How a Warehouse Management Solution Provides Competitive Advantage
As e-commerce sales continue to increase, drop shipping becomes the norm and overall expectations around shipping make customer satisfaction more difficult to achieve, competitive advantage for companies that sell or distribute products ultimately comes down to a warehouse’s ability to deliver orders faster and more accurately than ever. Using spreadsheets and paper to track inventory as it moves through the warehouse will no longer suffice.
Deploying a Warehouse Management System (WMS) as part of a larger fulfillment and warehousing strategy helps growing businesses optimize warehouse operations in four key areas:
- Inbound Logistics
- Inventory Visibility
- Outbound Logistics
- Mobile Scanning
1. Inbound Logistics
As inventory arrives at the warehouse, a WMS helps expedite the receiving process. Using a set of automated processes and pre-defined rules, users are guided through the receiving and putaway process, including recommending bin locations and putaway rules, ensuring inventory is quickly and accurately processed so that it can be used to fulfill orders.
Using a mobile device to receive items automatically assigns the items lot number, serial number, bin location and inventory status as they are received. With NetSuite WMS, inventory is automatically allocated to outstanding open orders and can be taken directly to the packing locations, decreasing fulfillment time and handling costs of putting items away and then picking them to fill an order.
2. Inventory Visibility
With a WMS, inventory is tracked as it moves through the warehouse using barcodes, and lot and serial tracking, ensuring accurate visibility of inventory levels (including allocated stock), orders and fulfillment status at all times. It also gives traceability of perishable goods and can automate expiration dates based on receipt date.
You can also schedule regular cycle counting within the WMS as a means of checks and balances. Cycle counting can be scheduled based on category so that high-moving, or high-value inventory is counted with more frequency than lower value items. By assigning cycle counts to staff based on their function or warehouse location, you can ensure regular counts are completed without disrupting daily operations. Automated processes help by automatically sending reminders prompting staff to complete the required counts, including which products to count and how frequently.
With NetSuite WMS, you get a holistic view of inventory across all physical locations. By setting up physical locations hierarchically and using sub-locations, you can view inventory levels per physical location as well as enterprise wide, allowing for more efficient order fulfillment and replenishment.
3. Outbound Logistics
Using pick and pack logic and strategies available with a WMS, users are guided through the order fulfillment process, ensuring inventory is used when and how you want it to be. Defining a wave release strategy, selecting single or multiple picking type, and setting your wave status further customizes and controls the way orders are processed.
If you’re managing inventory across multiple warehouse locations, NetSuite WMS gives you visibility of inventory by location and allows you to define fulfillment and shipping rules. Ensuring whole orders are being shipped from a single location and orders are assigned to the warehouse closest to the destination minimizes shipping costs and simplifies order orchestration, something that would be impossible to do manually.
4. Mobile Scanning
One of the best ways to increase efficiency in warehouse operations is to integrate a mobile app. The combination of a wireless mobile device and barcode scanning helps to automate processes, such as shipping and receiving, putaway, and picking and packing, and it increases overall operator efficiency. Because information is being recorded in real-time with the mobile app, it’s easy to provide a real-time picture of inventory and ensures accuracy throughout the supply chain.
The NetSuite WMS mobile app was designed with the warehouse manager in mind. It has a clean, clear and easy-to-navigate interface that helps reduce the time operators spend completing everyday tasks, such as inbound, inventory and outbound processing tasks. Through the task manager, you have the ability to direct users to perform specific tasks, such as putaways and picking, based on pre-configured strategies defined during the setup of the WMS system, ensuring inventory is allocated according to plan and not haphazardly. With the use of GS1 barcode scanning you can easily enter items for inbound, inventory or outbound processing.
To further customize the user experience in your warehouse, you can create custom processes within the app. Customizing things like defining default values, hiding/displaying fields and adding fields for data capture can be done from the floor, without any technical expertise. You can export and import custom processes to other devices, ensuring the right users have access.
Making the Move from Manual to Automated
By automating processes, improving operational efficiencies and reducing handling time, a WMS optimizes day-to-day warehouse operations, ensuring you can deliver on customer expectations quickly and accurately.