How Warehouse Management Software Contributes to Supply Chain and Logistics Processes

#Software Development
March 6, 2020 10 min read

The e-commerce market is growing: Statista calculated that revenue would be up to 6.54 trillion US dollars by 2022, and it’s estimated that, in 2020, there will be 2.05 billion digital buyers worldwide. For business, it means new challenges in warehouse and inventory management, demand for 3pl logistics implementation, and discovering innovative response to increasing demand in accurate quick product delivery.

Technologies such as AR (augmented reality), sophisticated robotics, drones, smart glasses for hands-free packaging are minimizing company costs, boosting competitiveness, and leading to customer satisfaction. Alongside these tools, it’s worth mentioning warehouse management software-driven changes to speed up orders fulfillment or decrease inefficiencies.

What Is Warehouse Management Software?

By implementing top technologies provided by software development companies, it’s possible to replace ineffective processes with mobile operations, enhance the inbound warehouse control process, optimize picking costs, and strengthen your warehouse planning or capacity.

Software Advice selected the best and most well-known WMSs, providing reviews on each piece of software, outlining basic features, type of deployment (either cloud or on-premise availability), and specifying whether it suits small, medium, or large business. All of them have an objective to manage inventory, perform picking processes better, and arrange warehouse auditing.

Once an enterprise begins to grow, its capacity changes and the main challenge is not just to have enough employees and premises, but to apply digital solutions to cope with warehouse workflow.

The managing director of Dexion comments in his interview to The Guardian that only a few companies that address him pay enough attention to warehouse management being focused on boosting sales and revenues.

Inefficiency just happens. You start with a big empty shell that's high and deep and you slowly begin to fill it as your company grows. Most of the company's efforts are concentrated on generating sales, naturally, and the warehouse gets forgotten. Before long, your warehouse is full, but it's wasted space and you've got a lot of unused potential as well as possibility to optimize everything with suitable software.
Matt Grierson,
managing director, Dexion

If a company decides to apply software, it’s time to think about which one it needs. Despite the fact any warehouse management system is aimed at centralizing and controlling warehouse operations, three basic WMS categories exist:

  • Separate warehouse management systems (perform such functions as barcode scanning, tracking expiration date, or cycle counting)
  • Supply chain management software systems (e.g. SAP, E2open, Oracle SCM; these make plans for the demand, production, and supply network)
  • ERP systems (enterprise resource planning), which integrated management of business processes

To decide whether you need ERP as an overall integrated, all-in-one solution or a WMS, which offers real-time updates about inventory, it’s better to learn more about their features.

ERP VS. WMS: Glimpses and Cases

ERP solutions are more global and include business processes management across the company (accounting, customer relationships management, inventory arrangements). A WMS is typically not quite as multifunctional and gives the possibility just to track the inventory (locating, picking, packing, and shipping of items).

If you already have an ERP and the company buys a new warehouse module, it’s worth calculating how expensive it will be to integrate them. In terms of flexibility, a WMS is always better because it deals with real-time operations, but ERP’s objective is to increase the performance of the whole company.

The warehouse management system can:

  • ensure inventory accuracy (which prevents delivery delays, lost sales, low labor KPI when looking for the lost item, and possible high fright costs to correct failed customers orders);
  • minimize counting errors (if you receive 180 cases as 200, it takes time to manually search where the mistakes is; software can track it more quickly);
  • increase productivity (it’s possible to shorten staff numbers and streamline even the most chaotic processes).

Both ERP and WMS can handle large amounts of data and capture every barcode scan or any mouse click. But WMS is created to support operations. Its primary function is to track stock movements and all associated transactions. ERP is designed to automate all business processes. Its main purpose is making access, flow, and sharing the information better.

If we’re speaking about priorities of the modern WMS software, it’s worth mentioning DHL, a worldwide logistics services provider. The company offers monitoring and auditing of all the critical warehouse processes, recording all the activities performed with the product in the receipt.

Partnering with outstanding software developers, DHL provides companies with:

  • access to high-level supply chains and WMS technologies;
  • scalability and repeatability of any implemented system (because any company experiences growth over time);
  • proven integration with third-party systems (including ERP and WMS integration as well).

Innovecs also collaborates with the logistics companies worldwide to supply innovative digital solutions. Our collaboration with US Cold Storage and another client to revamp existing software and establish new connections between supply chain stages is an example of how our company delivered data visibility solutions (with GIS mapping) and performed better predictive analytics.

In the case mentioned above, one cold chain operator needs software to track pallets and asset locations as well as nullify errors in packaging. In response to such requests, Innovecs developed web and mobile solutions based on image recognition, data visualization, and real-time reporting.

As a result, the logistics company gained an innovative way of managing its warehouse with a variety of advantages given. Let’s speak up more about WMS pros in warehouse management processes.

Warehouse Management Software Advantages

Companies using not even simple software risk losing their competitive advantage in the market. But if they do, Forbes outlines how they benefit:

  • The company can do more with fewer resources (software-prompted changes enable AI/ML implementation, and predicting purchasing trends becomes possible due to the linkage to order tracking software to learn what, when, and how customers are buying).
  • There’s a certain brainy shift to sustainable solutions (Forbes is writing about millennials as a massive amount of buyers that are strongly focused on ESG— environmental, social, and governance—focus), so integrated ERP can make your supply chain more sustainable with cost reduction, as well.
  • Collaboration between logistics, technological, and software development companies leads to more and more agile solutions (wise involvement of 3PLs and 4PLs enhance back-office digital strategy).
  • The business acquires a number of satisfied customers (clients receive the desired products quicker, without mistaken and fault deliveries).

Back in 2016, when Innovecs was sponsoring and exhibiting at Israel Mobile Summit, Alex Lutskiy, CEO, summed up during the panel discussion “The App Lifecycle In The World”:

One of our core strengths is speed to the market. We are an outsourcing software development company and despite our remoteness, we dive deep into our clients’ businesses to provide outstanding delivery.
Alex Lutskiy,
CEO of Innovecs

It was like a prediction that “speeding to the market” would be the main advantage a software development company proposes and the client gains. In terms of WMS development, a business benefits the same: obtaining a more competitive advantage, more control over work processes, fewer errors, and, hence, boosting productivity and revenue.

Key Issues About Warehouse Management Software Right Choice

To apply logistics software and get all the mentioned perks it’s necessary to outline your business needs, be aware of the existing field challenges, and make the right choice of technology partner to develop warehouse management software.

DHL identifies the main e-commerce 2020 trends, knowing which, alongside your personal business needs, will be helpful to choose proper ERP or WMS software to manage your warehouse. These trends include:

  • AI implementation (conversational approach to workflow arrangements and chatbots)
  • Sustainable logistics and the circular economy (delivery via electric vehicles, innovative packaging, and conscious consumption of the electricity or water supply); software integration helps to tune the business and warehouse items management
  • Businesses are focused on aligning their operations to the principles of streamlining, cutting wastes, and saving resources
  • The integration of progressive web apps (speed is essential; research shows that  53% of users leave orders incomplete or cancel when deliveries are too long)
  • V-commerce: voice management of the workflow, including picking, loading, and delivery processes
  • Headless e-commerce solutions (APIs are ready to communicate with any devices, ERPs should be integrated smoothly in company workflow)

So, while deciding whether a company needs ERP or WMS, which kind of software it should be, or whether revamping is needed (which options and functions are essential), it’s worth considering market trends, the differences between enterprise resource planning and warehouse management system, and their pros and cons. And it’s important to know that sometimes, there’s no need to buy software when you can outsource logistics services from third-party providers.

3PL Logistics as a Way to Manage Your Inventory

Third-party logistics gives the possibility for companies to outsource elements of distribution, warehousing, or fulfillment services. 73% of shippers are interacting with 3PLs on a daily or a constant basis, and 58% of shippers say they are increasing their collaboration with 3PLs.

Cloud technologies are often used by third-party logistics providers, which helps businesses to gain new features that allow for increased warehouse visibility, reach regulatory compliances, which is sometimes the top challenges facing warehousing.

The popularity of this type of business running and high demand for 3PLs are proved by the number of market players, providing substantial high-quality processing for your inventory management. Here are the top 50 US providers. What a company gets from them:

  • Ready-to-use, robust fright-processing strategies
  • Business planning
  • Change management
  • Inventory planning and prediction
  • Consultancy, if needed
  • Logistic strategy
  • Tailored digital solutions

The main fact to consider is whether you need to outsource warehouse management software development or just find a good 3PLs provider. Whatever the answer is, let’s look through the main issues that matter below.

Brief “Question and Answer” Outline of the Article

What is warehouse management software?

It’s a solution empowering your inventory processing, controlling, and predicting.

What values can WMS bring to the company?

Online delivery to storage, online picking from storage, automatic truck loading, online confirmation of truck loading. Hence, higher efficiency, environment protection, no paper logistic, and real-time reporting.

What are the main business advantages to using WMS?

Simplifying business processing, more control on inventory, easing picking, packing, loading, and shipping, atomizing workflow leads to the reduction of staff number and making back-office cost-effective.

ERP or WMS: what’s the difference?

ERP assists in managing all business processes of the enterprise (e.g. SAP), WMS (e.g. G.O.L.D for goods reception, stock-in control, urgent picking zones replenishments, labels printing) serves inventory control. WMS can be integrated as a module into existing ERP, but sometimes it’s quite costly.

What is 3PLs and 4PLs?

They are third-party and fourth-party logistics services providers that can be outsourced to develop a logistic strategy; analytics about delivery spendings or warehouse capacity predictions; freight sourcing strategies and the others.

Basic advantages of warehouse management software implementation.

A company gets more control over the items stored, uses premises more effectively, simplifies warehouse workflow (picking goods, preparing orders, packaging, loading, delivering, shipments tracking), reduces errors, and saves on manual labor cost.

What’s important to know about outsourcing warehouse management software development?

It can be a revamp of the existing software, integrate a new WMS module into existing ERP (elaborating additional functionality), tailored customized soft from scratch; in any case, if you enlist Innovecs to design your WMS, there’s an option of consulting services to clarify the needs of your business, outline challenges you meet, and create suitable digital solutions.