Growing pains: Five signs you're ready for a WMS
According to a study we conducted with Internet Retailing and eDelivery, 71 percent of organisations made warehouse management technology upgrades a priority last year. It’s easy to see why – nearly 60 percent are still using in-house management systems (including manual record-keeping) while only 16 percent use best-of-breed warehouse management systems (WMS).
If you’re still reliant on manual warehouse management processes, or RF scanners are the most advanced technology you employ, it may be time to consider a more sophisticated solution – one that empowers your team to manage by exception and make improvements grounded in data. Consider these five signs that your warehouse is ready for an upgrade:
Your stock is all over the shop!
Inventory management is a critical process. If you’re short on stock, you may be unable to fulfil purchased orders – a customer service nightmare. If you’re overloaded on stock, you’ve wasted valuable cash and warehouse space. Or in the worst case scenario, maybe you know you have the stock you need but simply can’t find it!
Real-time inventory visibility as supported by a best-of-breed warehouse management system ensures that you won’t sell product you don’t have, or order more than you need, allowing you to balance both customer expectations and your books in real-time.
Your picking processes run employees ragged
Fewer tasks are more time consuming than picking – and the larger your warehouse, the longer it takes. If you store two items typically purchased together on opposite sides of the warehouse, you’ll compound the issue.
Without a best-of-breed WMS, you’ll lack the data visibility needed to streamline your picking processes. Highly efficient warehouses use WMS technology to design precise picking paths, reorganising inventory by popularity and helping staff move through the aisles as efficiently as possible.
Your packing processes sap productivity
At first glance, packing processes may not seem too difficult. But consider the steps involved: in a limited time, you must identify the order, ensure the box has the proper contents – both the purchased item and any additional collateral you plan to include, seal the box and affix the shipping label. The larger your operation becomes, the quicker you must move product through packing. Manual warehouse management won’t provide data feedback on how well your inventory flows through packing – making it difficult to determine how much these processes affect your bottom line.
You’ve made too many shipping errors
If you rely on manual processes to pick, pack and ship customer orders, the errors can pile up, and you’ll tarnish your brand’s reputation.
Errors can happen anywhere in the fulfilment process but, without a proper warehouse management system, you’ll struggle to find out where things are going wrong and take corrective action.
A best of breed WMS not only drives better efficiency and productivity but also provides complete visibility and control of inventory and orders from receipt to despatch.
Your returns process is inefficient
No matter how many returns you receive, having a robust reverse logistics process is an important part of inventory management. The process starts as soon as product comes off the truck – why was it returned? Can it be resold, or should it be recycled? Where will you store it, and how will you manage refunds? In most cases, the quicker product is moved through the returns process, the more value it retains.
Without a set of rules guiding your staff through the returns process, product may end up in the wrong location, or a missed refund could compound an already tense customer service issue. A best-of-breed WMS will manage these complex rules, eliminating paper-based returns management and helping employees quickly direct returned product to its proper location.
So…is your warehouse ready for a WMS?
If you have two or more of these issues, the answer is likely yes.
This list covers some of the more common warehousing pain points, but it’s not exhaustive. When you’re ready to invest in a WMS, take the pulse of your warehouse – spend time observing your staff move inventory. Make notes of the processes that appear to hinder efficiency and keep those processes front-of-mind as you launch your software search.