Considering that they weren’t even a thing not too long ago, it’s difficult to imagine how anyone can run a warehouse without a proper warehouse management system (WMS). But to understand how a warehouse management system works, you still need to understand traditional warehouse operations, staffing requirements and all the processes they perform.
The Role of a Warehouse Management System
Warehouse management systems have been around for as long as warehouses. Even if inventory counts were tracked with scratches on the wall, that was a warehouse management system.
For our purpose, a WMS is an integrated suite of software programs that each fulfill one requirement of complete warehouse management. These can include the following.
- Shipping & Receiving – If a warehouse is traditionally a place to store goods, then the first thing a WMS needs to do is track the goods coming into receiving and those going out of shipping.
- Inventory Management Systems – Often confused with a WMS, a system for inventory control can use many of the same warehouse functions, including warehouse space tracking and barcoding. But, if there is one way to understand the basic difference between an inventory management system (IMS) and a WMS, it is this: an IMS can be a part of a WMS, but a WMS is usually not a part of an IMS.
- Kitting and Pick Orders – Warehousing services go far beyond merely storing goods. In some cases, parts or a series of goods with their own SKUs are “kitted” to create a new SKU. Order management and fulfillment can also play a part in a WMS by creating and tracking pick and pack orders.
- Warehouse Staff Management – They can be among the largest costs of managing a warehouse. Understanding their performance can help improve processes and reduce costs.
- Reporting – Often available in real-time, comprehensive reporting is a key feature of digital WMS. never before have warehouse managers been able to “see” so much data, in the form of charts and graphs, to make more informed decision about managing the warehouse.
If you found this post helpful, check out our recent article on how can a supply chain reduce waste.