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How to Select a Warehouse Management System (WMS)

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Manufacturers that operate without the assistance of WMS are few and far between these days. Being able to track and manage products at every step has become the standard. Selecting a WMS, however, is not necessarily a standard process because every manufacturing operation is different. This list offers the basic criteria to use when selecting a WMS.

WMS Criteria

            Some of the items listed below are considered “givens” in the WMS assessment process. Nevertheless, it helps to have a complete list to make the best decisions possible.

  • Flexibility. A flexible WMS means one that is scalable to a company’s current size as well as for its future growth. Is it adaptable to different business types and sizes? Most important, make sure the investment can grow with the business.
  • Highest functionality. Assess a product’s functionality specifically as it applies to the company that will use it. Determine if it will address internal issues and business processes that need to be streamlined.
  • Management across the board. A worthwhile WMS leaves no stone unturned. Every aspect of business operations needs to be managed—from start to finish. What’s more—the information supplied by the system should be rich in detail.
  • Ease of use. If the system is too complicated, it will not be well received by employees. Ease of use with a WMS is found in areas like menus that are simple to follow and help screens that walk the user through any problem. Ease of use can also be measured by whether the WMS reduces the amount of time spent on employee training. With the new system, how long would it take to get a new employee up to speed?
  • Constructive metrics. Every manufacturer needs to collect data and use the analysis to inform and guide decisions. As part of that process, be certain the data is presented in a manner that’s understandable. A methodical WMS might allow the warehouse to track performance across organizational groups or divisions. It’s simple: if it cannot supply the performance metrics required, it’s not the right system.
  • Smooth integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP). Compatibility with a manufacturer’s ERP system is mandatory. If it’s not compatible, find out if the vendor is set up to develop additional ERP integrations.
  • Good reputation. Who better to tell you about the viability of a WMS than the people who actually use it? Ask for customer references, and talk to a couple of them. Find out if their expectations were met—and don’t be reluctant to ask for specifics. Also, look into the quality of back-end support experiences.
  • Focus is on warehouse and logistics. Look at the industries targeted by a WMS. Does the software manufacturer offer tools that span many industries? If so, it may be because the company wanted to diversify its products. A better WMS product might be the one with its focus entirely on warehouse management.

No Two Manufacturing Operations Are Alike

No two manufacturing operations are exactly alike, which is why a WMS must be evaluated based on a specific manufacturing operation. The final decision shouldn’t be made until a manufacturer is sure the WMS under consideration has the right capabilities, adapts well to the business model, and suits the company’s culture.