A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is basically a system designed to track the incoming and outgoing stock in a warehouse. These systems started out as Automatic Detection Collection systems (ADC)s, but they have now expanded to include the tracking of your entire pallet racking system, your fork lift trucks, your staff, and your . The basic premise is that the system is capable of tracking your entire stocktake, rota and movement from start to finish. This is understandably a very useful set of information to have as a warehouse manager but whether this is really necessary is another consideration entirely.
Even as WMS develops and gains a greater level of analysis, the basic idea of the system remains the same. It is designed to track and monitor stock level so that you can be alerted when you are low on stock or behind on deliveries. WMS should basically:
- Be very flexible so that it never interferes with your operations.
- Follow user defined requirements and be able to use live information to carry out these tasks.
- Be connected with the data collection machines so the records happen without any serious human intervention.
Is WMS really worth it?
Many warehouses are not in need of WMS. Whilst it is undoubtedly good to have extra information about what is happening in your warehouse, the large set up costs can counteract this benefit. There is a huge set up cost for a WMS and you will need to handle all of the data and manage the system. Because of these factors it is important to consider whether the investment of time and money is worth it.
The claims made about WMS
- WMS will reduce your labour costs significantly.
- WMS will reduce the amount of inventory that you need in your warehouse.
- WMS will improve the customer experience by speeding up delivery.
- WMS will utilise a greater proportion of your warehouse space.
- WMS will increase your warehouse accuracy.
The reality is that WMS will probably increase your warehouse accuracy. You will also benefit from reduced labour costs if you are able to ensure that the cost of running the WMS is less than you are saving in labour costs. Your warehouse will also most likely be able to reduce customer cycle times through the use of a WMS. Other than this, it is unlikely that there will be any recognisable difference after installing WMS. There is potential to increase stock space by analysing the data that you have collected, but this will comment more on your pre-WMS practices than it will on the success of WMS.
The setup of a WMS can be very extensive. Your system will need to know what your products are, where they are best picked from, where they are best replenished to, and the most efficient sequence in which this can take place. This is a simple overview of the requirements but this system setup can be a lengthy one because of the diversity of products in most warehouses.
The conclusion on WMS
WMS will undoubtedly allow you to reduce your costs and improve your efficiency if it is installed correctly. The decision basically comes down to whether the system will provide more benefits or more disadvantages in your warehouse. Remember that in most warehouses the implementation of a WMS comes alongside the creation of an Information Services department to manage the Warehouse Management System. If you can make greater saving than this cost, then it is probably a good idea to install a WMS in your warehouse.