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The day to day operation of a warehouse needs a centralized system to control where products are, how much of it there is, and where it needs to go when it is being shipped. These are complicated tasks that must be done quickly and with precision. Warehouse operations are such a critical aspect of your business, it protects and organizes your on-hand inventory, it allows you to deliver your product to your customers correctly and on time, and it keeps your re-order levels, so you know what to order and when.

Your warehouse management system (WMS) is software that makes sure the entire supply chain runs smoothly. Here are the things it makes easier:

Receiving goods – The WMS provides a single process for ensuring all incoming shipments are handled properly and stored correctly. The WMS also plans the warehouse by storing the products by weight and size so that the entire warehouse space is organized and efficient.

Tracking inventory – Your WMS can pinpoint where an individual product is, when it was made, how long it has been there, how much more of it you have, and when to order more to prevent shortages. Tracking is also important for industries that have to comply with FDA regulations

Picking and shipping – Your business should already have inventory management and valuation rules such as LIFO or FIFO and your WMS will pick your inventory according to these.

Tracking and visibility – Some industries require certain lots be tracked for expiration dates. This is important for recalls or warranty issues.

What to look for in a WMS system?

What reporting options do you have? – Your WMS should be an easy-to-use database that allows you to create customized reports out of the box. These reports are critical to your business plan as they will help forecast future space and personnel needs.

How does it handle document preparation? – As part of reporting, the WMS should be able to develop these reports without the need for printouts and unnecessary paper.

Does it help satisfy your customer needs? – An important aspect of customer service is when you can pick and ship inventory quickly and accurately. Will you need to post tracking numbers for customers? Do you need to track lot numbers for FDA regulations or for possible recalls?

Is it affordable? – Choose a WMS that can handle your warehouse needs first and is affordable second. A basic system may not have the features your warehouse needs to properly function while a system that is too expensive is simply a waste of money when there are cheaper options available. The key is to find the right balance of cost and function, so your business gets the tool it needs without an unacceptable cost.

What technology does it use? – Does the system use barcode or QR code scanners and generators? Does the system allow for mobile technology such as iPads or other inventory devices? If your inventory system already uses these or would like to, the new system should have the capability.