What is WMS, and what is it for?
If you run an online store or just store and sell products, you need a professional tool to manage products in your warehouse (especially if they are counted in thousands) and orders coming from your customers. That’s, in short, what WMS (Warehouse Management System) is all about. In this post, we will show you everything you need to know about WMS and what you can use such a tool for.
If you’ve recently started and you don’t have many products in your store, you can deal with logistics and storing products on your own. Everything changes when your business starts to grow, and you store tens, hundreds, and thousands of products in your warehouse. Managing all that manually is close to impossible. This is where WMS starts being useful.
What are WMS systems?
These are digital tools designed to help sellers, distributors, and logistics companies organize work in their warehouses. WMS systems, depending on their capabilities, can support you in:
- Managing your supply chains
- Tracking and auditing inventory
- Managing orders from your customers
- Preparing parcels to be shipped (e.g., WMS can instruct your workers on where to find products that should be sent to a particular customer)
- Managing your warehouse team and their work
The best WMS systems automate the vast majority of everyday work for you, so your business can save a lot of time managing products and orders.
How to start using a Warehouse Management System
WMS platforms work similarly to ERP software, meaning – you can’t just download and start using them in your warehouse. Your WMS has to be adjusted to your company’s specificity and needs. As a result, you have to be prepared to invest at least a few weeks before everything is fully ready to work.
Today, most WMS platforms work in the cloud, which shortens the time necessary to get everything running (for example, SnapFulfil, a cloud-based WMS, estimates deployment in around 45 days). Additionally, this way, your WMS is fully scalable and adjustable – it grows with your business without the need to invest more in IT resources. What you will surely need, though, is at least one experienced IT specialist who knows how WMS systems work.
What do WMS platforms do?
Shortly put, they facilitate all of your logistics-related processes, typically:
- Goods inbound
- Preparing (picking and packing), fulfilling, and tracking orders
- Shipping and customer service procedures
- Managing returns and complaints
- Auditing and managing inventory (usually in real time)
- Verifying the correctness of your data (e.g., delivery with the order, compliance of EAN codes and barcodes, etc.)
Of course, WMS platforms also have extensive analytics and reporting features so that you can easily track your store’s performance.
What are the benefits of WMS systems?
You already know the main benefit – time savings. However, if you have a decent WMS at your disposal, you can also improve your warehouse’s productivity (WMS helps you ensure there are no order delays or mix-ups, you usually can also send more parcels per day). Secondly, you can cooperate with a professional logistics partner, e.g., a fulfillment company that can take care of all the warehouse work, including outsourcing the warehouse itself. Thirdly, advanced WMS systems can also facilitate your accounting – some of them come with tax and administrative features, so you don’t have to think about how much tax you have to pay.
Three types of Warehouse Management Systems
You already know the first type – these are cloud-based WMS platforms. Thanks to the cloud technology, they are fully scalable and also cheaper than your second option, which are standalone systems. They work on-premises, meaning they must be installed on your hardware. This option is less and less popular because it’s not very scalable. The last type of WMS system is ERP. Many of them have built-in WMS functionalities so that you can manage all the resources in your company using just one tool. That’s the most advanced and versatile solution, but it’s rather for the largest companies.
How can you choose the WMS system?
The first thing you need to know is whether you actually need such a system. If you ship several dozen orders per month, you can probably handle that amount of work independently. When you start feeling that it’s too much, you should opt for a WMS. Typically, that happens around 800-1,000 parcels per month.
The next step is to compare different options. Find out what WMS platforms are available in your country and compare their offers. Pick the solution that ticks all of your boxes. The last step is to find out what’s the implementation process like – what do you have to do? Can the provider help you with the deployment? Do you have someone on your team who’s capable of completing the integration with your store/company? You can make an informed decision when you have answers to all these questions.