For a warehouse to function like a well-oiled machine, each process must run smoothly — from docking and sorting SKUs to getting the right inventory on the right outbound vehicle. That’s where a Warehouse Management System (WMS) comes in: to provide control over supply chain fulfillment operations so that shipments get in the door efficiently and out the door on time.
A WMS provides inventory visibility and allows a business to manage the way that goods and materials move through the warehouse. There are several functions involved with that movement, including inventory tracking, picking, receiving and putaway.
By tracking and analyzing inventory, worker data, and daily processes and activities, a WMS helps warehouse managers optimize their inventory flow for maximum efficiency.
In the warehouse, few tasks are more critical than inventory management. A WMS tracks the serial numbers entering the building and organizes them according to storage destination. It can also store data attached to each serial number, such as item attributes and relevant storage details.
Optimized inventory tracking has far-reaching benefits. It reduces the likelihood of ordering excess inventory that will take up valuable storage space. Plus, outbound delivery processes can move faster when workers are less likely to waste time searching for rogue SKUs.
Integrating AI-driven automation with your WMS can multiply those benefits. For example, AI can track inventory levels of certain high-demand items in real time and recommend when to order more products. AI technologies can also recognize and flag potential errors, enabling warehouses to course correct and avoid mistakes.
If warehouses have autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) supporting workflows, a warehouse orchestration platform can communicate with these bots.
Within the WMS, employees have all accurate inventory information, including location, cost and stock, at their fingertips. This eliminates the need to slog through spreadsheets or scour shelves, boosting productivity, morale and job satisfaction.
Integrating other solutions with your WMS can extend its benefits to other departments. For example, billing statements that reflect accurately tracked supplier activities decrease the potential for human error and the accounting department’s workload.
In a flexible WMS, management can customize the information that employees can see and edit, protecting sensitive data. Moreover, WMS users with unique logins create breadcrumb trails that boost accountability and deter would-be thieves.
Implementing a WMS can even benefit customers. With the ability to easily find, track, and move inventory, warehouses can ship goods to consumers faster and with greater accuracy.
Some solutions apply a learning algorithm to understand the buying habits of regular customers. Through cloud-based data collections, a WMS can utilize neural networks that anticipate customer needs and prompt you to respond to problems that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Tracking shipments is also easier with a WMS. With 24/7 access to data detailing which items were sent out with which carrier and on what date, you’ll always know where things are, even after they leave the warehouse. If a shipment goes missing, tracking it down is fast and simple.
Using the power of AI, many WMS solutions can tell you where your warehouse is working efficiently and pinpoint exact areas where you could improve productivity. Some even analyze and compare floor plans using floor simulators, allowing you to visualize where shelves, equipment and free-roaming inventory might fit best.
One fast-track path to process improvement is to find a Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) vendor that integrates with your WMS. RaaS allows companies to rent robots powered by cloud-based software. In turn, the vendor assumes responsibility for updates and maintenance throughout the life of the contract. Built-in scalability allows companies to keep up with customer demand without excessive costs.
Perhaps the most significant benefit, WMS solutions provide ongoing opportunities for continuous process improvement. And when integrated with multibot orchestration and intelligent automation, those opportunities can multiply and grow with your business.
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