Welcome to the Warehouse Management Systems WikiEdit
A Warehouse Management System is a software application that is utilized to support various day-to-day operations within a warehouse. Whether it is used for inventory control, order fulfillment or shipping and receiving, having warehouse management systems are vital to improve the efficiency of a company's warehouse. The software allows for a centralized managements of all warehousing tasks that helps companies boost productivity, reduce costs, shorten order fulfillment times, increase customer satisfaction and deliver a faster return on investments.
The first warehouses were built to store grain to try and prevent famine in Egypt. As time went on, and transcontinental trade increased, warehouse management was created. Originally, warehouse management was a manual process. Everything was recorded and kept using pen and paper, which was extremely time consuming and inaccurate. As time wore on, there was a strong need to keep track of the movement and placement of inventory, especially with the importing and exporting of goods. With the surge of technological advances, warehouse management systems appeared on the market in the 1980's around the same time that real time data collection was made commercially affordable with the conjunction radio frequency technology and bar code scanning.
Originally, the companies that supplied these technologies were primarily project focused and offered significant customized software. By the end of the 1990's, however, it was clear that warehouse management systems was going to be a fast growing market. Over 100 companies were competing for WMS market, and most of them had developed software solutions rather than creating project specific customization.
Today, the market has emerged to the point where the traditional warehouse management system has become an important point solution wihtin an enterprise-wide suite of supply chain planning and execution applications. Over the years, some of the top warehouse management systems have expanded the scope of their product, offering to include a diverse range of supply chain applications, such as: demand planning, distributed order management, yard management, inbound/outbound transportation optimization, labor management, supply chain visibility, event management, slotting, and much more. Offering these applications has allowed for the classic WMS to move outside of the walls of the warehouse, and into the global supply chain market.
Benefits of a Warehouse Management SystemEdit• Receiving – Gain insights into shipments that have been delivered, but that are not yet at their final location. Make sure items at low stock levels are staged and put away first, reducing the impact of out-of-stocks and inefficient fulfillment processes.
• Put-Away – Know the location of all inventory on your shelves. Route your workers to the right location, set up their picks in the proper order to minimize travel time, and increase the number of orders they can pick each day.
• Picking – Improve error-proofing and productivity in the picking process. Workers receive their picks on a mobile device that routes them to the proper location. Scanning items when you pick them verifies that the right item at the right quantity is picked.
• Packing – Ensure the accuracy of each order that is picked and reduce material costs by determining the right sized shipping carton.
• Shipping – See that each order is properly packaged and shipped to the right destination and delivered on the right date.
Problems Solved with a Warehouse Management SystemEdit
There are some problems that we can solve and avoid with a Warehouse Management System:
• Delayed access to information in the system if has been entered days, or weeks late.
• Inaccurate information in the system.
• Late invoices.
• Difficulty locating items as they are moved within the warehouse.
Why do we Really Need WMS?Edit
• WMS will reduce inventory
• WMS will reduce labor costs
• WMS will increase storage capacity
• WMS will increase customer service
• WMS will increase inventory accuracy
Choosing a Warehouse Management System Edit
Different companies have different needs for implementing a WMS. Software plays a major role in warehouse operations: most material handling systems require some type of computer interface. Operations managers must define the system requirements or provide input into the decision making process. You have to know what drives your company and be able to target your specific needs to evaluate and select the solution that best matches your business objectives. Defining your needs is the first step in implementing a WMS, selecting a software vendor comes later. You have the skill in defining how your company works; the vendor has the skill in designing and developing the Warehouse Management System software. You are responsible to explain to the vendor how your operations should function. The vendor can then rely on his experience and the software package to determine how they will meet your functionality.
If the vendor is given some leeway, he can reduce the amount of customization that will be required, therefore development costs will be lower. Not only will you benefit from cost savings, but your system will be better tailored to your operation.
In order to meet your criteria, the selection of bidders should be determined throuhg a pre-qualification process based on your company's specific needs. You must also evaluate the operational factors that will be used, and the relative importance of these factors should be determined prior to the bids being received. The following are some typical factors used in rating bids:
- System Cost
- System Design
- Operational Design
- Quotation Completeness
- Implementation scheduling
- Training and documentation of process
- Related experience
- Financial strength
- Support capability
- Accessibility of data
- User interface
Bandwidth Management- Edit
Bandwidth is also a consideration for organizations when deciding on a WMS to fit their needs. The bandwidth of a network link is the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted concurrently. Bandwidth is measured in bits per second, or more often in megabits per second (Mb/s). The maximum bandwidth of a link is determined by the devices at either end of the link, and by the type of link in use. Bandwidth is also partial the physical characteristics of the material used on the link, but the limitations of the network devices are typically the determining factor.
For organizations purchasing network services from a provider, higher bandwidth is usually available at a higher cost. For network providers, higher bandwidth is available by using higher performance network devices (typically at additional cost.)
Example of some companiesEditIf you're standing in the middle of a big retailer such as Wal-Mart, and you look around, you're witnessing one of history's greatest logistical triumphs. Retailers such as Target, Lowe's and Best Buy stock tens of thousands of items from all over the world. Wal-Mart alone stocks items made in more than 70 countries, according to its corporate Web site. At any given time, the Arkansas-based retailer manages an average of $32 billion in inventory, reports Supply Chain Digest.
With those kinds of numbers, having an effective, efficient inventory control system, or inventory management system, is imperative. Wal-Mart's system helps it maintain its signature "everyday low prices" by telling store managers which products are selling and which are taking up shelf and warehouse space.
Inventory management systems are the rule for such enterprises, but smaller businesses and vendors use them, too. The systems ensure customers always have enough of what they want and balance that goal against a retailer's financial need to maintain as little stock as possible. Mismanaged inventory means disappointed customers, too much cash tied up in warehouses and slower sales. Factors such as quicker production cycles, a proliferation of products, multi-national production contracts and the nature of the big-box store make them a necessity.
Modern inventory management systems must have the ability to track sales and available inventory, communicate with suppliers in near real-time and receive and incorporate other data, such as seasonal demand. They also must be flexible, allowing for a merchant's intuition. And, they must tell a storeowner when it's time to reorder and how much to purchase.
Case Study and Design ParametersEdit
Warehouses are key components of modern supply chains where products are temporarily stored to fulfill customer orders. They are essential in facilitating the coordination between production and demand. Although many companies try to adopt various strategies, such as just-in-time strategy, in order to synchronize direct supply to customers, warehouses will continue to play a vital role in logistics management. Order picking is considered to be the most labor-intensive and hence most costly activity in manual order-picking warehouse’s operations. The order picking consumes about 55% of the total warehouse operating expenses (Tompkins et al., 2003). In addition, the travel time between locations represents 50% of the total picking time (Tompkins et al., 2003). Hence, the reduction in travel distance will have a significant effect on increasing warehouses productivity, decreasing its throughput time, and operating cost. Layout design concerns itself with the aisle configuration in the order picking system. The general objective of layout optimization is to find the best layout that would result in the lowest material handling cost which is a function of the travelled distance. The factors that should be determined at layout design level are: the number of blocks, the depot location; and the number, length and width of aisles.
• Warehouse Layout and Experimental DesignFigures show layout decisions in order picking system design. The layout structure is divided to several pick aisles which have racks to store products on both sides. The
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems Edit
Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) provide dense storage that maximizes floor space, and integrates automated software and hardware for accurate picking and replenishment. These systems automatically locate and deliver the needed inventory to a conveyor system, manual outfeed, or an ergonomic operator station. In turn, these systems lead to a reduction in labor, reduction in floor space and inventory levels, while also increasing the accuracy and productivity compared to using manual storage methods. Typical storage applications include order picking, tooling, consolidation, work-in-process, and defending in ambient, cold, freezer, or clean-room environments.
There are many types of automated storage and retrieval equipment- these include:
- Unit-load AS/RS or Fixed-aisle (F/A) storage and retrieval systems – Machines that store large loads (around 1,000+ pounds), typically on pallets. These systems include one or more long and narrow aisles of storage rack structure, reaching 100 feet or more tall. Most systems are less than 40 feet tall. Software directs the automatic placement and retrieval of loads by a telescoping device that deposits loads into, or retrieves them out of, specific storage positions.
- Mini-load AS/RS – Operating the same way as a unit-load AS/RS, a mini-load AS/RS handle lighter loads, usually weighing less than 1,000 pounds. Instead of storing pallets, the machines typically store trays, totes or cartons.
- Micro-load AS/RS – Dealing with loads even lighter than a mini-load AS/RS, a micro-load AS/RS usually handles loads weighing less than 100 pounds in very small containers, totes or trays.
- Vertical lift modules (VLMs) – VLMs consist of a column of trays in the front and back of the module with an automatic inserter/extractor in the center that stores and retrieves the required trays. Trays can be stored in fixed positions to improve throughput, dynamically to optimize storage capacity, or as a combination of both. Integrated controls, software and pick-to-light systems help increase accuracy and storage densities.
- Horizontal carousels – Ideal for storing small parts and pieces, horizontal carousels are comprised of a series of bins that rotate horizontally around a track, similar to a merry-go-round. This system usually employs two to five horizontal carousels in an integrated workstation called a pod. When an operator inputs inventory information into the carousel’s control software, the carousels rotate into appropriate picking positions. A pick-to-light device between each carousel illuminates to indicate from which carousel, shelf and item to pick the required quantity. The operator picks out of each carousel until the batch is complete. Inventory can be inserted manually or robotically using an automated inserter/extractor.
- Vertical carousels – Rotating vertically, like a Ferris wheel, vertical carousels house a series of shelves or carriers to provide high-density storage that is ideal for fast-moving, small items. Often used for tooling, components, documents or raw materials storage, vertical carousels are enclosed on all sides to secure high-value items, such as jewelry and electronics. When an operator inputs inventory information into the carousel’s control software, the machine rotates via the shortest path to position the item’s specific storage shelf at the picking window. Integrated pick-to-light technologies aid in determining the correct item and quantities to pick.
Radio Frequency Identification Edit
Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is an automated data collection technology that uses radio frequency waves to transfer data between a reader and a moveable item to identify, categorize, and track various items. RFID is especially useful within WMS because it is fast and does not require physical sight or contact between the reader/scanner and the tagged item.
RFID tags can be connected to just about anything (pallets, cases, individuall items, etc.) There are two types of tags that can be used:
Passive Tags- These tags do not require power, however have lower storage capacities (up to 1 KB), and shorter read ranges (4 inches-15ft)
Active Tags- These tags are battery powered, but have higher storage capacities (512 KB) and longer read ranges (300 ft)
RFID tags have mulitple advantages over using bar codes, such as: no line of sight required, multiple items can be read with a single scan, each tag can carry a lot of data, individual items can be identified (not just the category) and much more.
Implementing RFID systems into a WMS would aid in:
- Facilitating the automation of all manual processes
- Reducing the amount of labor
- Eliminating human error (and therefore improve data accuracy)
- Reducing the cost of rework
- Keeping track of all items in a warehouse more accurately
- Responding the customer request more quickly
- Minimizing the cost of the movement of goods wihtin the warehouse
Cross Docking Edit
The term cross docking refers to moving products from a manufacturing plant and delivering it directly to the customer with little to no materials handling in between. Cross docking not only reduces materials handling, but also reduces the need to store products in the warehouse, thus decreasing inventory.
Benefits of utilizing cross docking:
- Reduction in labor costs
- Reduction in time between production of the part, to getting the part to the customer, thus increasing customer service
- Reduction in the need for storage space in the warehouse
There are also various tpess of cross docking, such as:
Manufacturing Cross Docking- This procedure involves the receiving of purchased and inbound products that are required by manufacturing. The warehouse may receive the products and prepare sub-assemblies for the production orders.
Distributor Cross Docking- This process consolidates inbound products from different vendors into a mixed product pallet, which is delivered to the customer when the final item is received.
Transportation Cross Docking- This operation combines shipments from a number of different carriers in the less-than-truckload (LTL) and small package industries to gain economies of scale.
Retail Cross Docking- This process involves the receipt of products from multiple vendors and sorting onto outbound trucks for a number of retail stores.
Opportunistic Cross Docking- This can be used in any warehouse, transferring a product directly from the goods receiving dock to the outbound shipping dock to meet a known demand, for example, a customer sales order.
Software Used Edit
A variety of software systems are used throughout a company’s supply chain to streamline the tracking and flow of raw materials, component parts and finished goods. Software integrates the business processes involved in supply chain management, coordinating a company’s network of suppliers, factories and trading partners. It helps with planning, executing and evaluating strategies deployed to achieve the best overall, system-wide performance in terms of total cost, customer service and minimum in-process inventories. Typical software solutions include logistics planning and execution, order management, warehouse management, inventory management, transportation management and workforce management.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS):This execution software manages people, inventory, time and equipment for picking and processing customer orders. It directs receiving, inbound Q/A, put-away, cross-docking, put-to-store, replenishment, slotting, picking, packing, outbound Q/A and shipping; dock scheduling and yard management; inventory management/optimization and cycle counting.
Automatic Identification & Data Capture Systems (AIDC): This software processes the information collected by automatic ID devices, including bar code, RFID, voice, sensor, pick, put and pack-to-light technologies for receiving, Q/A, put-away, replenishment, picking, packing, shipping, track and trace.
Warehouse Control Systems (WCS): This software provides device control for automated materials handling equipment, including conveyors, sorters, carousels, AS/RS, mini-load, and industrial robots, as well as related process management functionality.
SAP Warehouse Management Systems- Edit
The SAP Warehouse Management system (WMS) provides automated, flexible support in processing all goods movements and in managing stocks in your warehouse complex. The system provides scheduled and efficient processing of all logistics processes within your warehouse.
Implementation Consideration: Edit
If you manage your warehouse stocks with SAP Inventory Management (MM-IM), you manage the values and quantities of stocks in multiple storage locations.
In comparison, the WMS allows you to map your entire warehouse complex in detail to storage bin level. Not only do you gain an overview of the entire quantity of a material in the warehouse but you can also always determine exactly where a certain material is currently within your warehouse complex. SAP WMS can help optimize the use of all of your storage bins and warehouse movements, and store material stocks from several plants together in warehouses with random storage.
Integration and Features: Edit
The WMS is fully integrated into the SAP environment. Business processes, which you trigger in other application components, lead to physical goods movements in your warehouse. You organize, control, and monitor these goods movements with the WMS.
Storage Bin Management-
You map your entire storage facilities in the Warehouse Management system . In doing so, you can set up various storage facilities such as automatic warehouse, high rack storage areas, bulk storage or fixed storage bins in various storage types , according to your needs.
You manage material stocks at storage bin level. You can define these storage bins according to your own requirements. Every storage bin in your warehouse is mapped in the system. This lets you monitor all warehouse movements at all times. You can follow where a certain material is in your warehouse.
SAP Inventory Management and the SAP Warehouse Management system are fully integrated. With its inventory procedure and recording of stock differences, the system ensures that the inventory balance in Inventory Management always corresponds to the warehouse stock in the WMS.
You process all goods movements that affect your warehouse via the WMS. This includes goods receipts, goods issues, stock transfers, material staging for production, automatic replenishment, managing hazardous materials, and processing stock differences in your warehouse.
The WMS optimizes warehouse capacities and material flows using putaway and stock removal strategies, which you can adjust to suit your individual needs, or by using storage units .
Planning and Monitoring-
The WMS offers you an overview of all goods issues and warehouse stocks. The system supports you in planning, monitoring, and optimizing work processes. For example, it gives you a foresighted view of the workload in the coming days or allows you to intervene in good time during critical warehouse processes, so that you can execute warehouse movements on time. Via the RF monitor, you get an up-to-date picture of all of the activities in the warehouse, which means that you can control the actual work in the warehouse using the RF monitor.
Radio Frequency Connection-
In order to structure the work in the warehouse efficiently and cost-effectively, you control the warehouse workers’ work steps clearly and simply via mobile radio-frequency terminals.
Radio frequency connection (RF connection) to mobile date entry achieves quick and flawless data transfer. The RF machines receive data directly from the SAP system and transfer data back to the system. Using barcodes, you can record information to be recorded and verify it. This means that you ensure a high standard of quality in your warehouse.
You can run the WMS as a standalone decentralized warehouse management system, independent of a central enterprise resource planning system (ERP system). For more information, see Decentralized Warehouse Management .
WMS also has an interface to external systems (warehouse control units), so that you can integrate automatic putaway, stock removal systems or fork lift control systems into the warehouse management system for all warehouse movements with the help of this ALE interface.
**For more information on SAP's Warheouse Management Systems, please visit the Help Portal on The SAP business site.
Oracle Warehouse Management Systems- Edit
Similarly to SAP, Oracle also has their own WMS softaree packages. To read more on Oracle's software, please visit the Oracle Warehouse Management Implementation Guide on docs.oracle.com, and search Warehouse Management. There are many different business solutions to view on this page.
There are many other software packages offered, and companies and organization should use caution in choosing the warehouse management system that works best for their own needs. Using the "Choosing a Warehouse Management System" section above is a good tool to reference in what considerations organizations should take when deciding on a system.
Softwares by Size Edit
Software for Small Companies: Edit
- HighJump Software SMB
- Fishbowl Inventory
- Inventory Control by Wasp Barcode Technologies
- Sage ERP (from start ups to larger companies)
- Accolent ERP by ADS Solutions
- HandiFox by TecomGroup
- inFlow Inventory by Archon Systems
- IntelliTrack's WMS
- Clearly Inventory
- Small Business by SenseQuiet Technology
- Small Business Inventory Control by RyTech Software
- WarehouseQ by AHN
Software for Medium Companies: Edit
- Blue Link ERP by Blue Link Associates
- Clear Spider
- CorelIMS by Core Partners
- CYMAIV Inventory Control by CYMA Systems
- Fishbowl Inventory
- IntelliTrack's WMS
- My Inventory Online
- Sage ERP (from start ups to larger companies)
- WarehouseQ by AHN
Software for Large Companies: Edit
- ASCTrac by ACS Software
- Acesss Supply Chain by Access Group
- Cadre Warehouse Management
- IntelliTrack's WMS
- InventoryOps WMS
- Kiva's WMS (owned by Amazon.com)
- Manhattan Associates’ Warehouse Management System (WMS)
- Oracle WMS
- Priya WMS by AFS Technologies
- SAP WMS
- WMS by Menlo Worldwide
Many of these softwares have other key features that should be closely taken into consideration when choosing a Warehouse Management System that best fits your company. Some of these softwares are also add ins for companies who already use tools such as QuickBooks. Some softwares listed are also better for forward thinking companies- if uou are planning on expanding business, you may want to consider picking a warehosue management system that can allow for this growth, without a major software change later down the road. Some softwares are also catered to specific industries, like wholesale, retail, manufacturing, third party logistics (3PL) and much more. This should also be taken into consideration when deciding on a system to best suit your company.
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