What is a Warehouse Management System?

You have read before about the importance of good warehouse management. It will therefore not surprise you that companies are increasingly opting for a Warehouse Management System. Using a WMS makes managing your warehouse easier and provides you with additional new functionalities. In this article you read what a WMS is and how your warehouse would benefit from it.

A Warehouse Management System?

A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is an information system used to manage warehouses. Where a Warehouse Management System was once used only for registrations, the WMS has now developed into a smart system that can help you manage the inbound and outbound flow of goods within your warehouse. The WMS works seamlessly with order processing systems such as ERP systems. Delivery orders are easily passed on from the ERP to the WMS. The WMS then gives feedback to the ERP. A Warehouse Management System usually includes the following three functionalities:

  • Location management in warehouses
  • Flow of goods management
  • Processing order flows in the correct order

A WMS is not suitable for all tasks. For instance, a WMS is not suitable for invoicing or preparing customs data. In practice, a link with other software systems is always provided for this purpose.

Two types of warehouse management systems

There are two types of Warehouse Management Systems: an assisted-WMS and a directed-WMS. The difference between these systems is the degree of system support. With an assisted-WMS, order picking often still takes place on paper. The WMS only plays an advisory role in which the planner makes the final decisions. With a directed-WMS the system directs the employees and the WMS determines the task processing within the warehouse.

What can a Warehouse Management System do?

Basically, the Warehouse Management System ensures that all information regarding incoming and outgoing goods is registered and made available to other systems. Thanks to innovations, today’s Warehouse Management Systems can do more than just fulfil these basic functionalities. Each WMS has its own specific qualities and capabilities, but in general the new functionalities relate to stock administration, clustered order release and stock checks. A WMS is currently capable of managing several warehouses simultaneously. Thanks to these functionalities, order processing is always carried out automatically and in the most efficient way.

There are also specialised Warehouse Management Systems that have a number of additional functionalities. These are usually quite expensive packages that are fully customised to the exact requirements of the warehouse. Examples include warehouses that need to safely store hazardous materials, storage for assembly & customisation, and task management functionalities.

A WMS is useful for every warehouse! Consider, for example:

  • Stocked warehouses where the storage of goods is central. This is where a WMS in its simplest form suffices.
  • Warehouses where activities such as labelling or packaging also take place. Here, a WMS can control both the flow of goods and the flow of materials for the ancillary processes.
  • Cross-docking warehouses where goods must be rearranged very quickly so that they can continue their journey to the end customer efficiently

Not every system is the same

The efficient management of stocks is, like the ordering of orders, a complex operation. The use of stock management software can simplify matters. However, stock management software is available in many different versions, and their capabilities often differ greatly.