Warehouse management systems manage logistics warehouses efficiently

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Employee drives through warehouse with loaded forklift, representing warehouse management systems and lower logistics costs

Warehouse management systems (WMS) – they are at the core of logistics facilities and the start of many logistics processes. They have many functions, including linking storage and shipping processes with transports, optimising warehouses and safeguarding inventories.


Warehouse management systems control the flow of materials through logistics facilities, from receiving goods to dispatching and collecting goods from contracted freight forwarders. They create a data record for each item listing the product and its storage location. WMSs thus support different warehouse types such as block storage warehouses and high-bay warehouses as well as different warehousing methods such as FIFO (first in, first out) and LIFO (last in, first out). In addition, WMSs control core warehouse processes such as inbound goods with receipts, i.e. posting the goods in the software and storing them in the assigned storage location, deconsolidating individual products, and performing quality inspections. Then, of course, there is outbound goods, which entails order management, receipt of delivery confirmations, order picking, consolidation, packaging and shipping.


Background

What are the benefits of a warehouse management system?

One of the main benefits of warehouse management systems is that they reduce warehouse logistics costs. They enable efficient planning as well as time savings in warehouse processes. They play a key role in ensuring inventory security , reducing excess stock and improving overall warehouse utilisation . The systems also make it possible to significantly reduce errors and thus improve quality assurance. They also allow the automation of intralogistics processes and lay the groundwork for generating forecasts and order predictions through data reporting and artificial intelligence (AI). Operationally, they provide an efficient way to separate clients, locations and storage areas. In addition, WMSs manage master data and assign orders to employees. They also optimise picking and ensure picking quality with digital procedures such as pick-by-voice, pick-by-light and pick-by-vision.


Application

Areas where warehouse management systems can be used

A WMS's most important job is to monitor goods movements, set the current storage status, check it against the planned status and share the status as needed. This is how the inventories are managed. The software optimises complex storage and shipping processes such as multi-level packaging and subsequent labelling for transport. It also supports the ability to trace serial numbers and batches back to their source. Beyond these core functions, warehouse management systems are also used for the following tasks:

  • Scheduling of means of transport
  • Physical count
  • Stock transfers
  • Data entry (for example, to bill value-added services)
  • Provision of status updates to all relevant users

Statuses are communicated by the warehouse management software in real time within the warehouse. This is because the IT solution also interfaces with the enterprise resource planning (ERP) at many companies.


Automation

Manage tasks centrally

The warehouse management system provides other functions centrally, too. It applies a route-oriented or process-oriented putaway strategy, controls the conveyor technology and thus manages the material flow. At some companies, it also uses a forklift guidance system for driverless industrial trucks. It performs all the tasks needed to optimise warehouse processes and, with its functionality, lays the foundation for automating intralogistics.

Conclusion

The warehouse management system: a logistics hub

WMSs perform an important connecting function by setting the pace for dispatching and transporting goods. They improve planning in distribution and are often connected by interfaces with freight forwarders and parcel services. It is important to carefully match their functions to the established requirements. Companies should therefore invest time in selecting and planning their WMS because the systems are generally used for ten to twelve years on average.


Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert
CTO

As a design guru, the software developer delves into logistics service providers' requirements like no other. He is passionate about exchanging information securely and efficiently and thus speeding up the physical logistics process.


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