Selecting Warehouse Management Software
In this article we look at some of the key features of warehouse management software for small business. Evaluating the different considerations below will help you to select the best warehouse management software for your small business.
Function of Warehouse Management Software
Distributors and wholesalers handle tens of thousands of different products. A warehouse management system is used to help organize the storage of these products in one or more warehouses. It also helps streamline and manage the various warehouse operations that take place in the warehouse. The first step in implementing warehouse management software for small business is to lay out the warehouse locations so as to make best physical use of the space and also to reduce any wasted efforts and inefficiencies in performing warehouse operations. Once warehouse locations are laid out, warehouse management software manages the warehouse operations. These include: receiving purchase orders (POs), put-away of POs, picking orders, packing orders and shipping orders out of the warehouse as well as managing periodic inventory counts.
How to Select the Right Warehouse Management Software
There are several key requirements for warehouse management software for small business. These can be grouped broadly as (1) having the functionality and features to meet your business needs, (2) integrating with other associated systems (e.g., shipping carriers), (3) supporting various input technologies (e.g., barcodes, RFID), (4) being intuitive and easy to use and (5) offering comprehensive reports and data analytics tools to evaluate performance. All these dimensions play into the selection of the right warehouse management software for small business.
Key Features for Warehouse Management Software
Integrated Inventory Management
Though not strictly included in the definition of warehouse management, inventory management is a key input into your warehouse management software. Inventory management keeps ledger card records for each product and tracks the quantities and availability statuses of each product in stock. Inventory management also determines reordering levels to replenish products that are out-of-stock. In summary, inventory management works very closely with warehouse management software.
It is possible to have separate stand-alone inventory management and warehouse management software, but this will create issues with data being passed from one system to the other that will be challenging for small businesses. So, the best practice is to get warehouse management software, that is fully integrated with real-time inventory management. Also, the inventory management system must track not just the quantity on hand, but also the quantity on orders, the quantity in shipping and the quantity on backorders. The net of these is the quantity available to sell. You also need to be able to see the quantity on PO and when expected. The inventory management system must be able to track inventory by location, handle multiple warehouses and multiple units of measure for each product.
PO Receiving and Put-Away
When goods are received on POs, your warehouse management software for small business must facilitate verification of the items delivered and automatically create documents to allow warehouse personnel to put-away the products to their assigned bin locations. The warehouse management software must also include the ability to specify shipments by container and track landed costs and HTS import tariffs.
Warehouse management software for small business must be able to allow single picking or batch processes. Batch picking can significantly cut down on the inefficient multiple passes through the warehouse of single order picking. The software must also be able to specify picking sequences through the warehouse by order or by batch. It should also be able to maintain picking comments for each product. And it must be able to function efficiently even at scale, since picking is typically the most labor-intensive warehouse operation.
Good warehouse management software for small business should allow orders to be quickly packed for delivery. The software should allow for the selection of packaging types, calculate weights, and generate packing lists that show which items are in which boxes.
To improve the efficiency of shipping operations, the warehouse management software for small business must also include the ability to rate-shop against multiple carriers. Based on the rates you should be able to select the carrier, the carrier service, and print shipping labels for each order.
Physical Inventory Counting
Your warehouse management software must support full counts or cycle counts that can be done efficiently. Inventory counts done periodically help recalibrate the inventory to account for data errors, breakage or inventory shrinkages.
Key Integrations for Warehouse Management Software for Small Business
Good warehouse management software for small business will include already built-in integrations to multiple carriers for multiple shipping modes: Small Parcel, LTL (Less than Truckload), FTL (Full Truckload), Ocean, and Air. Ideally you should look for integrations with full TMS (Transportation Management Systems) that can handle inbound and outbound shipping. You should be able to pick and pack orders in the warehouse management software and seamlessly push these to the integrated shipping carriers. As the shipments are processed and delivered, the integration should then continuously get automatic updates from the carriers.
Warehouse Management Software that Supports Multiple Input Methods
To enhance efficiency and reduce errors your warehouse management software for small business should provide for all warehouse operations to be performed wirelessly using handheld devices or fixed sensors that integrate automatically with the rest of the system. The software should be able to support barcode scanning as well as RFID either using handhelds or through fixed sensors. The increases in efficiency and reduction in data errors both increase dramatically in going from manual systems to barcode systems to RFID handheld systems then to RFID systems with fixed sensors. Implementing RFID systems can also eliminate hours of physical inventory counting processes and deliver better more accurate, real-time data. Make sure the warehouse management software for small business can support multiple barcode formats and symbologies as well as various RFID tag types and devices from multiple manufacturers.
Ease of Use of Warehouse Management Software
The best warehouse management software for small business will be intuitive and easy-to use. If your warehouse personnel struggle with the software, even if it meets all other selection criteria, this will not result in efficient warehouse operations. You need to focus on the ability of the warehouse management software to improve employee satisfaction and productivity. Look for systems that have straightforward navigation and clear screens. You should look for true web-based systems that are cloud-based and can be run on any device. This will help to reduce the need for IT and other technical resources.
Comprehensive Reporting and Business Intelligence
Good warehouse management software for small business will offer hundreds of standard reports. It should also provide the ability to create reports and full, easy-to-use business intelligence and data analytics capabilities. Reports help troubleshoot performance issues and highlight areas that can be improved. Full business intelligence and data analytics let you analyze what ifs to identify possible warehouse layout changes and/or product placement changes based on actual product movement and demand data. You can also adapt more quickly to changing demand and/or supply chain issues more effectively.
If your warehouse management software for small business is falling short and cannot do everything outlined above, contact us. Let us show you how Accolent ERP, a true web-based solution, delivers integrated warehouse management software for small business users.