In our previous blog, 'Key Considerations when Planning a Warehouse', we looked at the various different areas that need to be considered when planning a warehouse.
These areas included:
- Warehouse Layout
- Product Sizes
- Warehouse Location Setup
- Usage of Racking
- Focus: Goods in / Goods out
- Frequency of Picking
- Usage of RF Devices / Manual Picking
Essentially, once the above areas have been analysed and catered for effectively the warehouse can be set up as efficiently as possible. Once the warehouse has been set up, the organisation can in turn look to implement a warehouse management system.
What is a Warehouse Management System?
According to Wikipedia, 'A warehouse management system (WMS) is a key part of the supply chain and primarily aims to control the movement and storage of materials within a warehouse and process the associated transactions, including shipping, receiving, putaway and picking. The systems also direct and optimise stock putaway based on real-time information about the status of bin utilisation. A WMS monitors the progress of products through the warehouse. It involves the physical warehouse infrastructure, tracking systems, and communication between product stations.'
A warehouse management system is crucial for organisations to appropriately manage the receipt, putaway, storage, picking and replenishment of products throughout the warehouse. The usage of a warehouse management system within an organisation leads to increased efficiency, accuracy and control over the warehouse and the movement of products.
Key Questions and Considerations when Searching for a WMS System
There are a number of areas that must be considered when searching for a WMS system.
- Traceability, Batch Tracking and Serialisation
- Location Management
- Putaway Capabilities
- Replenishment Capabilities
- Pick Consolidation & Wave Release
- RF / Manual Picking
- Product Recall Capabilities
- Pick Area Separation
- Document Printing Separation
- Stock Counts & Cyclical Stock Taking
The above areas must be reviewed in order to ensure the WMS system has the functionality and capabilities required by the organisation, in turn allowing them to remain competitive and grow further in today's dynamic, highly legislative environment.
1. Traceability, Batch Tracking and Serialisation
- With the upcoming legislation surrounding traceability, batch tracking and serialisation, it is imperative that the WMS system is capable of providing full traceability and batch tracking and can cater for all of the requirements associated with serialisation.
- The European Commission has recently published the delegated act surrounding the required safety features as part of the Falsified Medicines Directive. Additional detail surrounding the requirements of this delegated act will be covered in our next blog - 'Safety Features Delegated Act - The Falsified Medicines Directive'.
2. Location Management
- Any WMS system must allow for the setup and management of multiple locations, in correspondence with those set up in the warehouse. These locations must be configurable depending on the type of storage location that is required. For example, bulk locations v forward / pick locations.
- There must be options regarding whether multiple products can be stored in a particular location or not and whether products may be picked from these locations.
- Additionally, the locations must include a replenishment capability whereby, each location must be assigned a minimum quantity and a maximum quantity in line with the size of that location. This will allow the system to use replenishment rules to replenish desired locations as soon as possible where required.
3. Goods Receipt, Goods Checking and Putaway Capabilities
- A WMS System must be capable of allowing the user to receive, check and put away the stock into the correct locations where required.
- Additionally, for increased accuracy, the system should allow for the usage of the RF / handheld devices to carry out these goods receipt, goods checking and putaway functions.
- The benefit of having both a goods receipt function and a goods checking function is that the goods receipt records the arrival of stock at the warehouse door however, an additional goods check can be carried out to verify that the correct quantities were received, ensuring greater accuracy and efficiency in the warehouse.
4. Replenishment Capabilities
- In order to ensure accurate stock levels, the various locations in the warehouse, particularly the fast moving product lines, must be replenished in time for picking.
- Where picking is waved and there are a number of picking waves, the replenishment function can be scheduled to be completed prior to the next picking wave.
- As mentioned, an analysis must be carried out to guarantee that the correct product minimum and maximum quantities are set up at each location ensuring that replenishment can be carried out effectively.
- Where these quantities are incorrect, or where the replenishment is carried out too frequently or infrequently, the stock of the products will not satisfy requirements and ultimately will lead to confusion and inaccuracies during picking.
5. Pick Consolidation and Wave Release
- The WMS system must also be capable of pick consolidation and wave release to allow orders be received until a particular cut-off point and then those orders are consolidated and released in the appropriate picking wave.
- There may be numerous picking waves throughout the day - depending on demand / warehouse setup / warehouse shift hours etc.
6. RF / Manual Picking
- Both RF and manual picking must be available as options within the WMS system. RF picking, using handheld devices, allows for highly accurate and efficient picking by the users and reduces errors and issues surrounding incorrectly picked orders.
- Alternatively, where an organisation does not wish to use RF picking, the ability to allow for the alternative manual picking requirement must be available.
7. Product Recall Capabilities
- The ability to recall products as quickly as possible is critical and will become even more important with the legislation outlined in the Falsified Medicines Directive.
- The system must be able to track what product batches of that product, product quantity, product expiry date, product receipt date and customer are associated with a product recall.
- Where a recall is necessary, the customers who purchased these products must be informed as soon as possible.
8. Pick Area Separation
- Where a warehouse has been set up with different pick areas in mind - the WMS system must be able to cater for these different areas. For example, slow / fast-moving areas, standard products v high value / high quality products, standard v fridge products etc.
- The ability to separate out these pick areas ensures that the correct people will always be picking the correct products from the correct locations leading to improved resource usage, greater accuracy and greater efficiency.
9. Document Printing Separation
- It is necessary to be able to separate the printing of required documents to the various areas and departments in the organisation. For example, sales invoices may need to be printed in a sales department, however, sales credits may need to be printed in the accounting department.
- Similarly, purchase orders may need to be printed in the buying department and pick notes may need to be sent to the appropriate printer(s) within the warehouse.
- The WMS system must be capable of sending documents for printing, to the appropriate departments.
- Additionally, should this setup need to change at a later date, the system must allow for these amendments to be made where required.
10. Stock Counts and Cyclical Stock Taking
- In order for accurate stock levels to be available in the system, it is necessary to carry out stock counts from time to time. These stock counts must be scheduled in the system when required and completed by the users.
- Additionally, depending on the product, stock counts may need to be carried out more regularly. The cyclical stock taking function allows for this requirement whereby, for example, category A products must be counted weekly as they are high value products. However, category D products may only need to be counted every 6 months.
Choosing a WMS system to control, manage, and run a warehouse is a challenging, complex and critical decision for any organisation. When looking at the various options available, those tasked with the undertaking should review all of the above areas.
This review will allow them to establish whether the proposed WMS systems suit their requirements and whether they include the desired functionality and flexibility required. Choosing the correct WMS system will provide them with a future-proof system capable of growing and expanding with the organisation, and in line with their goals, and will ultimately provide them with the best solution going forward.
Wikipedia: Warehouse Management System, [Online] Available From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warehouse_management_system, [Accessed: 10th March 2016]