A comprehensive guide to warehouse management software

Keeping track of your product, optimising employee time and resources, and reducing costs are goals for any warehouse operator, whether you’re a small operation looking to expand or a well-established with multiple warehouses. However, there are so many inventory and warehouse management software options available that it can be challenging to select the best one for your company.

Is an all-in-one system required, or will stand-alone systems suffice? What about integration with other tools you might already be using? How long will it take to develop, train, and roll out a new warehouse management system (WMS) and software?

What is warehouse management?

You’re probably not new to the concept of warehouse management if you’re reading this. The official definition includes stock management, employee management, picking and packing, and loading and return processes. Managing all of this and more at maximum efficiency is what optimal warehouse management entails.

One small aspect of warehouse management is planning the stock location for the most efficient picking and packing. Warehouse management considers all these processes collectively.

What is inventory management?

Inventory management is similar to warehouse management but focuses on specific goods handled by the warehouse. First in, first out (FIFO) is a simple example in a food facility. Warehouse employees know that the oldest raw ingredients should be used first to maximise shelf life.

You may wonder why you require inventory and warehouse management software to aid these processes. In theory, they’re simple to follow. However, optimising warehouse and inventory operations entails several steps.

How warehouse management software can improve operations

Managing and handling inventory may appear simple to the untrained eye, but we know how difficult it is. There are many steps and people involved and many opportunities for error between the time items arrive at your loading dock, and the time they leave for customer delivery. All these steps, employees, and potential errors cost time and money, neither of which can be spared as eCommerce demand grows.

You can use customised warehouse software to create systems that optimise inventory handling processes like receiving, put-away, picking and packing, and invoicing. As a result, you can improve employee efficiency, cut costs, and expand your operations. However, scaling is a big part of warehouse operations nowadays, and it’s challenging to do without the right all-in-one solution.

Where does software fit among high-tech and low-tech tools?

Perhaps you’ve already incorporated technology into your warehouse operations and inventory management processes through barcode scanners, labellers, scales, or self-loading conveyors. You can integrate the tools you already use into the system with good warehouse management software to increase accuracy and improve your operations.

For example:

  • Barcode scanners can quickly compare barcode numbers to those already stored in your system, ensuring that the correct item is selected for an order.
  • When an order is picked and packed, labellers can automatically print packing slips or mailing labels.
  • Scales can provide the exact weight of an item and work with your warehouse management system to find the best shipping rate from your system’s approved carriers.
  • To reduce the time it takes to get an order out the door, self-loading conveyors can deliver items to packing stations.

How warehouse management software helps metric tracking

You want to be at the top of your game no matter what type of clients and customers you serve. But how can you improve if you don’t know where you currently stand? What if you don’t have access to value statistics that can help you improve and scale your process?

Data is critical in warehouse and inventory management. You can use that information to improve your processes and save money. Manual data tracking can provide useful information but may not provide accurate data. Automation and warehouse management software to track processes within your warehouse can assist you in setting goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) and developing an organisational mindset of continuous learning and improvement.

It also gives you an advantage over competitors who don’t have access to their data. Better software solutions provide a level of visibility into KPIs that some warehouses are unaware they should be tracking.

Inventory management key performance indicators

Warehouse key performance indicators cover everything from receiving to shipping, backorders to returns. Inventory reports in your warehouse are based on warehouse best practices and the most used key performance indicators. Warehouse management KPIs are classified into seven categories:

  1. Receiving and storage: Gain insight into where your processes are performing well and where they require assistance.
  2. Shipping: KPIs include order cycle time and insight into picking, packing, and shipping workflow issues.
  3. Storage: Determine how much it costs to keep products on your shelves.
  4. Picking: Control your order picking accuracy to reduce fulfilment issues and better understand available inventory.
  5. Equipment: Learn how to use warehouse equipment efficiently.
  6. Return process: Improve your order return rate and the speed with which items are returned to shelves.
  7. Safety: Track the number of incidents and lost time and evaluate workflows and processes to improve employee safety standards.

More advantages of warehouse management software

Aside from using data and KPIs to improve your warehouse operations and save money, you may be wondering what other advantages a warehouse management system may have.

Just-in-time inventory

Just-in-time inventory management keeps stock levels low and products moving quickly through your warehouse. This inventory management practice can help you save money on storage, but it takes some practice. To meet demand without underestimating or exceeding those demands, you’ll need accurate demand forecasting capabilities, which your warehouse management system can provide.

Increased security

Setting up your warehouse management system to require individual accounts for all employees when entering transactions creates a data trail that connects specific employees to specific transactions. This can improve accountability, allow you to track error rates, and lower your risk of theft. Based on the data, you can also identify training opportunities and ways to improve warehouse practices.

Optimisation of inbound and outbound traffic

Using an inventory and warehouse management system, you can optimise how inventory and equipment move around your warehouse. You can easily schedule receiving and put-away tasks and determine the best dates and times to receive shipments based on labour and equipment availability. You can plan walking routes and set up zone, batch, or wave picking algorithms once an order is ready to be picked.

Improved employee morale

Working in a chaotic environment is difficult. A warehouse management system can help reduce the chaos by ensuring that operations run smoothly and seamlessly and that your employees make good use of their time. When employees are confident and comfortable performing tasks, productivity and job satisfaction rise, and warehouse safety improves.

Satisfied customers and suppliers

A cloud-based warehouse management system gives suppliers and customers visibility into available products and the ability to schedule deliveries to your warehouse for slower times, faster order fulfilment, shorter delivery times, and fewer errors in shipped orders.

How to choose inventory and warehouse management software

Whether running a small business or managing multiple warehouses, having accurate and up-to-date information about your inventory, process efficiency, and operational costs is critical.

Warehouse management software can help small and medium-sized businesses reduce fulfilment error rates, manage inventory throughout their inbound and outbound processes, create effective billing systems, and improve customer service.

A warehouse management system enables warehouse operators involved in business-to-business, business-to-customer, or direct-to-customer fulfilment operations to serve their clients more effectively and efficiently by automating and streamlining operations, increasing productivity, monitoring jobs and workflow from virtually anywhere, and generating reports to monitor and improve inefficiencies.

If you use third-party logistics, you can integrate their software into your warehouse management software to set up digital warehousing, connect to eCommerce and order management systems, and set up smart shipping processes to save time and money.

Integrations with popular shipping, accounting, EDI, and robotics systems are simple to set up and maintain for all business types.

Take your warehouse to the next level

From when stock arrives at your loading dock to when it arrives at a customer’s door, you must always know where your inventory is, how it’s handled, and how much time, resources, and money your inbound and outbound processes cost.

Manual processes are prone to errors, leading to unhappy clients, low employee morale, and frustrated customers. A digital, cloud-based inventory and warehouse management system will provide you with complete visibility into your inventory at all times, allowing you to establish processes based on industry best practices, increase sales, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.

Contact Winfreight to find out more

Winfreight has a leading team of developers with a range of specialised software suites for freight and warehouse management. These offers included tailored warehouse management software solutions proven to greatly enhance operations across logistics companies and warehouses.

If you’re struggling to manage shipping effectively, consider working with a freight management company like Winfreight. Winfreight’s warehouse management software gives your business a turnkey solution to manage, streamline, and economise every part of your warehouse.

To learn more about our warehouse management software, visit Winfreight today for more information. Alternatively, get in touch with a representative from Winfreight today.