A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software application which supports day-to-day operations in a warehouse by enabling centralized management of tasks such as tracking inventory levels, stock locations and order processing. Such Systems are a huge productivity booster for fast picking, more shipping and ensuring lesser errors leading to lower returns. While there is an initial effort required for configuring the system, but once implemented properly, the investment on a WMS system can give very high returns in terms of higher revenues (due to improved seller rating) and lower costs (lesser manpower required, improved productivity etc.)
Below are 10 Key Questions one must ask before opting for any warehouse management software, to get Maximum benefits of their solutions.
1.Can your WMS solution handle Multiple Orders Simultaneously?
Any eCommerce seller manages typically 6-8 marketplaces at the same time. Thus, it is important for any WMS solution that the seller uses should provide him the ability to seamlessly process orders of all marketplaces so that the inventory can be managed accordingly. For example, Unicommerce currently supports 40+ marketplaces, thus making it easier for sellers to manage any marketplace.
2. Does the solution provide you Inventory Accuracy?
Inventory management is a big headache for sellers, particularly when a seller has to manage 100+ dispatches every day. Managing the inventory manually, tracking it timely and updating the stock after each day’s sales is a big and hectic task, and can lead to errors. Any errors in inventory not only result in working capital loss, but also can impact sale volume as the inventory listed on marketplaces is a key factor in determining sales for all online sellers. Thus, an automated system to manage inventory accurately can go a long way in managing complex warehouse operations. For example, Unicommerce allows to seamlessly update inventory for in stock products (every 30 minutes) and out of stock products (every 2 minutes) across all marketplaces, in addition to providing the flexibility of managing B2B inventory along with Dropship inventory.
3. Are you able to manage every section of your warehouse in the WMS solution seamlessly?
Most sellers end up doing an ad hoc management of their warehouse, leading to inventory errors, stock outs etc. resulting in a lot of mismanagement. It is imperative that the WMS solution you choose allows you to define zones, bins, locations etc. so that your warehouse can be neatly organized. You can define the zones based on product categories, product velocity (i.e. how fast or slow a particular product is selling) or any other criteria which is important to your business. Most leading WMS solutions still do not have a very comprehensive implementation of this requirement, but some new age solutions like Unicommerce provide the flexibility to manage the warehouse in a very systematic manner.
4. Does the WMS solution help you automate various warehouse processes (inbound, outbound, putaway etc.)?
With increasing volumes, it is becoming impossible to operate the warehouse manually. Now, the sellers are investing in deploying Bluetooth-based handheld devices to automate key warehouse processes. These handheld devices are not very expensive now, and can be procured anywhere in the range of Rs. 5-10k, but add a lot of value in terms of improving the productivity and reducing the errors, and are able to recover the cost of investment in less than 6 months, if used with a proper system. Unicommerce supports the use of handheld for key warehouse operations and continues to evolve its offering in this regard.
5. Does the WMS solution help to optimize the picking process?
Using manual or traditional systems typically leads to a lot of inefficiencies in the picking process, as the picking staff ends up wasting time trying to locate the right product, and if they end up picking the wrong product, then it implies wasted time trying put the wrong product back and then fetching the right product for dispatch, leading to monetary loss. Thus, it is important that the WMS solution one uses has in built features like picklists, FIFO based picking etc. to ensure that picking of goods happens in an efficient manner. For example, Unicommerce not only provides the option of picklists to optimize the picking process by grouping items to be processed together, but also provides the option of generating the invoice and label through a single click, minimizing the errors in picking.
Figure 1: Sample Picklist format In Unicommerce
6. How easily can you manage returns in the WMS solution?
For any online seller, returns is a big pain area, as it adds directly to the cost, and every seller continues to grapple with this issue. If returns are managed properly, the profitability of any seller can easily improve by 10-15%, thus it is important that the solution deployed by you is able to handle such a critical process seamlessly. It is important that the solution should be able to scan the item and identify the order against which the return is received. The solution should also be able to reconcile the returns for which the item itself is not received. All these features are already supported in Unicommerce, thus making that solution a preferred tool for handling returns.
7. Does the WMS solution help manage security?
With data theft and stock pilferage a day to day reality for most sellers, it is important that the solution you choose provides the ability to configure secure access to the system. The solution should provide definition of roles and users and grant access to the users based on the roles assigned to them. The roles should also be flexible enough to map all the warehouse processes. For example, Unicommerce provides the flexibility to define up to 9 roles in its solution:
Different Roles for Different Users
8. Does your WMS Solution also provide Quality Checks?
Due to the regular wear and tear in the warehouse operations, some stock may not always be in a sellable condition. For example, a stock may be damaged while lying in the warehouse, and a warehouse operator may discover the “bad” stock only at the time of the dispatch. Thus, it is important that the WMS solution you choose allows you the flexibility of doing quality testing at every key check point (inbound, outbound, picking etc.).
9. Does your system help you in tracking shipments across multiple courier providers?
An e-commerce seller has to deal with various shipping providers (marketplace provided shipping, self-shipping etc.) and it becomes a hassle to deal with various shipping providers. Thus, it is important that the system you choose helps you track shipments across various courier partners. In addition, the system should allow you the flexibility of defining priority of shipping providers, or build custom rules. For example, fragile items should go through courier X only, or high value items should go through courier Y only. All this is currently supported in Unicommerce.
10. Does your WMS solution provide comprehensive analytics to assess your operations?
Analytics is a powerful tool and the insights that you can draw from your WMS solution can be useful in making key business decisions related to growth, productivity, cost etc. It is important that the WMS solution not only provides comprehensive data but also presents the data in an easily comprehensible manner.