Implementing a Warehouse Management System

Since the earliest computer systems were made that could handle the chore Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) have been created to allow a business basic storage location functionality. That basic principle has remained the same ever since the first WMS was put into use but today the technology has allowed for a WMS to be extremely complex and handle even the biggest warehouse storage needs with relative ease.

A WMS can be a stand-alone system or it can be used in conjunction with an Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP), increasing its functionality ten-fold. There are systems made today that utilize what is called Radio Frequency Identification or RFID and even voice recognition, making the task of storing and then locating stock much less of a chore than it ever was before.

The implementation of a well-designed WMS is something that needs to be planned well in advance in order for the system to be utilized best. Any implementation project will start with collecting all the necessary data on the warehouse and the items that are going to be stored there. It is also vital to define the warehouse operating strategy before the system is designed, something that is different in almost all cases. Another strategy is also needed if the situation calls for the warehouse to be operating during the switch to the new WMS.

The complexity of the switch to a new WMS depends greatly on the type of business, the type of products that will be stored and the number of different items that will need to be registered into the system. Indeed the physical size, shape and weight of every item will need to be collected so that it can be entered into the WMS. This data will then be added to the info on the storage bin, rack or shelf system that is going to be used so that the products can be matched correctly to a bin or shelf or rack that will support them.

A myriad of other factors need to be collected and registered as well. Can an item, for example, be stored on a pallet or does it need to be stored in a crate, or a box. Can it be stacked? Does it need to be kept away from certain areas of the warehouse or certain other products? Is it volatile?

Management decisions will need to be made on many of the issues but a well-designed WMS will help make the decisions, and the planning, easier. That being said, any successful WMS implementation will have all of the key players in the game during the switch so that decisions can be made quickly and so that operations at the warehouse don’t lower greatly.

Depending on the size of the project and the amount of product that flows into and out of a warehouse a WMS may actually increase costs for the first weeks and months as the switch is finalized and the people running the program get up to speed. After this occurs however the newly installed WMS should pay off handsomely in reduced man-hours and increased customer service.

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