Things are changing and growing rapidly in the e-commerce industry, and as an e-commerce retailer, you need to keep up with the crowd. One thing that is constant in the retail sector is change. Retailing is undergoing two significant changes, technological and consumer behavior. Now, the question arising inside the minds of all businessmen and aspiring entrepreneurs is “How can I stay ahead in this domain? What are the technological changes should I adapt to?”
To answer these questions, let me give you an example which all of you must be familiar with. Remember the days in school where the teacher used to teach us that to keep a plant alive and growing, we don’t need to water its leaves, but only the roots. Water the roots and watch the plant bloom.
If you could figure this out, congratulations! If not, it’s about your warehouse(the roots of your business). Why warehouse? Because it is the heart of your business. Its the center of the Supply Chain Management process. What you procure goes straight to the warehouse. Want to deliver on time & right items to end customers; the warehouse comes in the picture. Shipping products or returning items get stocked in the warehouse.
For all those people taking a sigh of relief because they are already managing their warehouse using traditional excel methods, Beware! Working with excel in this era of digitization is like playing the symphony of chaos. One day in the near future, you will be packed with more orders and returns that you can possibly handle and your present warehouse management will fail. This will lead to wrong predictions, more perishable inventory, excessive spending on safety stock.
This article is all about warehouse management, why you need a WMS(warehouse management system) and how to keep up in the ecommerce business by successfully managing your warehouse.
Why should I move from excel to a WMS?
It may be like this that you are already using excel to manage your warehouse. Then you may ask, “Why should I change to WMS? Well, here are the possible WHY’s that might help you.
Manual input and output
Working with spreadsheets means manual input of data. It costs both time and money. As the company gets bigger in size, more and more people are assigned to do the same repetitive work that can easily be automated using WMS.
If the inputs are done manually, then Faulty spelling, missing out to fill a particular field, filling incorrect data, etc. are inevitable. Spreadsheets don’t have built in business logic to prevent such errors.
Lack of Real-Time
Working with spreadsheets is not at all an enjoyable task. It is not frequently maintained, which means data is not always up to date. As a result, decisions are often taken based on the existing old and obsolete data.
What is WMS?
WMS or warehouse management system as the name suggests, an affordable A-Z software solution for managing your warehouse. The Software handles inventory visibility, managing supply chain operations alongside integration with a TMS(Transportation management system) or an inventory management system.
Why we need a WMS to manage warehouse?
As per a warehouse survey done by Motorola Solutions Future, only 26% of company managers view warehouses and distribution centers as an asset which can drive growth for their business. Clearly, a lot of people are not visionary enough to understand the importance of warehouse management.
Implementing WMS within an organization can help drastically in reducing labour costs, omitting human errors, and improving inventory accuracy, improving customer service and in error-free picking and shipping goods. Modern-day warehouse management system operates on real-time data; this allows the organization to manage all current activities like orders, shipments, receipts, etc. within one single platform.
According to e-commerce fulfillment report, only 20% of businesses are implementing a warehouse management system; 10 % don’t have any experiences with using a WMS whereas 7% of them are not sure of the benefits it can offer.
Let’s have an in-depth understanding of the benefits of WMS in the retail industry.
Advantages of WMS in the retail industry
1. Inventory Control
A WMS gives organizations the ability to track inventory across multiple warehouse locations, in various distribution centers and stores.WMS also maintains a record of every warehouse slot/bin location along with the items that have been stored in it.
According to a survey,
34% of businesses are shipping late due to unavailability of products in stock,
With real-time information, WMS provides quick and accurate feedback. This helps companies to respond quickly to their customer’s demands while distributors and wholesalers know precisely what is in the warehouse and when it needs to be replenished.
2. Labor Productivity
In a survey, when asked, “How does your business cope with fulfilment during your busiest periods?”
“45% said that they paid overtime for the existing staff”
While on the other hand
“38% reported having pulled staff from other parts of the business.”
This is certainly not the best way to cope up with the busiest hours or managing your employees.
WMS here comes to your rescue. WMS increases the productivity of labour by managing worker tasks. It can select tasks from a queue of all pending activities and set the priority of the tasks.
Apart from this, WMS also provides labour planning feedback to management. Based on order loads, WMS can estimate the number of personnel needed to complete the day’s activities.
3. Transparency and Visibility
Won’t it be great if your supplier could access their own inventory in your warehouse alongside with on-hand SKU?
By shedding some redundancy, your suppliers could minimize the costs associated with holding excess warehouse inventory.
WMS also provides complete visibility of what’s going on inside your warehouse. Rather than periodic reports, where the inventory count is taken only at the end of the accounting period; WMS provides perpetual reports that enable continuous monitoring over your inventory.
4. Improved Capacity
23% of business reveals to increase their warehouse capacity to cope with their sales growth, a survey reveals.
Isn’t it an optimal solution to manage your existing warehouse rather than spending on increasing warehouse capacity?
Warehouse Management System can also improve warehouse capacity. This is done by allowing goods to move effortlessly through the facility.
Because the existing inventory information is either slow or inaccurate, companies carry safety stock and surplus inventory. WMS provides accurate information with zero information lead times. This allows you to reduce inventory levels which in turn increases inventory turn rate.
5. Reduced Operational Costs
26% revealed their pain points as finding time for tidying/upkeeping.
A right WMS like Orderhive can help you in reducing waste by identifying perishable and date-restricted stock in your warehouse which needs to be picked first. WMS can calculate the optimum location for each item that helps inefficient use of warehouse space with minimal pick and put away effort.
According to the survey,
“38% reported having pulled staff from other parts of the business.”
Using a WMS reduces your on-hand inventory, optimizing space and reduces the need to allocate valuable resources from other parts of the supply chain to more employees to cope up with the busiest periods.
How is it different from Inventory Management?
|Both WMS and IM involves monitoring on the product level. Example tracking products with barcodes, cycle counting, picking, packing and shipping, etc.
WMS is more complex than IM. WMS is more focussed on the operations of business warehouses. Example: dividing warehouse into compartments or bins, allocating optimum location for storage of frequent on the go items or perishable items, etc
IM is more product detailed oriented and not focussed on what is there in the warehouse. Example: product details, product SKU, the quantity of the items, batch,where the items are located within multiple warehouses, etc.
How to select a Warehouse Management System:
The more daily transactions – such as moving pallets and picks, locating different items in warehouses, maintaining incoming and outgoing items from the warehouse, etc., the greater the potential for ROI.
Must have a User Friendly UI:
Even with all the advanced functions available in your WMS, if it’s not user friendly, you and your staff won’t be able to get the maximum out of the software.
Asking relevant questions before investing in a WMS really helps. For example:
- Does this system enables me to easily sort and view all the necessary information?
- Is the navigation model of the WMS easy to use and understand?
- Can the software provide real-time window into your warehouse operation with only a few clicks?
Look for WMS that supports wireless technologies and where the tedious repetitive operational processes can be automated. Opt for a system that promises real-time delivery, i.e., inventory is updated as soon as the new data is entered, and not with the periodic batch
Integration with Accounting Software and Shipping Partners:
One of the prime factors to consider while selecting an appropriate WMS software is how many necessary integrations it can provide. Real-time integration with your accounting software and shipping partners reduces transcription errors at your back office, lowers the requirement of staff and improves the access to information throughout your organization.
Inquire about system capacity
You got a WMS with all its important features with a nice user-friendly UI on top of it. Still, your search doesn’t ends here. It is important to ensure if your WMS can be upgraded in the near future. This avoids the need to purchase new system within a short period of time, not to mention the loss of valuable time of the organization with experiments. Questions that can still be asked are
- What are the maximum number of users that can work in WMS at any given time?
- What if you want to add another warehouse and want to manage multiple warehouses?
Ask about Technical Support:
Even if everything may look as simple as “2+2=4”. Sometimes, life can be hit you hard by complex puzzles. After acquiring the software, you can bump into problems that can’t be solved internally. You may need to rely on the software vendor’s technical support team. Find out if there is a provision for after sales tech support. Ask about the policies for maintenance, upgrades and support.
Future of WMS in the retail industry
In most warehouses, daily activities and processes are still performed manually. However, new emerging technologies such as drones, robots, IoT, AR & VR will transform the world of warehousing within the coming years. Here’s how –
According to Westernacher Consulting,
worldwide spending on warehouse automation technology has already topped $2 billion and is expected to reach $22.4 billion by 2021.
Warehouse automation may be the key to finding a solution to tedious warehouse distribution challenges. Thousands of businesses worldwide have adopted this solution. In a nutshell, warehouse automation allows you to achieve excellent outcomes with minimal efforts. This is achieved by the use of one or more than one emerging technology.
A quick question that you may have, “Why do I need warehouse automation?” Here are quick 5 Points for considering automation.
- reducing overhead and operating expenses
- increasing efficiency and productivity
- Minimizing manual processes
- Maximizing warehouse space utilization
- Synchronizing the material handling equipment
Warehouse Automation can be subdivided into two parts: Process Automation and Physical Automation
Process Automation, as the name suggests, is the digitalization of the manual process like inventory data collection and integrating the data in the cloud platform. WMS being a cloud software is a perfect example of process automation.
It includes various forms of robots and drones systems in the warehouse. Physical Automation is more costly to implement. This type of automation only provides a reasonable Return on Investment (ROI) for larger high volume warehouses.
Unmanned aerial vehicles(UAVs), also known as drones, can be used in the upgradation of the warehousing processes. Aerial Drones with the help of optical sensors can locate an item in a warehouse from a distance as large as 10 meters. Together with the Warehouse Management System, this will provide fast detection of individual items and prevents inventory mismatches.
The packaging is one of the time consuming and labour-intensive work. Packing robots are the ones that can help you ease this tedious process. In fact, companies like Amazon have already implemented such packaging robots.
Amazon is using the new robots known as CartonWrap from Italian firm CMC Srl has the capacity to pack 600 to 700 boxes per hour. This is roughly four to five times the efficiency of its human counterpart. Apart from CartonWrap, the company also announced its intended use of another robot known as SmartPac, which will automate the process of mailing items in patented envelopes.
The retail ecommerce industry is one of the fastest booming businesses in the U.S. According to the U.S. census department; retail sales rose to 0.7% in July 2019. Department store sales rose by 1.2%. All these facts and figures indicate the prosperous and fast-paced growth of the ecommerce business.
To have your own firm ground and stand out from the crowd in this competitive field of ecommerce, you clearly need a Warehouse Management System(WMS).
Through this article, I hope I have solved your doubts or any second thoughts you might have regarding considering WMS for your businesses. If you have further queries, feel free to write down in the comments section below.