As a manufacturing or distribution company, you appreciate the value of effective warehouse management. Particularly important is the ability to gather and process timely and accurate data on such matters as inventory levels and stock locations. This is vital for such core business processes such as creating optimal delivery and shipping schedules. Furthermore, inventory control is one of the pillars of lean manufacturing.
Such tracking and control demands highly sophisticated software systems; many firms have installed warehouse management systems (WMS), dedicated software applications that handle distribution logistics, automation and all the other facets of managing warehouses.
While extremely useful, WMSs are essentially tactical tools. They tend to work in isolation, handling solely the needs of the warehouse while not being fully integrated with the other IT systems in the organisation.
For maximum efficiency, a warehouse software solution should be part of a strategic enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. With total system integration and a common database for the entire business, you get the clarity, focus and control that comes from having a single access point for viewing and handling all company data including that of the warehouse.
Such arrangements will become increasingly important for the future management of warehousing as business processes continue to evolve and increase in scope and complexity. Consider these ongoing trends:
Change in IT infrastructures
IT infrastructures are becoming increasingly complex as over time the range of applications used increases, causing data to be disparate across the business. Firms should conduct internal infrastructure audits to review whether current systems are still fit for purpose or whether consolidation is required.
By moving to a single business management system data will facilitate enterprise-wide connectivity and the seamless exchange of real time information between all departments including the warehouse.
The Move to Mobile
Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones offers great flexibility for workers to remain connected to company data. In the case of warehouse management, smartphones can download apps that allow them to be used as barcode scanners and RFID readers.
Such handheld devices work to keep a firm handle on the shipping and inventory situation and linked to enterprise resource planning platforms, for example.
Mobile warehouse apps linked to an ERP system can help with processing inbound products and raw materials, deliver accurate and timely inventory statistics, and handle outbound product processing by tracking shipment data.
The Rise of Multi-channels
Today’s business are increasingly working as virtual as well as brick and mortar entities. Sourcing and selling through such multiple channels increases the complexity demanded from warehouse management systems as orders arrive from both online and offline. Firms need to establish protocols and systems that allow fast location and retrieval of goods from the warehouse and thus help minimise shipping times.
ERP is the Key
To take full advantage of the trends companies need a warehouse management solution that’s part of a robust, flexible and scalable ERP system.
For however important warehouse management is, it’s just one component of your business structure. Thus its value hinges on how well it integrates with the other business processes such as marketing, delivery and manufacturing, and how well it enables key decision makers to formulate strategy, analyse feedback, and adjust processes when necessary.