16 Key features of warehouse management systems (WMS)

Are you finding your warehouse operations inefficient or searching for methods to optimize your supply chain? Well, Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) can be your solution. These systems streamline processes, reduce errors, and increase productivity. A report by MHI and Deloitte states that 80% of survey respondents believe digital supply chains will be the predominant model within five years. This data underlines the importance of systems like WMS. In this blog post, we will delve into the 16 key WMS features. Each feature is backed by industry data and authoritative sources, ensuring you get the most accurate and reliable information to boost your warehouse efficiency and maintain a competitive edge.

Key Takeaways

  • Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are software solutions designed to optimize warehouse operations, with features such as inventory tracking and control, receiving and put-away processes, order picking & packing, and shipping & labour management.
  • Top-tier WMS also offer advanced features like AI capabilities for automation & optimization of supply chain operations.
  • Reporting analytics enable data-driven decisions to improve efficiency in warehouses.

What is warehouse management systems (WMS)?

A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software platform that streamlines warehouse operations and inventory management. As stated by Gartner, a prominent research and advisory firm, WMS solutions are primarily designed to manage the operational aspects of running a warehouse. They focus on inventory management, labour management, and the movement of goods within a warehouse (Gartner, 2021).

Advanced warehouse management systems, also known as warehouse management software, cater to various facets of warehouse management, such as inventory management, order processing, labour management, and more. They have become an indispensable tool for warehouse managers, aiding businesses in refining their processes and achieving superior results.

The primary objective of WMS is to assist warehouse managers in improving efficiency and productivity through various features, enabling them to meet customer demands and maintain a competitive edge in the market. As per a report by MHI and Deloitte, 80% of survey respondents believe that digital supply chains will be the predominant model within five years, emphasizing the importance of implementing systems like WMS (MHI and Deloitte, 2020).

What are the key features of warehouse management systems?

Inventory tracking, receiving, order picking, shipping, labor management, among others, are key features of warehouse management systems. These features are essential for efficient warehouse operations, as they help warehouse managers ensure optimal stock levels, location management, and real-time inventory visibility.

Moreover, WMS features can assist in managing inventory across multiple warehouses, making them suitable for companies with complex supply chains and storage requirements.

What are the core features of a standard WMS?

Inventory management, order management, labour management, and reporting capabilities form the core features of a standard WMS. Inventory management involves tracking, organizing, and controlling the inventory within a warehouse, while order management focuses on regulating product flow through the warehouse and enhancing shipping operations.

Labour management is vital in scheduling, task assignment, performance metrics, and employee utilization tracking. Reporting capabilities of a standard WMS include generating various reports such as warehouse summary, order fulfilment, vendor, cycle count, inventory reports, and more.

1. Inventory Tracking and Control

WMS’s inventory tracking and control are vital to maintaining precise stock levels, managing locations, and providing real-time inventory visibility. The receiving function of WMS, for example, helps reduce receiving mistakes, while integration with an ERP system facilitates real-time inventory visibility and warehouse layout planning.

By providing real-time data on inventory levels, WMS helps businesses optimize warehouse operations and enhance overall efficiency. This results in improved forecasting of customer demands, protection from inventory loss, and better warehouse productivity.

2. Receiving and Put-away

WMS’s receiving and put-away features enhance the process of accepting and storing incoming goods, minimize errors, and boost storage efficiency. Automation integration in WMS can significantly enhance efficiency and speed by removing labour-intensive manual data-entry processes and permitting picking robots to locate and deliver materials.

Conveyor systems play an important role in Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). They enable the efficient transfer of items throughout the warehouse and directly to shipping without needing manual labour. Picking robots, however, are utilized to locate and deliver materials, thus eliminating the need for manual labor to transport products between shipping facilities.

3. Order Picking and Packing

The order picking and packing features of WMS expedite the customer order fulfilment process, decrease errors, and enhance productivity. These features enable warehouse staff to efficiently pick and pack orders by providing picking lists directly on their mobile devices, guiding them to the location of each product, and specifying the quantity to pick.

WMS also supports different picking methods, such as picking by item, by group, or by zone, allowing for efficient order fulfilment tailored to the specific needs of the warehouse and its customers. Furthermore, it ensures that packing is performed in the correct order and under customer requirements, ultimately leading to increased customer satisfaction.

4. Shipping

WMS’s shipping features oversee the order dispatch process, guaranteeing precise and prompt deliveries. By automating and optimizing the order fulfilment process, WMS helps enhance shipping accuracy and timeliness, ensuring that orders are processed quickly and customers receive their products promptly.

Moreover, WMS provides real-time tracking of inventory levels, order processing, and shipping, allowing businesses to optimize their supply chain processes and satisfy customer demands.

5. Labor Management

WMS’s labour management features facilitate the monitoring and optimising of workforce performance, scheduling, and safety. By providing visibility and access to operational results and peer comparisons, labor management enables managers to track KPIs, reward stronger workers, and identify those needing additional training.

Employing automated schedulers for accurately planning and forecasting the required personnel by day, zone, and job type according to the procurement and shipping schedule further enhances labour management capabilities.

6. Yard Management

WMS’s yard management features offer:

  • Visibility and control over vehicle and goods movement within the warehouse yard
  • Real-time visibility of yard assets
  • Yard driver task optimization
  • Dock scheduling
  • Other advanced features

Yard management in WMS ensures smooth and efficient coordination between warehouse and transportation operations, resulting in increased efficiency and cost savings for the entire supply chain.

7. Barcode Scanning and RFID Integration

Integrating barcode scanning and RFID in WMS allows for precise and efficient inventory tracking across the warehouse. By providing improved visibility, faster scanning, and more accurate data capture, these features help ensure precise inventory tracking and management.

Moreover, RFID tags do not require a line-of-sight scan like barcodes, enabling more rapid and efficient scanning and offering comprehensive information about the inventory.

8. Space Optimization

WMS’s space optimization features contribute to maximizing storage capacity and enhancing the warehouse layout. By optimizing warehouse flow and assessing the most effective use of floor space according to task and material characteristics, WMS can help avoid oversells and out-of-stock scenarios, ultimately optimizing warehouse operations and boosting productivity.

9. Batch and Serial Number Tracking

WMS’s batch and serial number tracking features guarantee precise product tracking and meet traceability requirements. By assigning and tracking unique batch or serial numbers to products, WMS can identify and trace specific items throughout the supply chain, ensuring proper inventory control and compliance with industry regulations.

Moreover, by storing serial number tracking histories in the WMS, businesses can quickly access information about the:

  • Origin
  • Time frames
  • Condition
  • Manufacture dates

of products, enhancing traceability and streamlining inventory management through inventory data and quality control measures.

10. Reporting and Analytics

WMS’s reporting and analytics features offer insights into warehouse performance, identifying improvement areas and facilitating data-driven decisions. By generating various operational data reports such as:

  • inventory reports
  • order reports
  • labour reports
  • space reports
  • KPI reports

WMS allows warehouse managers to monitor performance, identify bottlenecks and performance gaps, and supply insights for optimization.

This ultimately leads to enhanced warehouse efficiency and better overall management.

11. Integration Capabilities

WMS’s integration capabilities ensure a smooth connection with other systems like ERP, TMS, and e-commerce platforms. By integrating with these systems, WMS can provide end-to-end visibility and control over the entire supply chain, enabling accurate tracking of shipments, streamlined processes, and improved efficiency.

Moreover, integrating a WMS with an ERP system offers numerous advantages, such as:

  • Decreased fulfilment time
  • Increased inventory accuracy
  • Enhanced customer service
  • Augmented operational efficiency.

12. Multi-warehouse Management

WMS’s multi-warehouse management features facilitate centralized control and oversight across warehouse locations. By facilitating the tracking and management of inventory, orders, and shipments across multiple warehouses, WMS offers a comprehensive view of the entire supply chain, allowing businesses to optimize stock levels and reduce costs.

This particularly benefits companies with complex supply chains and multiple storage facilities.

13. Cross-docking

WMS’s cross-docking features promote the efficient transfer of goods from receiving to shipping, reducing storage needs. By providing accurate and timely information and communication between the warehouse management system and the transportation system, WMS helps facilitate a leaner supply chain, faster order fulfilment, and reduced costs.

Cross-docking is especially advantageous in retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, freight carriers, automotive, food and beverage, consumer goods, chemicals, and consumer goods.

14. Returns Management

WMS’s returns management features include:

  • Simplifying the handling of returned goods
  • Guaranteeing precise inventory adjustments
  • Enabling effective processing
  • Optimizing the flow of products from the consumer back to the warehouse
  • Enabling accurate tracking of returned products
  • Replenishing inventory for reselling
  • Managing returns processing, repairs, return-to-vendor, and customer portals.

This helps streamline the returns management process and ensures effective handling of returned goods.

15. Safety and Security Features

WMS’s safety and security features contribute to a safe working environment and offer protection against theft and damage. Some essential safety features in warehouse management systems include:

  • Hazard identification and risk assessment
  • Forklift safety measures
  • Material storage safety protocols
  • Hazardous chemical management
  • Fire detection and suppression systems
  • Security measures

These features help ensure the safety and security of the warehouse and its operations.

On the security side, WMS employs access control, surveillance cameras, alarm systems, inventory tracking, and environmental controls to protect against theft and damage.

16. Mobile Capabilities

WMS’s mobile capabilities enable warehouse staff to:

  • Access and update information instantly
  • Enhance efficiency and accuracy
  • Provide real-time inventory control and tracking on mobile devices
  • Efficiently perform tasks while maintaining accurate and up-to-date information on inventory levels, order status, and other warehouse-related data.

This ultimately leads to increased productivity, reduced errors, and improved warehouse operations.

Looking for your own Warehouse Management System? Make an appointment for a demo

FAQ

This final section addresses common queries about warehouse management systems. These questions and answers will provide additional insights and clarification on certain aspects of WMS, helping readers gain a deeper understanding of the features and benefits of these powerful tools.

Which advanced features are seen in top-tier WMS solutions?

Advanced features in top-tier WMS solutions include AI capabilities, real-time data synchronization, and advanced analytics.

Does every modern WMS support AI capabilities?

Not all modern WMS support AI capabilities, but it is becoming increasingly common in top-tier solutions.

Are barcode scanning and RFID essential features in a WMS?

Barcode scanning and RFID are essential features in a WMS for accurate and efficient inventory tracking.

What is warehouse layout optimization in WMS?

Warehouse layout optimization in WMS involves maximizing storage capacity and improving the overall organization of the warehouse.

What constitutes the order fulfilment feature in WMS?

Order fulfilment in WMS includes order picking, packing, and shipping processes.

How do traditional WMS features differ from modern WMS features?

Traditional WMS features focus on basic inventory and order management, while modern WMS features include advanced analytics, AI capabilities, and integration with other systems.

Which feature is more crucial for large-scale operations: real-time data synchronization or AI capabilities?

For large-scale operations, real-time data synchronization and AI capabilities are crucial for efficient warehouse management.

How do WMS features cater to e-commerce businesses

WMS features to cater to e-commerce businesses by providing seamless integration with e-commerce platforms, efficient order fulfilment, and returns management.

What role does the reporting and analytics feature play in warehouse efficiency?

Reporting and analytics features in WMS help identify areas for improvement, monitor performance, and make data-driven decisions to enhance warehouse efficiency.

How do WMS features integrate with transportation management systems?

WMS features integrate with transportation management systems to provide end-to-end visibility and control over the supply chain.

In what ways do AI-enabled features enhance the functionality of WMS?

AI-enabled features in WMS enhance functionality by automating processes, optimizing workflows, and providing advanced analytics for data-driven decision-making.

Summary

In conclusion, warehouse management systems offer many features designed to optimize and streamline warehouse operations. From inventory tracking and control to advanced analytics and AI capabilities, these tools can significantly improve efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction. By understanding and implementing the various WMS features discussed in this blog post, businesses can stay competitive in today’s fast-paced market and ensure the smooth operation of their supply chains.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is warehousing with features?

Warehousing is storing goods until they’re ready for shipment, allowing businesses to manage inventory and optimize their shipment process more efficiently.

What is the main functionality of WMS?

The main functionality of WMS is to enable efficient and cost-effective movements through warehouses, including tracking inventory with AIDC technology such as barcodes or RFID, picking, receiving and away.

What is the 5 essential warehouse management process?

Effective warehouse management involves receiving, putaway, storage, picking, packing, and shipping processes. Optimizing these processes helps to reduce costs and errors and improve perfect order rates. It also affects inventory management, shipping, distribution, and retail order fulfilment.

Are barcode scanning and RFID essential features in a warehouse management system?

Barcode scanning and RFID are essential in warehouse management, providing accurate and efficient inventory tracking.

How do AI-enabled features enhance the functionality of a warehouse management system?

AI-enabled features allow a warehouse management system to automate processes, optimize workflows and provide advanced analytics, enhancing its functionality.

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