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Automation
8
MIN READ
June 23, 2023
June 23, 2023

6 Types of Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

Learn how Warehouse Management Systems transform warehouse efficiency. Learn about types, benefits, and implementation of WMS for optimized order management.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

In today's digital (and competitive) business landscape, effective warehouse management is crucial for optimizing supply chain operations. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) have emerged as powerful tools that revolutionize how warehouses are operated, as they enhance efficiency, and provide invaluable visibility into inventory and order fulfillment.

In this article, we will explore the transformative potential of WMS, its tangible benefits, implementation considerations, and future trends shaping the warehouse management landscape. Discover how WMS can streamline operations and drive success in the automated warehouse environment

What is a warehouse management system (WMS)? 

In general, a warehouse management system (WMS) is a software application or platform designed to manage and control various aspects of warehouse operations. You could say it serves as a “central hub” for overseeing inventory, optimizing storage, and facilitating the movement of goods within a warehouse or distribution center.

The function of a WMS is at its core to contribute to the smooth functioning of a warehouse. This includes inventory control and optimization, order management, labor management, slotting and location management, yard management, and reporting and analytics. With these features, organizations can effectively allocate resources, optimize warehouse layout, reduce storage costs, and improve order accuracy and fulfillment speed.

6 Different types of WMS 

Warehouse Management Systems can vary in their capabilities and deployment options, catering to different warehouse sizes, complexities, and industry requirements. When selecting a WMS, you must consider your warehouse’s specific needs, your budget, scalability requirements, and integration capabilities. Below is an explanation of the main types of WMS: 

  • Standalone WMS: Standalone WMS focuses solely on warehouse management functionalities, such as inventory control, order management, and labor management. It may integrate with other systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or a Transport Management System (TMS), for broader supply chain visibility and coordination.
  • Cloud-Based WMS: Cloud-based WMS is hosted on remote servers and accessed through the internet. It offers scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness since organizations can pay based on usage and avoid upfront hardware and infrastructure costs. Cloud-based WMS also provides remote accessibility, allowing users to manage warehouse operations from anywhere, anytime.
  • Integrated WMS (ERP): Integrated WMS solutions are part of a comprehensive suite of supply chain management or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. These systems provide end-to-end functionality, including warehouse management, transportation management, demand planning, procurement, and financials. They offer seamless integration and data flow between different modules, enabling a holistic view of the entire supply chain.
  • Supply Chain Management (SCM): Supply chain modules in a WMS refer to additional functionalities or features that integrate with the core warehouse management capabilities. These modules expand the scope of the WMS to provide end-to-end supply chain visibility and control. Examples include a Transportation Management System (TMS), demand planning modules, and Analytics and reporting modules.
  • Industry-Specific WMS: Industry-specific WMS solutions are designed to meet the unique requirements of specific industries or verticals, as they incorporate industry-specific features, best practices, and compliance standards. For example, a pharmaceutical WMS might include functionality for managing lot and batch numbers or temperature-controlled storage. Such specialized WMS solutions cater to the specific needs and challenges of industries such as retail, e-commerce, healthcare, or 3PL.
  • ‘WMS lite’ for MFCs: Companies deploying micro fulfillment centers as a part of their supply chain strategy can benefit from a space-efficient end-to-end standard solution (hardware/software). An example of software supporting this strategy is the QubIt Fulfillment Platform, often referred to as the "Execution Software/WMS Lite." It combines business logic, task management, and inventory management capabilities. It serves as the central intelligence behind the system, managing order fulfillment, inventory, and communication with the Controller. It integrates with AutoStore automation, offering a complete solution for efficient operations. QubIt's adaptable nature allows customization to suit site-specific needs. It interfaces with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), WMS, or Order Management Systems (OMS), optimizing resources and providing intelligent inventory management based on real-time data. Additionally, it seamlessly integrates with pick-to-light systems and scanners, further enhancing operational efficiency.

 

Improve inventory accuracy and reduce stockouts with WMS

Why should you even implement a WMS? Well, because a WMS brings numerous benefits to your business. Firstly, it enhances inventory accuracy, ensuring the right products are in the right place - and at the right time. By optimizing storage space and minimizing stockouts or overstocks, you can for instance reduce carrying costs and improve cash flow.

Additionally, a WMS enhances order fulfillment speed, enabling faster and more accurate picking, packing, and shipping processes, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and retention. 

One effective strategy in regard to the above is to utilize barcode or radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. By implementing such technologies, you can accurately track inventory movements within the warehouse, minimizing errors and improving visibility over your stock. 

Another important aspect is to ensure real-time inventory updates. By capturing and updating inventory information in real-time - such as goods moving in and out of the warehouse - you can as well maintain accurate stock levels and reduce the chances of stockouts.

A worker next to a WMS system in an AutoStore
The WMS offers inventory control and optimization, order management, labor management, slotting and location management, yard management, and reporting and analytics.

Optimize warehouse operations and increase overall productivity

A WMS offers a range of functionalities that contribute to the smooth functioning of a warehouse. These include inventory control and optimization, order management, labor management, slotting and location management, yard management, and reporting and analytics. With these features, organizations can effectively allocate resources, optimize warehouse layout, reduce storage costs, and improve order accuracy and fulfillment speed.

Another way of optimizing warehouse operations is to leverage technology integration to automate and streamline warehouse processes. For example, one way to go about it is to integrate the WMS with other systems like ERP, Transportation Management Systems (TMS), or other automation technologies to enhance efficiency and accuracy.

Things to consider when implementing a Warehouse Management System

When selecting a WMS, it is crucial to consider factors such as scalability, flexibility, ease of integration, user-friendliness, and the specific needs of your business. Also, it is important to ensure that the chosen system aligns with your warehouse size, complexity, and industry requirements. 

Also, finding the right type of Warehouse Management System that aligns with the specific processes in your warehouse is crucial. With various types of WMS available, it is important to choose the one that best suits your warehouse operations to maximize efficiency and productivity. To solve this, we recommend talking to an expert that can properly guide you through the selection process and ensure the right match between the warehouse and WMS.

Integrating a Warehouse Management System with other systems

One of the key advantages of a WMS is its ability to integrate with other systems and technologies within the supply chain ecosystem. For example, it can seamlessly connect with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, transportation management systems (TMS), as well as other software applications, enabling efficient data exchange and end-to-end visibility across the entire supply chain.

Integrating AutoStore with WMS

The integration of AutoStore with WMS simplifies supply chain logistics. WMS acts as a conductor, managing tasks from inventory to order fulfillment.

Aligning Workflows

WMS guides users through essential workflows like receiving, inventory management, and picking tasks. Despite variations in specific warehouse processes, the overarching objective remains consistent—the WMS drives the journey from incoming inventory to dispatching completed customer orders.

Real-time Coordination

The integration of WMS with the AutoStore system signifies a revolutionary shift in inventory management and order fulfillment. The WMS, intricately linked to AutoStore through a standardized API, gains the ability to make requests for bins to be presented at the AutoStore workstations.

Dynamic Order Fulfillment

In a typical scenario, when a customer order is received, the WMS becomes the choreographer, translating the picking task into AutoStore instructions. Through the grid API, the WMS prompts AutoStore Robots to transport required Bins to designated workstations (Ports). AutoStore's efficiency-driven algorithms prepare these Bins for presentation at the most available active workstation.

Responsive Automation

WMS maintains constant communication with AutoStore, receiving real-time updates on Bin statuses. Workstation operators complete picking tasks, guided by AutoStore's movements, ensuring precise and efficient order fulfillment.

Extending Workflows

The collaboration extends beyond order picking to goods receipt, inventory counts, and exception handling. WMS workflows seamlessly translate through the AutoStore API, synchronizing tasks within the AutoStore Grid.

Maximizing Efficiency

AutoStore integrates effortlessly with WMS vendors like Manhattan Associates, SAP, or Oracle. This vendor-agnostic approach combines AutoStore’s automation with WMS features for streamlined order processing, improved inventory management, and synchronized task execution. This makes it a space-efficient and rapid order fulfillment system, enhancing operational efficiency and customer experience.

Impact of Machine Learning (ML) and AI in WMS

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence is highly connected to WMS, as these technologies provide automation, optimization, and intelligence to WMS, enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and adaptability. In fact, they have significantly impacted WMS by optimizing inventory management, enabling predictive maintenance, improving picking and packing processes, providing real-time analytics, and enabling voice recognition.

It is our forecast that AI and ML will continue to advance, enabling WMS to make more accurate predictions, optimize operations, and provide real-time insights. As a result, such technologies will likely enhance demand forecasting, inventory optimization, route planning, and decision-making capabilities. In our opinion, we haven’t seen anything yet, and this might just be the beginning of a new era of full automation and robotic technology continuing to evolve and get smarter.

Summary

In conclusion, Warehouse Management Systems offer a range of benefits including improved inventory accuracy, enhanced operational efficiency, increased order accuracy, inventory optimization, and real-time analytics. The different types of WMS cater to varying warehouse sizes and complexities, and by leveraging the advantages and choosing the right type of WMS, you can optimize your warehouse operations, drive productivity, and stay competitive in the market not only today, but tomorrow. As such, WMS is a strategic investment for efficient warehouse management in today's digital age, and depending on your business and warehouse size, the question should not be whether to invest in a WMS, but when to start accelerating. 

Do you want to learn more about how to automate your warehouse operations to improve efficiency and overall ROI? Let's get in touch today.

 

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FAQ

What are the five types of warehouse management systems?

Five types of Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) include standalone WMS, cloud-based WMS, industry-specific WMS, an integrated suite WMS, and WMS “lite”. Each type offers unique functionalities and benefits to cater to different warehouse management and fulfillment needs.

What is an example of a warehouse management system?

An example of a WMS  is Manhattan Active Warehouse Management. It offers numerous benefits, including streamlined operations, improved inventory accuracy, enhanced order fulfillment efficiency, optimized resource utilization, and increased visibility across the supply chain.
 

What are the 5 essential warehouse management processes?

The five essential warehouse management processes are receiving, putaway, picking, packing, and shipping. 

 

What is WMS vs. OMS?

WMS (Warehouse Management System) focuses on optimizing warehouse operations, while OMS (Order Management System) handles the end-to-end order lifecycle. They can be integrated for improved supply chain visibility and efficiency.

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