Managing stock with a WMS – a major supply chain challenge

Par SCALLOG Experts | le  |  temps de lecture : 11 min

For enterprises in today’s world, where customers are increasingly demanding in terms of service and speed of delivery, logistics can make the difference between success and failure.

The key to success lies in a powerful and agile supply chain. And that’s where Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) prove invaluable.

For warehouses, particularly fulfilment centres in the food retail and e-commerce sectors, automation is increasingly the norm.

Logistics professionals want to drive  “end to end” workflows in real time, using a vast array of equipment to deliver to their stores and customers faster all the time - and at the best costs. 

A WMS covers every step in warehouse processes, from the reception and storage of goods to order picking and shipping.

Working at the heart of an efficient supply chain, a WMS has the mission of optimizing storage space, workflows (physical and data) and resources in and beyond the warehouse

A WMS improve logistics performance, reduces costs, and increases on-time delivery rates (OTD).

Let’s take a closer look at WMS - the solution of choice for  supply chain management in companies of all sizes in every sector of the economy !

What is a WMS?

A WMS is a software package specially designed for warehousemanagement. Ideally, it interfaces with an enterprise’s ERP solution and other logistics tools.

It synchronizes logistics workflows and the many tasks performed in the warehouse to optimize the storage of goods and accelerate every step in the order fulfilment process, from picking to shipping.

A WMS should provide a perfect picture of stock held in the warehouse or store in terms of quantity and quality.

Le WMS doit garantir à tout instant une parfaite connaissance du stock ou du magasin en terme de quantité et de qualité

It also allows control and supervision of all warehouse operations. As such, the WMS must:

  • provide a 360° view of stock and logistics activity, 
  • ensure seamless track and trace of workflows (orders, batches, parcels etc.), 
  • adapt resources to the workload, 
  • trace picking errors, 
  • optimize transport costs. 

Put simply, the mission of a WMS is to accelerate logistics processes, from the moment goods enter a distribution centre to the moment they leave.

WMS manages and monitors physical and data workflows to obtain the optimum OTD rate, i.e. the percentage of goods delivered in accordance with customer requirements.

What are the key features of a WMS?

WMS centralizes all the vital warehouse management functions  in a single tool!

The warehouse management function - for improved control of operations

Stacking, picking, moving goods around: the WMS warehouse management function has the job of defining and managing all warehouse tasks. 

Pallet and package locations are defined according to various parameters, including:

  • size 
  • maximum load or weight, 
  • restocking thresholds, 
  • product turnover class (A, B, C), 
  • types of logistic units
  • etc,

Each location is identified by a barcode and holds dedicated or undifferentiated goods.

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The item function in WMS

The WMS item function classifies every item by its characteristics,  including: 

  • item reference number, 
  • turnover class, 
  • type of logistics unit (pallet, box, tray etc.). 

This function provides a wealth of information to the warehouse manager.

This information includes quantities in stock (total, processing etc.), and order picking statistics.

The system also determines the turnover class (A, B, C)  of the goods

Stock management and inventory control

The storage management function is enriched by a host of information, including: 

  • entry into storage at time of reception,
  • storage mode (mass, dynamic, rack)
  • operations involved (location management, storage by product family).

The storage management function also manages stock and the administrative aspects of inventory control.

It determines restocking modes and dates, and the issue of the associated orders.

It also allows optimized management movements from one location to another within the distribution centre, i.e. moving a pallet from its departure location to its arrival location.

La saisie des articles de WMS peut être manuelle ou automatisée via codes à barres.

The reception function - for enhanced management of your logistics movements

The reception function manages the reception of goods using files imported from the purchasing department.

These files indicate the characteristics of the goods received and the orders they relate to (order number, line number, item reference numbers, quantities, batches). 

Items can be entered in the WMS manually or automatically (via barcode).

The order picking function - for optimal management of operations

The WMS order picking function allows you to control all operations - order import or entry, burst mode, picking and packing - through to the shipping of the goods.

It guarantees accurate information on the orders to be picked, which is important for saving time and reducing errors. 

The WMS can handle different types of order picking

  • pick and pack, 
  • pick then pack, 
  • pickt to light
  • etc,

It can also optimize the movements of operators in the aisles. 

The order picking  function also manages the preparation of labels and packing slips according to best practices. The appropriate dashboards are provided for this function. 

Finally, this function also manages cross docking, i.e. routing high-turnover goods directly to the order picking zone as soon as they are received.

The shipping function complements the order picking function

The shipping function acts as a complement to the order picking function. It allows you to check orders before shipping and to optimize their allocations to delivery trucks. 

It also archives information relating to: 

  • order lists, 
  • packages, 
  • associated methods of transport,
  • .etc,

and prepares transport documents and packing slips, for example.

La fonction expédition complète la fonction préparation de commandes.

The control function - for centralized logistics data

WMS is the “weapon of choice” for today’s warehouse managers.

The WMS control function centralizes all data, using dashboards to present warehouse performance indicators and metrics in real time.

These performance indicators are valid from inventories through to completed operations. 

Other essential WMS functions

In addition to all these features, WMS can also monitor product workflow on production line inputs and outputs.

It also supports multi-warehouse management. In other words, a single system can be used for multiple distribution centres.

This means simplified goods transfers with multi-organization management, a sure way to reduce costs.

What are the specific features of a WMS for e-commerce?

WMS conceived and designed for e-commerce must be scalable, with extended functionality. Above all, it must be perfectly adapted to  omnichannel logistics..

Depending on the distribution channels (points of sale, e-commerce, m-commerce, marketplaces etc.), it has to manage and cost-optimize all workflows and processes in the distribution centre. 

This is done at the lowest possible cost relative to requirements and the stocks of a retailer’s or e-merchant’s products. 

To meet the OTD rate demanded by consumers, the WMS must be able to work with custom orders and  increasingly tight delivery times.

Why use a WMS?

A WMS provides efficiency gains, flexibility and visibility for optimal coordination of all warehouse workflows and processes.

The benefits of WMS are manifold

  • 360° control over all operations
  • optimization of all processes
  • optimal management of human resources, including during peak periods
  • good management of “just in time” stock   without disruption or immobilization
  • guaranteed real-time track and trace of goods, orders and information flows
  • accelerated order picking and shipping to expand next-day or even same day delivery
  • drastic reductions in picking errors at input and output
  • real time analysis of consumer purchasing patterns according to seasonality, context etc. to better anticipate and adapt accordingly.

Un WMS assure des gains d’efficacité, de flexibilité et de visibilité pour coordonner et optimiser la totalité des flux et des process de l’entrepôt.

Key benefits:

  • free up floor space in the warehouse
  • increased team productivity
  • optimization of task processing times, especially in order picking, with the resulting cost savings
  • the right response to new requirements in consumer-oriented  logistics:  faster or even immediate delivery, flexible delivery at the best prices

What about WMS in an automated warehouse?

More and more distribution centres are turning to automation and installing various types of goods to man systems whose functions include:

  • storage (stacker crane, shuttle etc.) 
  • assisted picking (cobots, AGV robots as in the Scallog solution, AMR) 
  • transfers between zones (conveyor, suspended tray, AGV robots).  

The job of the Supply Chain Manager is to manage the automated workflows of the warehouse - end to end and, most importantly, in real time. 

For their full potential to be exploited, automated or robotized systems must be stocked in the most appropriate manner. 

This is where the boundary between the WMS and the WCS (Warehouse Control System), which controls, the movements of the automated handling equipment, becomes increasingly blurred. Supply hubs need a tool that coordinates and controls all equipment while optimizing workflows and resources.  The solution we’re talking about is called a WMCS or Warehouse Management Control System - basically a WMS specially developed for . 

In an automated warehouse, the WMCS drives and streamlines logistics processes and operations while maximizing operator productivity and the efficiency of automated handling equipment.

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