Accordingly, many companies have chosen to implement a warehouse management system (WMS). The overall purpose of a WMS is simple: to optimize all warehousing functions and processes.This includes:Receiving – the function encompassing the physical receipt of material, the inspection of the shipment for conformance with the purchase order [i.e., quantity and damage], the identification and delivery to destination, and the preparation of receiving reportsPut-away – which means removing the material from the dock (or other location of receipt), transporting the material to a storage area, placing that material in a staging area and then moving it to a specific location, and recording the movement and identification of the location where the material has been placedOrder picking – selecting or “picking” the required quantity of specific products for movement to a packaging area (usually in response to one or more shipping orders) and documenting that the material was moved from one location to shippingStaging and consolidated shipping -physically moving material from the packing area to a staging area, based on a prescribed set of instructions related to a particular outbound vehicle or delivery route, often for shipment consolidation purposesInventory cycle counting – an inventory accuracy audit technique where inventory is counted on a cyclic schedule rather than once a year. A cycle inventory count is usually taken on a regular, defined basis (often more frequently for high-value or fast-moving items and less frequently for low-value or slow-moving items). Most effective cycle counting systems require the counting of a certain number of items every workday with each item counted at a prescribed frequency. The key purpose of cycle counting is to identify items in error, thus triggering research, identification, and elimination of the cause of the errors.If you’re planning to implement a WMS for the first time, or change your current WMS system, a good place to start is by developing a warehouse management improvement strategy. Think of this as business process re-engineering. By looking at your business practices from a clean-slate perspective, you’ll be better equipped to determine how you can best construct-or reconstruct-your business and warehouse processes.The first step in your warehouse management improvement strategy should be to examine the exterior factors that may be contributing to your warehouse woes, as outlined above. The next step should be to look at any inefficiencies within the enterprise or supply chain that may be contributing to poor warehouse performance. In order to have a better understanding of these inefficiencies, analyze your current business processes.One way to do this is by using performance metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are typically used to help measure key areas of a business’s operations, and they can help you determine the factors that may-or may not-be affecting your business performance. In manufacturing, some KPIs are customer satisfaction, delivery performance, and production efficiency. The hardest part of this exercise is determining those indicators, but once you have identified two or three of your target (or problem) areas, you will begin to get a clearer view of the big picture.The last step in your warehouse management improvement strategy should be to look at the information systems you have in place. Ensure that all related departments within your organization, as well as across your supply chain, have easy access to critical information repositories. Without accurate and up-to-date data, it will be impossible to determine where production issues or delays have occurred.By understanding all the factors (both external and internal) that affect your warehouse performance, you can begin to build a comprehensive strategy that will help you determine the right warehouse management software solution for your needs-one that will address and improve on those areas.What are the benefits you can expect from a WMS? There are a great many, and here are some of the most important.• improved inventory visibility• better warehouse space usage• increased inventory and asset turns• improved service and support quality• a reduction in errors (thanks to the ability to identify, track, and solve problems between manufacturers and suppliers)• improved delivery and order fulfillment performanceWMS system tools are available from tier one and tier 2 vendors like Oracle, SAP, QAD, and Infor, as well as from best-of-breed and specialty supply chain and WMS vendors such as High Jump, RedPrarie, and Manhattan Associates.
Look to a Warehouse Management System (WMS) to Optimize Your Warehouse Operations
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