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Inventory fix: Using a warehouse management system

Female employee taking inventory in a warehouse

When it comes to warehousing and distribution, disorganized processes can lead to costly mistakes, delays and product losses. That's why a modern warehouse management system (WMS) may offer the greatest opportunity to improve efficiency in your distribution hub.

If you find yourself struggling to bring order to your processes, maximize productivity and reduce mistakes and errors, it may be time to consider a WMS.

What is a warehouse management system?

A typical WMS is a cloud-based platform that captures and organizes data about all of the moving pieces within your warehouse, and provides you with a clearer impression of what's going on - and what's going wrong. From inventory entering and shipments leaving, to helping you forecast tomorrow's staffing needs, a WMS can help you see the bigger picture and can let you optimize both processes and planning.

What are the benefits of a warehouse management system?

When you bring improved efficiency to a large operation, you may see widespread benefits. With important data captured in a single repository and data collection and processing automated to reduce the likelihood of human error, you can make decisions based on accurate and timely information instead of "going with the flow" or reacting to problems as they arise. This may allow you to achieve the following benefits:

  • Enhanced process optimization, reduced operating expenses : With the clearer picture the WMS may provide, you can quickly identify what's working well and help eliminate, say, redundant movements to aid in optimization. Over time, greater efficiency can lead to reduced operating expenses as you continuously refine your deployment of resources, time and staff.
  • Better demand planning : A WMS can also improve your forward planning by allowing you to use data about incoming and outgoing product flow to help make better decisions around labor needs. In turn, this can also help optimize how you move materials through your supply chain, scaling up and down as necessary according the forecast.
    How you pick, pack and plan your inventory influences the amount of labor and materials your operation will consume. Modern WMSs let you test and learn which processes are the most effective for filling orders. Greater efficiency may also lead to less waste or scrap, and even a higher perfect-order rate.
  • Higher levels of security and productivity : There's virtually no limit to the positive impact that accurate data capture can have on a warehouse operation, particularly in the area of human error. But warehouse management systems also offer greater levels of accountability, and hence, security. When employees are assigned individual, auditable user accounts that make it easier to track performance, changes, deviations from duty and so on, transparency results. This enhanced accuracy can help deter pilferage and improve production rates.
  • Improved customer experience : When fewer mistakes are made, customer experience almost always improves. But it's also worth pointing out that greater "out-the-door" efficiency can mean that customers could receive orders sooner. Consequently, shipping costs could even drop if products ship from your warehouse faster, and are transported by less urgent shipping means to still arrive within the desirable timeframe. What's more, both customers and staff may spend less time resolving order errors. Happy customers, happy suppliers, happy bottom line.

How to choose a warehouse management system

Identifying which WMS fits your business will depend on the unique factors driving your warehouse needs. Every solution will offer significant benefits to your entire operation, but you'll need to ask potential vendors questions before you commit to one product.

If you can begin with a good understanding of your current state and challenges, you may move forward with a better focus on what you particularly need your WMS to help strengthen. An experienced logistics provider such as UPS can not only provide you with a supply chain assessment, but may also be able to assist you in choosing a solution that fits your needs. Businesses that use a particular logistics provider may find their needs are best met by a solution that can be integrated with that provider's own technology and data systems.

Some of the best-in-class solutions are certified by the UPS Ready® program, which approves integratable technology created by independent vendors who can add value by connecting both your own WMS and the UPS® data network to provide an even broader view of your supply chain beyond the warehouse, which could lead to even greater advantages.

Find Out More

  • How to choose a warehouse management system

    An experienced logistics provider such as UPS can not only provide you with a supply chain assessment, but may also be able to assist you in choosing a warehouse management system that fits your needs.

    Learn how UPS can help
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