Thoughts on WMS


Manage episode 264752030 series 1291540
By Warehouse and Operations as a Career and Operations as a Career. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Warehouse and Operations as a Career and I’m Marty back with ya. I hope I can pronounce my words here today, I’m healing up pretty good, I guess we’ll see how it goes. I wanted to thank ya’ll for all the kind words regarding my little oral surgeries, there almost through and everything’s healing up well!

So, with the little down time I’ve had recently I’ve been working on a few new training classes for a couple of upcoming projects. I was asked to explain, in simple terms, what a warehouse management system or warehouse maintenance system was and if I could talk a little about the three most popular selection, or rf tools, used in the warehouse. We’ve mentioned them here at WAOC on a couple of different episodes, but we’ve never done any kind of a deep dive with them, so let’s talk about those for a few minutes today.

So, a Warehouse Management System is basically a software program that can support and optimize our freight movement and overall distribution centers management and efficiencies. There’s just not a simple 1 definition of a WMS that fits all. I went to Wikipedia, I know, not a definitive source for a lot of us, but I always start out there when I’m looking for words to use. Well, the first thing you see there is the orange exclamation mark warning that the page has issues and they’d appreciate any help with verifying facts etc. It’s a complicated system to explain.

Let’s start out talking about what a WMS is not I guess. It is not a simple plug and play computer program. I think this is where a lot of small to medium size facilities make a critical mistake. I think the first thing we think of when we hear WMS is the word inventory. And yes, a major component of any WMS will be tracking and keeping accurate inventory counts, but it has to go much deeper than that. I look at a WMS as a complex data base. We feed so much information into our systems that a good system can give us so much information, we just don’t always set everything up where we can use it to our advantage! We we’re talking about inventory a minute ago. Yes, it’ll keep our inventory counts correct for us, if we’ve done our part by deducting sales, damages, returns etc BUT it can keep our inventory levels and buys for us too! If we set it up right. Let’s look at what I think, at the very least, that we need to think about when setting up our WMS. Now I’m not a salesman trying to sell a system or I’m going to stick to what I want, as an Op’s person!

First, we probably need to understand that any WMS program is not going to be cheap for our company to install. Whither we’re looking at a bare bone, mainly inventory system or the full-blown package that’ll include Inventory Control, A receiving module with RF scanning capabilities and Putaway and replenishment models to go along with shipping and selection. A complex WMS will even contain Selection planning, routing and a transportation management piece as well. Although not cheap, they can be very affordable, IF, all the efficiencies they bring to the table are utilized. Typically, 75% of the cost of an order is in our labor. And if our WMS can route us thru the warehouse, maximizing productivity and reducing or eliminating picking errors, well, can we afford not to make that investment? As we’ve learned, travel time is costly. An order selector may only spend half his or her time selecting. Imagine increasing that time by 100, 200, or 300% just by optimizing our cube utilization, velocity and movement throughout our facility. Add in the convenience and time savings of knowing where all our product is located or slotted, and a way to automatically get that new order and information to the warehouse. If we run all those numbers, again I’d have to ask can we afford not to have a good robust system in place.

I know of a, oh, I’d say good sized, medium sized distribution center that had been working without any type of directed system and were still selecting off of pick tickets. as for the selecting aspect of the operation they had it down. The selectors knew where the product and reserves were located, they could do a pretty good job. As for the inventory though…we’ll from the time a customer placed an order it was a crap shoot sometimes that the order could be filled. Their receiving department, sales, and fulfillment or shipping departments were basically working off of spreadsheets. I’m making it sound worse than it was, they had a program, but it relied heavily on employee input and data entry. Rarely was any counts correct, and without a directed warehouse only the warehousemen could really find the products. Directed and Non-Directed, remember, that is where our WMS slots our inbound products in the reserves and slots utilizing a bar code system to direct where product is going too or coming from, and just about anything else we want it to know. Things like Lot numbers, Manufacture dates or expiration dates, the receiving date, pick slots and its reserve slot maybe.

Anyway, where was I, yeah, So they invested in a WMS, kind of an off the shelf system, which is fine, if everyone understands any limitations such a system may bring along with it. Remember, a lot of work will go into developing the data base needed for any computer system to be able to help us out in regards to efficiencies, decreasing travel times, and properly utilizing our available cube and product movement thru-out our facility. An investment, again, we can’t afford not to invest in! Well, they were able to get it installed quickly, and they built the counts or inventory into it and turned on the selection component to it. And, no one was happy with it… The system slowed them down, the inventory did not update properly, and the system could not be connected to the sales team. What they perceived as slowing them down was really, and as to be expected, a learning curve. But I think the frustrations were allowed to build up so it was the whole system. I hear this a couple of times a year, and I feel for anyone when I hear that they will be installing a WMS. It’s needed, it’s great, it’s going to cost and it’s going to be worth it.

And as an employee, don’t look at it as a negative. Yes, there is a wealth of reporting that can come along with it. Productivity, metrics and adjustments to all our measurements. But it will make our jobs easier. It’s going to happen, like it, and get out in front of it, accept it and we can use it to our advantage and make money with it!

Shoot I nearly forgot to talk about any RF equipment. RF means Radio Frequency. There are so many tech tools we’re using in the warehouse today. From hand held scanners like you’ll see at your big box stores, to voice to speak headsets that will direct us to our pick locations and even printers we can wear on our hips that’ll print out our labels as we confirm the product has been picked! All these are made useful because they’re connected to our WMS.

The most successful systems I’ve seen will touch each piece of our supply chain. Sometimes they’ll work in conjunction with other systems, but they’ll complete the circle. From our customer placing an order, the inventory being checked automatically, the product placed on hold for that order, sent down to transportation to be routed and then shot over to the warehouse to be selected, loaded, and delivered. A good system can confirm all that has happened, time stamped it all and met all regulatory tracking’s needed.

Check out WMS in your browser. A lot of this information sounds like it’s meant for a supervisor or manager. Actually, we employees need to understand the advantages, and yes, a few disadvantages of a strong WMS. But more importantly, learn to use them to create efficiencies for ourselves, and make us more money!

Check’em out, and send us any questions to We’ll get you some answers.

Until next week, be safe & lets each learn something new, maybe share those thoughts with a peer!

208 episodes