How can you choose the best warehouse management software for your business?

February 27th, 2024 8 minute read

Ioana Neamt

Contributing Writer

February 27th, 2024 8 minute read
A stocktake is essential for performing audits and discovering issues with your inventory.

First, it is important to understand that warehouse management systems offer a broad range of functionalities that go beyond tracking and controlling the inventory itself. Managing an entire warehouse operation includes aspects like layout optimization, employee management, and optimizing order picking, packing, and shipping. In this way, you minimize the waste of both products and time and implement a lean warehousing strategy.

The best warehouse management software for your business is the choice that ensures you have a good hold on all the details of running an efficient warehouse, that the insights you gain are helping you to constantly improve, and that it is always capable of growing along with your business. So, how do you pick the best one? Let’s go over some of the most important aspects to consider.

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What is warehouse management software?

Warehouse management software — we’ll keep it short as “WMS” — is one of the most important tools for businesses that are in the process of optimizing their inventory and fulfillment operations. The right choice of WMS will be very helpful with tasks such as tracking stock levels, managing the picking and packing processes, and improving the accuracy of order fulfillment.

Fortunately, there are a variety of solutions available for your consideration. On the other hand, this means there is a lot to research and balance during your selection process. To help you get the ball rolling in the right direction, we put together a short list of essential aspects to act as a starting guide.

Key considerations for your selection process

Before you look at what options are out there, it is important that you take the time to assess the warehouse needs and operative goals that you will need the software solution to address.

Business size and complexity

The size and complexity of your business hold a lot of weight in determining which WMS is the right fit for you. For instance, if you are running a small business, you most likely have a relatively simple warehouse operation, and perhaps your inventory is not very diverse. If you expect this to be the case for some time going forward, you might want to look at a less complex software solution.

However, if your business is large enough that you, for example, operate multiple warehouses and a relatively complex inventory, you should look at a warehouse management solution that can match the needs at your current level, as well as possibly accommodate future growth.

Features and functionality

The best warehouse inventory management software for you should be able to do everything that you need it to do. For example, you would most likely need it for tracking inventory levels and managing order prioritization and packing.

Also important are reporting and analytics capabilities, which will help you gain invaluable insights from running regular inventory KPI audits. Identify what functionalities you need your WMS to address and look for the option that has you covered.

Ease of integration

In the age of everything being connected, there are fewer and fewer exceptions that can operate independently. Whether you are a manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, or other warehouse-using type of business, you will most likely need to be as well connected as you can for your operations to run smoothly.

As such, the WMS you pick should be able to integrate with any other business systems you are using or planning to use, such as your ERP system and your e-commerce platform. Ease of integration saves you time when making the connections, and having a good fit makes it easier to manage your inventory and fulfillment operations across all your systems.

Customer support

The customer support capabilities offered by the WMS vendor are another important factor to consider. This will be relatively easy to assess during your research phase, as the resources a vendor makes available from the start can paint a pretty good picture of how helpful they can be in your time of need.

For instance, can they offer demo sessions and/or assistance with training you and your staff on how to make the best use of the WMS they offer? Do they have the resources to help you troubleshoot when and when you need assistance, considering the lightning-fast nature of modern commerce?

Pricing

Last on the list but certainly not least, you need to consider cost across several perspectives: How much can you afford to invest in a warehouse management solution? What are the best options available within that budget in terms of covering all or most of your WMS needs? Calculate the return that you need from such an investment and estimate how long each option might need to go from implementation to a positive ROI.

Following a lean warehousing plan, the image depicts a clean and organized warehouse or storage room you might find in a retail store

Examples of warehouse management software

There are many software solutions out there that range from options designed for managing massive operations to alternatives made for smaller or medium-sized businesses that are looking for ways to increase their potential.

With each designed to serve certain functionalities or meet the requirements of a certain segment of the industry, your best choice of warehouse management system will have to be the one that most closely meets most, if not all, of your needs. Here is a short list of options, provided in no particular order, to get you started in your search.

1. Oracle Warehouse Management Cloud (WMS Cloud)

One of many applications provided by the famous software company, this cloud-based warehouse management system does not require hardware installation on the premises, which can simplify maintenance and reduce your IT costs. It can be a good option for companies that are already using other Oracle applications, as they would be best served by seamless integration and data consistency across Oracle products and platforms.

Features and functionalities include:

  • Inventory management — Real-time tracking and visibility, kitting and lot control, layout and bin optimization
  • Order fulfilment — Picking strategies and optimization, wave management, packing and consolidation, shipping management
  • Labor management — Planning and scheduling, task assignment, performance management
  • Other— Mobile access, automation capabilities, data analytics

2. IBM Sterling WMS

An appropriate option for the management of fulfillment and distribution across several facilities, the IBM WMS offers flexibility and remote access from any device with an internet connection. Its modular design allows a certain potential for customization by enabling you to choose functionalities based on your identified needs. It also helps in terms of scalability, as you can add modules or additional licenses.

Features and functionalities include:

  • Inventory management — Real-time tracking and visibility, cycle counting, kitting and dekitting, layout optimization
  • Order fulfilment — Wave management, packing and consolidation, picking strategies and optimization, shipping and transport management
  • Labor management — Task assignment and management, labor planning and scheduling, performance monitoring and analysis
  • Other — Modular design, automation capabilities, reverse logistics

3. Blue Yonder Luminate Logistics

Employing artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, this software solution can help you optimize various warehouse operations, reduce costs, enhance productivity, and improve accuracy. Although its complexity might be more than what a small business requires and can support, it can serve medium or large operations that can benefit from its AI-driven approach and advanced functionalities.

Features and functionalities include:

  • Inventory management — AI-powered inventory optimization, real-time visibility, serial and lot tracking, warehouse slotting and optimization
  • Order fulfilment — AI-powered picking optimization, wave management and order batching, put- away and slotting optimization, multi-channel fulfillment
  • Labor management — AI-powered labor scheduling, task management and assignment, performance analytics
  • Other — Automation capabilities, predictive maintenance, advances analytics and reporting

4. Epicor

This solution is considered to also be suitable for smaller enterprises, particularly those working in distribution. As Epicor offers both cloud-based and local installation options, it can somewhat adjust to your IT infrastructure, preferences, and possibilities (depending on the option, setting up and configuration might require some technical expertise). Some functionality customization is possible. While it can integrate with other business applications, you might get best results from combinations with other Epicor system solutions.

Features and functionalities include:

  • Inventory management — Multi-location management, tracking and visibility, kitting and dekitting, warehouse slotting and optimization
  • Order fulfilment — Wave management, picking optimization and strategies, packing and consolidation functionalities, shipping and transportation management
  • Labor management — Planning and scheduling optimization, task assignment and management, performance tracking and analysis
  • Other — Mobile access, yard management, reporting and analytics

5. SYSPRO

This is another option that is suitable for small or midsized companies. Providing a centralized administration portal for several of the functionalities that are essential in good warehouse management, SYSPRO can help you improve planning and budgeting, KPI analysis and insights, and more. However, it’s important to note that you’ll get best results from the dedicated WMS if you are also using the SYSPRO ERP.

Features and functionalities include:

  • Inventory management — Real-time visibility and tracking, cycle counting, warehouse slotting and optimization, multi-location management
  • Order fulfilment — Picking strategies and optimization, packing and consolidation functionalities, shipping and transportation management
  • Labor management — Workforce planning and scheduling, assignment and management of tasks, some performance tracking functionalities
  • Other — Some reporting and analytics capabilities, mobile access

Take your warehouse management to the next level with help from the cloud and Katana

Although it takes a bit of getting used to if you are just moving on from managing your inventory in an Excel spreadsheet, there are considerable benefits in using cloud-based warehouse management solutions. No matter the size and growth stage of your business, our cloud-based solutions are easily adaptable to your needs.

Improve inventory tracking

Enjoy all the benefits of real-time visibility into inventory levels, easy identification of items within your warehouse, and reliable tracking of stock movements throughout the supply chain. Maintaining optimal control over your inventory minimizes the risk of stockouts and overstocks.

Enhance order management

Streamlining order processing and fulfillment is a key element of ensuring that deliveries arrive to the right clients in a timely fashion. Therefore, the optimization of picking, packing, and shipping procedures unlocks faster shipping times and translates to a boost in customer satisfaction.

Eliminate stockouts

Use your warehouse management system’s reorder points so you always know when stock levels are running low. For example, you can set up your solutions to trigger reorder points according to predefined stock levels and demand forecast. With functionality like this, you can save a lot of time by maintaining optimal inventory levels with little to no manual intervention.

Optimize your warehouse layout

Warehouse management systems give you a good overview of your operations, which allows you to identify areas of possible improvement. Finding the best layout and storage strategy can maximize picking efficiency, enhance ergonomics, and reduce your operational costs.

Reduce labor costs

By identifying and automating repetitive tasks and helping you streamline some of your processes, WMS systems can help improve employee productivity while also reducing labor costs. Implementing warehouse automation frees your staff from time-consuming, repetitive tasks and allows them to focus more on strategy and growth.

Unlock key reporting and analytics capabilities

With the help of warehouse management software, you can conveniently generate comprehensive reports and gain invaluable insights that allow you to identify key trends, keep your inventory management practices improving, adapt your inventory replenishment process, develop pricing strategies, and organize promotional activities.

Integrate with enterprise resource planning systems

While complex in itself, warehouse management is one part of a larger process. Seamless integration with broader enterprise resource planning solutions is an important element of scalability. By integrating your WMS and ERP, you gain a holistic view and understanding of management across the entire supply chain.

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