8 Ways WMS Can Fix Your Inventory Management Problems
Published on 4 September 2020
Right at a time when companies need it most, here’s a primer on WMS’ role in improving inventory management across the entire supply chain.
For manufacturers and distributors, inventory is literally the lifeblood of their enterprises. Stock too much of it and your bottom line begins to suffer; find yourself in a stock-out situation and your customers will go elsewhere to get what they need. Achieving the perfect balance between these two extremes has always been challenging, but it’s even more onerous than ever in today’s disruptive business environment.
“In the midst of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to have an inventory management system in place to help navigate your business through this pandemic,” advisory service Citrin Cooperman says, noting that ongoing physical inventory management, identification of slow-moving inventory, and an assessment of your customer base (and its current needs) are all good steps to be taking right now.
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Now is also a great time for companies to explore the ways technology can help them achieve their inventory management goals—knowing that spreadsheets, clipboards, and manual processes simply don’t cut it in today’s fast-paced fulfillment environment. Here are eight reasons why warehouse management systems (WMS) should be at the top of that technology shopping list:
- Pinpoints exact locations of products. It’s not enough to just know how many units of a certain SKU you have in a distribution center. Your WMS will tell you where any product is at any given point, including stock location, bin numbers, shelf location, and the order that the product is associated with.
- Manages your workforce. The software helps you track information about all of your employees, and will tell you which orders they’re working on, which products they’re picking, and what’s in their work pipelines. With this data in hand, you can make inventory management decisions on the fly (i.e., to allocate certain tasks to someone who is physically located closer to a certain bin).
- Provides an extremely granular, 360-degree inventory view. Depending on your specific operation, your WMS will divide your facility into different bins and compartments. With visibility right down to the individual product level, you’ll be able to make better inventory replenishment decisions (versus trying to “guess” at what you might need based on historical data).
- Improves inventory visibility. Using a warehouse management system will also provide visibility of accurate, real-time inventory levels. This enables a company to more securely estimate supply and avoid backorders, which leads to more satisfied customers. “Using WMS automation with scanning, RFID, or other location tracking methods ensures the visibility at the location,” global business consultancy Clarkston Consulting points out, “and reduces the non-WMS enabled situations where inventory becomes forgotten, lost, or misplaced within the warehouse.”
- Knows when to reorder fast-moving items. This is a big one for companies that are dealing with smaller workforces and high e-commerce order volumes right now. Because a WMS has reorder points that trigger when stock gets too low, it eliminates out-of-stocks that happen when someone forgets to reorder a fast-moving item.
- Integrates well with other technology platforms. Working with a company’s existing enterprise platforms, WMS shares precise information about how certain products are performing. This, in turn, helps companies plan for what’s coming around the next corner. “Product demand and seasonality is reflected as items are transacted and information communicated,” Clarkston adds. “Therefore, with this information, planners can make reliable decisions about which products to adjust for the company to increase revenue or mitigate losses.”
- Manages inventory flow across multiple locations. These days, most companies rely on multiple different fulfillment centers or “hubs” to get their products into their customers’ hands quickly. Using a central WMS, organizations can track inventory across all of these locations, prioritize orders, and reposition inventory to areas where it’s needed most.
- Keeps your facility organized. Last but certainly not least, with WMS you get stock control that helps keep your fulfillment center organized. It can also help you determine which routes workers take as they make their way through the facility—a big plus in an era where maintaining social distancing and having healthy operators are core concerns.
The Benefits Don’t End There
According to transportation provider Bridgetown Trucking, WMS’ value proposition in today’s fulfillment environment also includes more streamlined workflows, scalable operations, improved customer service, reduced picking errors, and lower overall operational costs. “A great WMS will also reduce a warehouse’s operating costs, allowing for more company investment and improvement.”
WMS also helps companies improve their use of storage and space, right at a time when industrial space is fetching premium prices. “A WMS will give managers full visibility of their inventory, allowing them to determine their stocking needs,” Bridgetown adds. “Warehouse managers can quickly locate items using one of several categorization factors and create faster product turnover by reducing lead times. A great WMS will [also] organize a warehouse’s space to fit the maximum number of goods in the space allotted.”
Combined, these benefits make WMS a must-have for any company that wants to streamline its inventory management processes and achieve that optimal sweet spot between overstocks and stockouts.