WMS/MES Checklist: Key Requirements for Manufacturing Companies
Published on 20 April 2022
It was unavoidable. The digitalization of the supply chain has been a hot topic among manufacturers in all industries these last few years. It was, therefore, only a question of time before your company decided to explore new technology solutions to better support its production processes 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) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) your company could implement. Now the question is: where should you start?
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There is a vast offering of powerful WMS/MES 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 manufacturing company should have in mind.
On Premises or On the Cloud?
While not specific to manufacturers, this requirement should probably be the first on your list. A SaaS or cloud-based WMS/MES is usually perfect for the requirements of small- to mid-size manufacturing 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 production processes and restrictive security requirements may however benefit from deploying their WMS/MES solutions 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/MES that will optimize your ROI.
Workflows and Process Integration
All manufacturing companies have to think about ways to better integrate their processes in order to optimize workflows, increase efficiency, and improve their margins. To that end, manufacturing companies will benefit from implementing a WMS/MES that can help them map out their processes and provide management with visual representations of their workflows. Thanks to that kind of information, it becomes easier to create and adapt workflows and achieve higher, profit efficient throughput.
Another key requirement for optimized workflows is accurate visibility on the materials that are introduced throughout the production process. This is especially true when, for example, the different ingredients require different handling procedures – ambient temperature, for instance.
More complex production processes may also require added flexibility. This flexibility is needed to support a number of employees using different picking methods at the same to feed the production process. Of course, what is true of picking activities also holds for receiving and put away: there too employees will need a system that is flexible and powerful enough to provide handling instructions adapted to each item.
Inventory Control & Management
For manufacturing companies, stresses on inventory management come from a number of places in the facility. The right WMS/MES 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 situations or achieve recalls efficiently when needed.
Where inventory control is concerned, manufacturers will generally benefit from leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT). A good SaaS WMS/MES solution will enable an ice cream maker 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 manufacturing companies to share all relevant data with their partners through an EDI solution.
Manage Customer SLAs
Manufacturing 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/MES should help employees meet the requirements of customer SLAs across the whole operation. Manufacturing 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. Manufacturing companies will therefore want to prepare adequately with a WMS/MES that gives them the operational agility to stay ahead of disruptions and shortages.
To many manufacturers, this is just the amplification of an age-old problem. Managing fluctuations in product quantity and availability has always been central to their success. The right WMS/MES 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/MES 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/MES that enables that kind of operational agility, manufacturing companies are in a better position to scale with ease when the time comes and to fully support omnichannel efficacy. A flexible WMS/MES 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 manufacturing 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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