WMS Checklist: Key Requirements for Food & Beverage Companies
Published on 20 April 2022
It was unavoidable. The digitalization of the supply chain has been a hot topic in the Food & Beverage industry these last few years. It was therefore only a question of time before your company decided to explore new technology solutions to better support and optimize its operations. As luck would have it, management decided during its last meeting that you would be the one tasked with producing a short list of Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) your company could implement. Now the question is: where should you start?
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There is a vast offering of powerful WMS solutions on the market. Not all of them, however, are adapted to your operation. Therefore, the first thing you should do is to develop a comprehensive list of your company’s key requirements. Only with such a list in hand will you be able to identify the systems that are truly going to make a difference in your company and maximize your ROI. In this paper, we look at some of the requirements a Food & Beverage company should have in mind.
On Premises or On the Cloud?
While not specific to the Food & Beverage industry, this requirement should probably be the first on your list. A SaaS or cloud-based WMS is usually perfect for the requirements of small- to mid-size companies that often do not have the IT resources, the infrastructure, or the operational complexity to warrant the large initial expenditure and ongoing maintenance fees of an on-premises solution. Larger companies with highly complex operations and restrictive security requirements may however benefit from deploying their WMS solution on-premises.
Finding a solution that is right-sized to your requirements and that will not need too many customizations is the first step in identifying a WMS that will optimize your ROI.
Food Safety & Freshness Requirements
Food & Beverage companies have to deal with strict control and safety requirements as well as regulatory scrutiny. They also have SKUs with limited shelf life that often have different temperature requirements.
To achieve the levels of inventory accuracy and management that Food & Beverage companies need, the WMS must have strong traceability and tracking capabilities. It must be able to manage expiration dates and unique product requirements. It must also have the capacity to record and monitor requirements to ensure safe conditions at all times through the whole supply chain, production process, and all the way to customers in order to ensure that organic products and allergens are handled properly.
Inventory Control & Management
For Food & Beverage companies, stresses on inventory management come from a number of places in the warehouse. The right WMS will have the capabilities to alleviate some of that stress and help manage complexities that come with handling a wide variety of SKUs by giving operators access to accurate data across their entire operation. It will enable companies to have precise visibility and control over lots and batches and to manage FIFO/LIFO and expiration/best before dates. It will also do all of that in real time, to ensure that management has the operational agility to avoid spoilage and hazardous situation or achieve recalls efficiently when needed.
Where inventory control is concerned, Food & Beverage companies will generally benefit from leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT). A good SaaS WMS solution will enable operators to track temperature from truck to cooler to shipping truck to customer from anywhere. It will also produce automated responses or instructions on mobile devices when end users on the floor come across a problematic situation. More importantly, the IoT enables a Food & Beverage company to share all relevant data with their partners through an EDI solution.
Manage Customer SLAs
Food & Beverage companies often cater to a variety of clients that all have different requirements when it comes to packaging, delivery timeframes, traceability, product freshness, labeling, kitting, quantities per location, etc. Managing customer SLAs per location or client is prone to errors. Avoidable returned products/shipments or delays in fulfilment not only make your clients unhappy, but they also greatly affect your margins.
A WMS should help employees meet the requirements of customer SLAs across the whole operation. Food and Beverage companies need a system that is agile enough to adapt to each customer and enable employees at every stage of the supply chain to manage products the right way. Again, making it possible for employees to rely on mobile devices and intuitive interfaces from anywhere within the facility will be a huge advantage.
Operational Agility & Scalability
The White House’s Council of Economic Advisers has recently communicated its analysis on the state of the global supply chain. At the heart of its report, the Council warns that disruptions felt during the Covid pandemic are unlikely to disappear in coming years. Food & Beverage companies will therefore want to prepare adequately with a WMS that gives them the operational agility to stay ahead of disruptions and shortages.
To Food & Beverage companies, this is just the amplification of an age-old problem. Managing fluctuations in product quantity and availability has always been at the core of an industry so importantly subjected to seasonality and promotional efforts. The right WMS must therefore be able to support management in its efforts to manage changing sets of fast-movers, to anticipate fluctuations in the demand signal, to stay ahead of product shortages, etc. In general, this can be achieved by selecting a WMS that offers high levels of inventory accuracy and can easily be integrated with other systems in the company’s software architecture, such as their ERP, to enable stronger back-office capabilities.
With a WMS that enables that kind of operational agility, Food & Beverage companies are in a better position to scale with ease when the time comes and to fully support omnichannel efficacy. A flexible WMS empowers operators with the ability to meet changing customer requirements faster and to communicate changes efficiently across all channels in real time. Not only does that make scaling much less painful, but your company also achieves higher levels of service, which plays a large role in securing that new portion of the market you just conquered.
These are just some of the requirements Food & Beverage companies should explore before they determine what WMS is better suited to their operation. At Generix Group North America, we provide a series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite to create efficiencies across an entire supply chain. Our solutions are in use around the world and our experience is second-to-none. We invite you to contact us to learn more.
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