A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software solution that manages inventory and operations in warehouses and distribution centers (DC). WMS functionality can be divided into three general categories:
- Inventory Management
- Work Execution
The graphic below provides a more detailed list of warehouse management system functionality.
Other Sources For WMS Capabilities
While most warehouses and DCs today use a dedicated WMS, many rely on the warehouse management and inventory capabilities of other enterprise systems, including ERP, order management systems, or route accounting software (RAS).
As might be expected, different systems offer different levels of capability. For example, many ERP and RAS systems provide basic inventory tracking capabilities (how much inventory of a given product is in the warehouse), but they may not have detailed tracking of inventory to the bin level (what quantity of product is in each location – forward pick location versus overstock, etc.). Bin level tracking is common in most standalone WMS packages.
Common WMS Add Ons
In addition, it is common for DCs to purchase add-on modules to supplement the basic warehouse and inventory capabilities of their WMS or ERP systems. For example, many warehouses buy standalone labor management systems to provide richer productivity tracking, workforce planning and labor standards tools. Likewise, it is increasingly common for DCs to supplement their warehouse management system with external slotting or work execution systems. Many DCs use warehouse control systems (WCS) to manage the execution of automated material handling processes. And more and more are adding work execution or warehouse execution systems to optimize the physical movement of products by people and/or machines, including autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).
WMS Upgrade Strategies
A majority of warehouses and DCs are managing operations with WMS, ERP or other systems that are more than five years old. For companies looking for ways to improve warehouse management without installing a new WMS or replacing their ERP, we recently created a guide to walk you through three key ways to upgrade your WMS.