Making the Right Choice
Choosing the right Warehouse Management System (WMS) for your retail or wholesale business can be a difficult and long process. We have created this article to guide you through some of the most important aspects to consider, and to increase your chances of ending up with the exact right platform for you and your business.
1. ERP integration
The ability to integrate the WMS platform with your ERP should be a fundamental element in your decision-making process. Consider what data is, or can be, exchanged, between your ERP and your future WMS. For instance; how will your accounting be affected when your inventory changes? By choosing a WMS platform that is built into your ERP, you can trigger automatic journal creation and inventory valuation updates. Additionally, you will see the best results when your future WMS also shares the same database and workflow as your ERP.
You should, of course, also consider the user-friendliness of your future WMS platform. As with the previous point on ERP integration, we are again dealing with one of those aspects that can really make or break the introduction of the new technology. At the end of the day, what is a new WMS platform worth if user-adoption will be a challenge?! There are various factors that can make a difference in this matter. The user interface, for instance, should be open for adjustments to allow a tailor-made experience for the respective employee. That will give you fewer errors and misunderstandings, which will in turn increase efficiency in your warehouse – or in the physical store, when the WMS is being used there. Also, should you need to hire seasonal and temporary staff, that as well calls for an intuitive UI that can be learned quickly, and enable the new user to start working right away.
3. Future-Proof Hardware
A modern WMS-platform runs on handheld devices that are being used in the warehouse and in physical stores. That introduces the selection of the right hardware to your decision-making process. Often, the WMS provider will be able to guide you in this regard. It is important that you end up with the most future-proof hardware, and the hardware that also offers the best protection of the exchanged data.
Android-based scanners are considered by leading experts to be the number one choice in terms of flexibility, speed, and security. At the same time, this category of hardware is also where you will find the most rugged devices that are best suited for warehouse use. Years ago, Microsoft-based devices (Windows Mobile) used to be an alternative. Microsoft, however, has declared end-of-life on these, making that not a good way to go.
4. Specific Features
Consider what is unique to your business. Which features would give your company a competitive advantage? What would make your business more agile and give your customers the best shopping experience?
Maybe, you need separation of some inventory per client for more reliable fulfillment? Or, you might use a series of warehouses to pre-stage items as you get ready for the next fashion season. Perhaps the goods for your next big in-store promotion will be perishable, so your warehouses now need to operate at a certain temperature.
This is where your choice of a WMS vendor plays an important role. When choosing a vendor that has experience with other retail clients, you increase your chances that their solution can also meet the needs of your business. If you at the same time choose a platform that can be customized and modified to suit your unique requirements, you should be 100% covered now, as well as for the future.
Some of the features most often needed by retailers include:
To achieve efficient inventory counts your chosen WMS should enable you to not only perform full inventory counts quickly and efficiently, but it should also allow for more advanced functions such as quarterly counts and unplanned counts.
You should be able to perform movement of items and inventory in your store and warehouse, may it be planned or unplanned. You will always know where each item is placed and how many pieces you have.
Find a particular item quickly, and spend less time searching your warehouse while the customer is waiting.
Is an item sold out? No worries, with this feature you can search for a substitute item to offer as an alternative.
5. Return on Investment (ROI)
Last, but certainly not least, ROI should be a vital part in the process of choosing your future WMS platform. Consider what would be an acceptable time frame for you to see an ROI from your investment. If you choose the right platform, you should see an ROI relatively quickly – typically in just 6-12 months. Some retailers even have an ROI within half that time. A modern WMS platform will bring along advantages such as the ones below, which will all have a positive impact on your ROI:
- Less errors when receiving items and/or processing orders
- Increased efficiency in your warehouse
- Higher average sale per customer based on more informed in-store personnel
- Less waste/use of paper in the warehouse
- Optimized picking routines
- Warehouse equipment savings
- Space savings