Warehouse management system
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A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software application, designed to support warehouse or distribution center management and staff. They facilitate management in their daily planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling the utilization of available resources, to move and store materials into, within, and out of a warehouse, while supporting staff in the performance of material movement and storage in and around a warehouse.
Warehouse management solutions are primarily tactical tools, purchased and used by businesses to satisfy the unique customer demand requirements of their supply chain(s) and distribution channel(s), when the inventory and workload is larger than what can be handled manually, with spreadsheets. Motivation to purchase generally comes from need to support sales growth or improve performance, and occasionally both.
A WMS uses a database configured to support warehouse operations, containing detail describing a variety of standard warehouse elements including:
- Individual stock keeping units (SKUs) that are handled and stored, e.g., weight, dimensions, case pack, automatic ID labels (bar codes, etc.), and inventory by location with manufacture date, lot code, etc. SKUs may include basic materials, fabricated parts, assemblies, and industrial and consumer finished goods, etc.;
- Warehouse storage locations, e.g., individual location number, picking sequence, type of use (picking, reserve storage, etc.), type of storage (each, case, pallet), location size or capacity, storage restriction (flammable, hazardous, high value materials, outdoor, etc.), etc.;
- Dock doors, e.g., individual number, etc.; and
- Expected labor productivity rates by function or activity, e.g., cases picked per man-hour, etc
Daily management functions include
- Planning - finalizing the daily plan for receiving dock activity, selecting the workload/orders to be processed in the day or shift, (this may also be done by the business system), and calculating an estimate of the labor and vehicles required to pick and ship the orders to ensure the staffing is appropriate, and carriers are notified in time to meet the daily requirements.
- Organizing - sequencing the orders to be picked. Organizing orders for picking can be accomplished in many ways, meeting the needs of the user. The primary objective is to be intentional, and not pick the orders in the sequence in which they were received unless the company wants to pay a carrier make sense for transportation and delivery. The initial way of organizing was called Wave Planning or Wave Picking, with two objectives, a. to minimize need for dock staging space, by having orders arrive at the shipping dock in trailer load sequence, and b. to create an order of flow that will support monitoring the progress through the day and eliminate/reduce last minute requests for overtime or delay of carrier departure, etc.
- Staffing - assign staff to work functions and areas, by Wave, to minimize staging.
- Directing - ensuring the documented processes and procedures are embedded in the WMS and are consistently applied, used and appropriate for the nature of the work and service level intentions of the company (e.g., International Standards Organization 9000 (www.iso.org)). This function may also be used to divide individual orders into logical work units and the ability to assign them to separate individuals for performance, consistent throughput requirements and physical layout, e.g., separating individual case picking from each unit picking, and individual pallet load picking, to improve productivity and supporting Control.
- Controlling - providing milestones for management to monitor progress through the day, providing the opportunity to respond to problems in a timely way, and report data for performance analysis.
Warehouse management systems have the capability to partner with staff in performing the detail processes required to handle all of the major and many minor warehouse tasks of receiving, inspection and acceptance, put-away, internal replenishment to picking positions, picking, packing, order assembly on the shipping dock, documentation, and shipping (loading onto carrier vehicles); processes including directing and validating each step, capturing and recording all inventory movement and status changes to the data file.
An implemented WMS will be supported with a variety of communications technologies (radio frequency), automatic ID technologies (Bar code, RFID, etc.), mobile computers, and occasionally with automated material handling (conveyors and sortation) and storage equipment (carousels, automatic storage and retrieval, etc.), that may be processed within the WMS and sent to the business host computer in support of financial transactions, Advance Ship Notice to customers, purchasing and inventory management, etc.
Warehouse management systems can be standalone systems, or supply chain execution suite, modules of an ERP system such as Odoo, Megaventory, or Visual World. Depending on the size and sophistication of the organization, the system can be as simple as a handwritten list that are updated when required, spreadsheets using software such as Microsoft Excel or Access or purpose-built software programs.
- Automated storage and retrieval system
- Data warehouse
- Document automation
- Enterprise resource planning
- Inventory management software
- Manufacturing resource planning
- Pick and pack
- Shipping list
- Voice-directed warehousing
- Warehouse control system
- Warehouse execution system
- Wave Picking
- S., Pavel. "Common Problems that you can solve with a Bespoke Warehouse App". Magora Systems. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
- "The Next Generation of Warehouse Management". February 17, 2014.
- Fayol Henri, 2013 translated reprint, General and Industrial Management ISBN 1614274592
- Gattorna, John, 2015, Dynamic Supply Chains ISBN 1292016817