7 tips for choosing the best WMS system for your business
So, you're looking for a new warehouse management system (WMS)? Congratulations! That means your business must be growing.
Are you starting a new, digital-first e-commerce business? Bringing your outsourced warehousing in-house? Ready to upgrade from a legacy WMS solution? Are you evolving from a paper-based system and ready to increase automation?
Wherever you're at, you need a WMS that will help you simplify stock keeping and inventory management, improve fulfillment and customer service, and increase productivity across your entire business.
At Bitlog, the team and I know a thing or two about warehouse management. Here are a few points we suggest that you consider when choosing your WMS
1) Choose a WMS that enables cost-saving and automation
In an analysis of over 1,000 warehouses worldwide, McKinsey* found that many companies’ warehousing costs are much higher than they should be. To make sure you don't fall into that category, you need to choose a WMS that enables you to build flexible work flows while reducing waste and human error.
System-suggested putaway, voice guided picking and real-time tracking are functionalities that will support your automation evolution, but you need a modular, customizable WMS that will allow you to automate at your own pace. Otherwise, you are spending money on functions you don't need or aren't ready for.
2) Don't build a custom WMS solution
In the "build vs. buy" debate, we vote for "buy". You could hire a local yokel to build you a bespoke WMS platform. You could also pay some guy to build you a steam-powered tricycle. It will be uniquely yours, but is that how you want to get around?
When you buy an established WMS platform, you're getting something that has already been vetted by customers over time.
Instead of spending your own resources on platform development, when you source your WMS solution you benefit from server upgrades and new functionalities designed to solve any issues that you share in common with other platform users.
3) Pick a cloud-based WMS
At this point, the cloud is just a given.
The cloud is how you stay ready for growth – new warehouses and distribution centers, new employees, new markets and new customers. When you are ready to go big, the cloud has you covered.
Moving towards a cloud solution and away from SCADA or other legacy WMS platforms will allow you to better collect and utilize your data. When you can visualize all your data in one place, you can more easily identify bottlenecks and find opportunities for synergies and improvement.
As the data marketplace grows, there may even be opportunities to monetize your WMS data.
4) Select a cost-effective WMS system – not a cheap one
So, what you need is a cost-effective, customizable SaaS WMS solution, but what you don't need is a big clunky mess that will fall apart or lose support in six months.
Don't waste your time. Being cheap can get expensive!
When you choose your WMS, you should really (really) consider how much your time is worth. You will have to implement the solution, train staff, and create a growth strategy. You don't want to start that process over again any time soon.
5) Consider integration with other systems
Your WMS can't work in a silo, so you need to consider how easy it is to integrate with other platforms including your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, TA systems, and with your online shop, if you work in e-commerce.
Easy integration with hardware and equipment such as worker interfaces, forklifts and other lifting gear will give you a better overview of what's happening across the entire warehouse.
With this level of integration, you can also use cool buzzwords like Supply Chain 4.0 and IoT when talking about your warehousing.
Outside the warehouse, you may need to connect with third party logistics (3PL) providers. Easier 3PL integration will allow you to better track their performance, and in turn, improve your customer service.
6) Check the support behind your WMS system
You're going to have questions about your WMS, especially at the start. So, you need to be sure your platform is backed up with solid technical support, including help with set-up and worker training.
You also need to look closely at your WMS service level agreement (SLA). System bugs or server breakdowns can end up costing you a lot, so be sure your SLA will CYA**.
7) Choose a WMS that supports company-wide efficiency
Beyond the warehouse, you can use your WMS as a tool to achieve greater efficiency in your operations. Our clients find that Bitlog adds value by supporting functions such as returns and claims workflows, along with improving communications and head-office oversight.
Pierce, a leading European motocross e-commerce retailer, found that once they gave the front office access to Bitlog they drastically cut down on phone calls and email – because now everyone can easily see exactly what's going on in real-time.
When you're growing rapidly like Pierce, all that time saved really adds up.
Pierce also has a TV on their HQ wall that displays their daily order progress using data from their Bitlog back office. That's not only useful, it's a great example of using a WMS as a real motivator!
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