or disrupted due to issues such as improper receipt of materials or misplaced inventory. A WMS tracks inventory, ensures proper storage and sorting of goods, and facilitates accurate shipping and tracking, thus enabling organizations to meet customer demands and maintain a competitive edge.


2. Core Functionality and Features of WMS Software

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Inventory Tracking and Management: One of the key functions of a WMS is to track and manage inventory throughout its lifecycle in the warehouse. This includes capturing detailed information about each item, such as SKU, quantity, location, and status. A robust WMS should provide real-time visibility into inventory levels, allowing businesses to optimize stock levels, reduce carrying costs, and prevent stockouts or overstock situations.

In addition to tracking inventory, a WMS should also support various inventory management tasks, such as cycle counting, stock replenishment, and inventory reconciliation. By automating these processes, businesses can improve accuracy, reduce manual errors, and ensure inventory data integrity.

Order Fulfillment Processes: Efficient order fulfillment is crucial for meeting customer expectations and maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. A WMS streamlines order fulfillment processes, from order receipt to shipment, by providing tools for efficiently picking, packing, and shipping products.

A WMS should offer features such as wave picking, which groups in order to optimize picking routes and minimize travel time. It should also support order prioritization, allowing businesses to fulfill urgent orders first. Additionally, a WMS should enable seamless integration with shipping carriers and provide real-time tracking information to customers.

Real-time Visibility and Reporting: To effectively manage warehouse operations, businesses need real-time visibility into inventory levels, order statuses, and other key performance indicators (KPIs). A WMS should provide intuitive dashboards and reports that offer insights into warehouse activities, such as inbound and outbound shipments, order accuracy, and warehouse capacity utilization.

With real-time visibility, businesses can identify bottlenecks, make data-driven decisions, and optimize warehouse processes. They can also proactively address issues, such as stock shortages or delays in order fulfillment, to ensure smooth operations and minimize customer dissatisfaction.

Integration with Other Systems: A WMS does not operate in isolation but needs to seamlessly integrate with other systems and processes within the organization. Integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, order management systems (OMS), and transportation management systems (TMS) is crucial for end-to-end visibility and coordination of supply chain activities.

A well-integrated WMS enables efficient data exchange and synchronization, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information across systems. This integration also eliminates manual data entry, reduces errors, and improves overall efficiency.


Identifying Key Features and Functionalities of WMS

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In this section, we'll discuss the key items to be on the lookout for. When companies are looking for a Warehouse Management System (WMS), they typically seek several key features and capabilities that can help them optimize their warehouse operations and improve overall efficiency. Here are some of the factors that companies often consider when evaluating a WMS:

Inventory Visibility and Control: A WMS should provide real-time visibility into inventory levels, locations, and status. It should enable accurate tracking of inventory from receipt to shipment, allowing companies to efficiently manage stock levels, reduce stockouts, and avoid overstocking.

Order Management: An effective WMS should streamline order processing by automating order fulfillment workflows, optimizing picking routes, and ensuring accurate order picking and packing. It should also support order prioritization, wave planning, and batch processing to improve overall order throughput.

Warehouse Optimization: Companies look for a WMS that can help optimize their warehouse layout and space utilization. The system should provide features like slotting optimization, which recommends optimal storage locations based on product characteristics and order frequency. Additionally, it should facilitate efficient put-away and picking strategies to minimize travel time and maximize productivity.

Integration and Scalability: Companies want a WMS that seamlessly integrates with their existing enterprise systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, transportation management systems (TMS), and other supply chain applications. Scalability is also crucial, as businesses aim to expand and accommodate increasing order volumes and inventory levels.

Labor Management: Many companies seek a WMS that includes labor management capabilities. This includes features like workload balancing, task prioritization, performance tracking, and reporting to help optimize labor productivity, reduce errors, and monitor workforce efficiency.

Reporting and Analytics: A robust WMS should provide comprehensive reporting and analytics capabilities. It should generate key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance metrics to help companies monitor operational performance, identify bottlenecks, and make data-driven decisions to improve overall warehouse efficiency.

System Flexibility and Customization: Companies often look for a WMS that can be customized to meet their specific operational requirements. The ability to configure workflows, define user roles and permissions, and adapt the system to changing business needs is highly valued.

Integration with Automation Technologies: With the rise of warehouse automation, companies may seek a WMS that can integrate with technologies like robotics, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), and conveyor systems. Integration with these automation technologies can further enhance warehouse efficiency and reduce manual labor.

Mobile Capabilities: A modern WMS should offer mobile capabilities, allowing warehouse staff to perform tasks using mobile devices or handheld scanners. Mobile access enables real-time data capture, inventory management, and task execution, improving overall operational agility and accuracy.

Support and Training: Companies consider the support and training options provided by the WMS vendor. They value vendors that offer comprehensive onboarding, training materials, and ongoing support to ensure a smooth implementation and successful system adoption.

Overall, companies seek a WMS that aligns with their specific operational needs, enhances efficiency, improves inventory accuracy, and provides visibility across the supply chain, ultimately leading to better customer satisfaction and increased profitability.


How Can Businesses Acquire WMS Software?

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Companies can acquire a Warehouse Management System (WMS) through various methods depending on their specific requirements and preferences. Here are a few common approaches:

Off-the-Shelf Software:

There are numerous off-the-shelf WMS software solutions available in the market. Companies can purchase a pre-built WMS that suits their needs and can be quickly implemented. Off-the-shelf software is often cost-effective and can provide a wide range of functionality. However, it may require customization or configuration to align with specific business processes.

Custom Development:

Some companies prefer to develop customized WMS tailored to their unique requirements. This approach involves engaging software development resources, either in-house or through external vendors, to design and build a WMS from scratch. Custom development offers maximum flexibility but can be more time-consuming and costly.

ERP Integration:

If a company already has an existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, it can explore integrating a WMS module into its ERP software. This option leverages the capabilities of the ERP system while adding dedicated warehouse management functionality. It often involves working with the ERP vendor or a third-party WMS provider specializing in ERP integrations.

Software as a Service (SaaS):

Companies can opt for a cloud-based WMS solution delivered through the Software as a Service model. With SaaS, the WMS software is hosted by a vendor, and users access it via the Internet. This approach offers scalability, flexibility, and reduced upfront costs, as it typically operates on a subscription-based payment model.

Open-Source Solutions:

Open-source WMS software is available for companies that prefer to utilize community-developed software that can be customized and modified according to their needs. Open-source solutions offer flexibility, cost savings, and a vibrant user community for support. However, they may require technical expertise and ongoing maintenance.

Vendor Selection and Procurement:

When acquiring a WMS, companies typically go through a vendor selection process. They evaluate different WMS providers based on factors such as functionality, industry expertise, scalability, support services, integration capabilities, and pricing. Once a suitable vendor is chosen, the company negotiates the contract and procurement terms.

It's worth noting that acquiring a WMS is not just about selecting the software. Implementation is a crucial step that involves configuring the system, migrating data, integrating with other software applications, training users, and conducting testing before going live.

The approach to acquiring a WMS will depend on factors such as the company's budget, timelines, specific requirements, existing systems, and the level of control and customization desired. It's essential to conduct thorough research, evaluate different options, and engage relevant stakeholders to ensure a successful WMS implementation.


Warehouse Management System Software—The User's Experience

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The ease of use of Warehouse Management System (WMS) software can vary depending on the specific software solution, its design, user interface, and the user's familiarity with the system. Here are a few factors to consider:

User Interface Design

A well-designed user interface can greatly contribute to the ease of use. Intuitive navigation, clear labeling, and a logical flow of screens and functions can make it easier for users to understand and operate the WMS software.

Training and Documentation

Adequate training and comprehensive documentation provided by the WMS vendor can significantly enhance user adoption and ease of use. Proper training equips users with the knowledge and skills required to effectively utilize the software's features and functionalities.

Configurability and Customization

The ability to configure the WMS software to match specific business processes and user preferences can improve ease of use. When the software aligns closely with existing workflows and terminology, users can adapt to it more easily.

System Integration

Seamless integration with other software systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or Transportation Management Systems (TMS), can simplify data exchange and reduce the need for manual data entry or duplicate work. This integration can contribute to a smoother user experience.

User Feedback and Iterative Improvements

WMS software that actively seeks user feedback and incorporates it into iterative improvements can enhance usability over time. Regular updates and enhancements based on user suggestions can address pain points and make the software easier to use.

It's important to note that while some WMS software solutions strive for simplicity and ease of use, others may offer more advanced functionalities that require a learning curve. The complexity of warehouse operations and specific industry requirements can also influence the perceived difficulty of using a WMS.

To determine the ease of use of a specific WMS software, it's advisable to request demonstrations or trial versions, engage key stakeholders in the evaluation process, and gather feedback from potential users. Conducting usability testing and seeking references from existing customers of the software vendor can also provide insights into the software's user-friendliness.


Leveraging WMS Through ERP Integration

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Oftentimes, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can include a Warehouse Management System (WMS) as one of its modules or components. ERP systems are comprehensive software solutions that integrate various business functions and processes within an organization, such as finance, human resources, supply chain management, manufacturing, and more.

While an ERP system typically provides a broad range of functionality to manage different aspects of a business, including inventory and logistics, the depth and capabilities of its warehouse management features may vary. Some ERP systems offer robust WMS functionality as part of their core modules, while others may have more basic inventory management features that can be enhanced with a dedicated WMS module or integration with a standalone WMS.

The WMS module within an ERP system typically focuses on managing warehouse operations, optimizing inventory movement, tracking stock levels, and facilitating efficient order fulfillment processes. It may include features like inventory control, order management, picking and packing optimization, slotting, labor management, and reporting.

Integrating a WMS within an ERP system can provide several benefits, including seamless data flow between different modules, improved visibility and control over warehouse operations, streamlined inventory management, and better synchronization with other business processes. It allows for a centralized platform where data from various departments can be accessed and utilized for more efficient decision-making.

However, it's important to note that not all ERP systems have a built-in WMS module, and in such cases, companies may choose to implement a standalone WMS solution and integrate it with their ERP system to achieve the desired functionality and synchronization between warehouse operations and other business processes.


WMS Software and The Food Industry

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Yes, food companies commonly use Warehouse Management System (WMS) software to optimize their warehouse operations and efficiently manage their inventory and distribution processes. WMS software can be particularly beneficial for food companies that deal with perishable goods, have complex supply chains, or need to comply with specific regulations related to food safety and traceability. Here are some reasons why food companies choose to implement WMS software:

Inventory Management

WMS software gives food companies real-time visibility into their inventory levels, locations, and expiration dates. This helps them monitor stock levels, reduce wastage, and maintain optimal inventory levels to minimize the risk of stockouts or overstocking.

Lot and Batch Tracking

Food companies often need to track lot or batch numbers associated with their products for traceability purposes. WMS software can capture and store this information, allowing for accurate and efficient tracking of products throughout the supply chain. In case of quality issues or recalls, the system can quickly identify affected lots or batches.

Compliance with Regulations

The food industry is subject to various regulations and standards regarding food safety, labeling, and tracking. WMS software can help food companies comply with these regulations by providing accurate documentation, tracking product attributes, and generating reports required for regulatory audits.

FIFO and FEFO Management

First In, First Out (FIFO) and First Expired, First Out (FEFO) are important principles in food inventory management. WMS software can enforce these principles by optimizing picking and replenishment processes, ensuring that older products are consumed or sold first to minimize waste and maintain product freshness.

Temperature Control

Food companies often deal with temperature-sensitive products, such as frozen or refrigerated goods. WMS software can integrate with temperature monitoring systems and alert warehouse staff if there are deviations from the required temperature ranges, helping to maintain product quality and safety.

Order Fulfillment Efficiency

WMS software streamlines order fulfillment processes in food companies by optimizing picking routes, suggesting efficient picking sequences, and automating order allocation and confirmation. This improves order accuracy, reduces errors, and enhances overall operational efficiency.

Vendor Management

WMS software can facilitate vendor management processes in food companies, such as tracking supplier performance, managing incoming shipments, and ensuring the quality and safety of incoming raw materials or ingredients.

Recall Management

In the event of a product recall, WMS software can help food companies quickly identify and locate affected products in the warehouse and throughout the supply chain. This enables prompt and targeted recall actions, reducing the impact on consumers and mitigating potential reputational damage.

Overall, WMS software is a valuable tool for food companies to optimize their warehouse operations, maintain food safety standards, comply with regulations, and improve overall supply chain efficiency. It helps them effectively manage their inventory, reduce waste, enhance traceability, and ensure timely and accurate order fulfillment.



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inecta is a leading provider of comprehensive ERP solutions that incorporate robust Warehouse Management System (WMS) software. Their ERP systems seamlessly integrate WMS functionality, empowering businesses to optimize their warehouse operations and enhance supply chain efficiency. With inecta's ERP solutions, companies gain real-time visibility into inventory levels, locations, and movements, enabling precise control and tracking of stock from receipt to shipment. The WMS module within inecta's ERP empowers users with powerful features such as order management, inventory control, picking and packing optimization, labor management, and reporting. By integrating WMS into their ERP software, inecta ensures that warehouse processes seamlessly align with other critical business functions, facilitating smooth data flow and enabling comprehensive management of operations. inecta's WMS capabilities empower companies to streamline workflows, enhance order fulfillment, optimize inventory utilization, and make data-driven decisions to drive overall operational excellence and customer satisfaction. Click here to schedule a demo to see how inecta's ERP can help you with your business's WMS needs. 

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3 simple steps to find your Food ERP

*We will never sell your information. Keeping your data and privacy secure is our highest concern.