Whether you are in the market for a warehouse management system (WMS) or are looking to replace the outdated one you already have, you likely know the benefits of having one manage your operation.
A fully functional WMS gives you greater e-commerce capabilities, gives you better control of your inventory and production process, improves efficiency and speed, and delivers data in real time to help you determine future improvements.
But how do you choose the right WMS for you? The market is jammed with WMS at different price points and capabilities. Here’s how to sort through them to determine which one is best suited for what you need now.
- Identify the ROI. How much tangible savings do you expect? You know a WMS will help save labor costs and help you better utilize warehouse space, among other benefits. But to what extent are the savings you need to see? What are the intangible savings?
- Determine capability. Are you a single warehouse operator or do you operate multiple locations? Are they all within the U.S. or are some across the border? Figure out which company has a track record of integrating multiple locations, of coordinating multi-facility inventory and split shipment of customer orders?
- Direct to customer capability. If your business deals with direct to customer, or e-commerce selling, you’ll want a WMS that specializes in both. They’ll need an interface to e-commerce order processing and small order pick, pack, and ship options, among other things. Pick a WMS that has a track record of functionality in this space.
- Flexibility is a must. You may know what your operation needs now, but what about the future? What happens if you get into e-commerce and now you’re dealing with different outbound carriers, higher returns, and other variables you hadn’t anticipated? Get a WMS that has the flexibility to work in all environments and can accompany all order profiles.
- Plenty of picking. Any WMS expands your picking options, but what are your requirements? Do you need pick to list, pick to box, zone picking, wave picks, pallet picking, etc.? See which WMS accommodates the kind of picking you need for your operation; you’ll also want a WMS that is flexible enough to handle a range of picking in case you need it in the future.
- Carrier capability. Determine which options are available regarding carriers. How well does the WMS you are considering interface with your preferred carriers? What kind of options does the WMS give you to support different configurations for printing shipping invoices, and more? If the WMS does not accommodate your carrier of choice, does it integrate with another system that can?
- SaaS or on-premise. Do you want a WMS that is installed into your system or a subscription-based system that exists in the cloud? There are pros and cons to each. The fully licensed model requires hardware, software, professional maintenance, IT support, and more while the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model is more affordable but less secure. Questions to ask are: Which one provides customization? Which has better support? What are the long-term costs versus short-term and is it worth it to invest in a system that might grow your business over many years versus one that will solve your problems now?
- Inventory management. Any good WMS will track inventory to give you better accuracy. However, you’ll want one that is comprehensive and can create an audit trail of every location of items, from receipt through shipping; look into how the WMS tracks inventory and make sure that every transaction shows the date, operator, and has a time stamp.
- Support matters. What kind of support does your vendor offer? Is there someone available 24/7 or just during certain hours? Which level of support is included and which level is not? What does the support cover? What does it take to have someone onsite or is all the support online by phone? Determine the relationship you’ll have with the vendor post-installation to make sure it aligns with your comfort level moving forward.