If you’re in the physical goods space, chances are you’re familiar with warehouse management systems. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are essential parts of efficiently and effectively managing warehouse operations, inventory, personnel, and more. Warehouse management systems help organizations track existing inventory, schedule pickups and deliveries, optimize supply chains, improve traceability, create more efficient labor, and decrease overhead costs amongst other benefits.
As supply chains increase in complexity, and competition in the physical goods industry becomes fierce, efficiently managing warehouses has become an increasingly important strategy. Gone are the days where managing via spreadsheets could cut it. Nowadays, organizations need real-time visibility into their inventory levels, something that can only be accomplished through integrated and automated systems.
While more and more businesses are adopting WMS systems, warehousing still has a reputation for being stuck in the past technologically. In fact, a recent study showed that 40% of companies are still using spreadsheets to track inventory. This article explores some of the pain points experienced by warehouse managers, and the benefits of adopting technology.
High Order Volume Customers
Whether you’re in the B2B or B2C space, you likely have select customers that order with a much higher frequency than your usual base. These customers take up a lot of your warehouse resources, and require regular picking and packing efforts. If the customer is ordering in high frequencies and low quantities, you might be seeing less ROI than the customers who order larger quantities in lesser intervals. Having a WMS with intelligent reporting allows you to predict the frequency and contents of these orders, so you can know in advance what resources you’ll need to allot, or even use downtime to prepare for the orders in advance.
Warehouses, particularly those that have not adopted the latest technology, are struggling with optimizing labor efficiency. If employees aren’t equipped with mobile devices or tablets that remain on their person and are integrated with the WMS system, you’re wasting countless hours relaying information. Employees having to run to the other side of the warehouse to inform another employee of an issue or to deliver a spreadsheet leads to wasted time and effort. Further, you’re lacking impactful data that helps you determine how to most effectively pick, pack, and organize your inventory.
Lack of Real-Time Visibility
When utilizing spreadsheets or disconnected systems, there’s no guarantee of real-time visibility. If a warehouse employee picks an item in the warehouse, there can be a delay in the relay of information to the back office. These types of lags cause errors and misreporting. Needing to manually sync systems to ensure the latest inventory is up to date is a time consuming and avoidable process.
When managing off of spreadsheets, there’s a lot more room for error. Lack of visibility into edit history, adding sloppy handwriting to printed spreadsheets, no enforcement of data integrity, and “fat-fingered” typos are just some of the ways spreadsheets can cause havoc for your warehouse. These poor warehouse management practices lead to incorrect products or quantities being sent out to customers ultimately damaging your reputation. Plus, you risk lost revenue on returns, shipping, waste, and more.
Lack of Item Tracking
Both the back office and warehouse staff need instant visibility into stock. Being able to see the quantities on hand and status of items in real-time helps prevent stock-outs or other errors. Plus, quickly knowing the bin locations allows laborers to quickly and accurately allocate products.
Inefficient Space Usage
Physical space is a large financial burden for warehouses. As you’re paying for each square foot, maximizing your space usage is an essential part of running a lean warehouse. A WMS will help you understand your space utilization so you can get the highest possible ROI from your warehouse. Plus, if you’re not tracking which items are purchased most often, or require the most physical resources to pack, you’re missing out on labor optimization tactics. For example, if you know that item B is physically heavy and ordered often, moving that bin closest to your fulfillment area can help reduce the manual labor requirements. This is another example of how a WMS can optimize your space usage, and give you key insights into how you can improve.
Benefits of NetSuite WMS
NetSuite’s warehouse management system (WMS) allows you to efficiently run a warehouse while decreasing overhead costs and waste. Intelligent pick, pack, and ship capabilities, warehouse setup, and guided inventory receiving and putaway are just some of the features that help you run your operations with ease.
NetSuite’s WMS helps businesses increase labor productivity, reduce handling costs and time, improve order fill rates, boost accuracy, better utilize space, and get real-time traceability. Here are some of the key ways NetSuite’s warehouse management system can help your warehouse.
When you adopt a WMS, you’re opening the door for improved traceability in your warehouse. With RFID and scanning capabilities in place, you can easily match lot, batch, and serial numbers across current inventory, inbound deliveries, and outbound shipments.
More efficient labor
Labor is often one of the highest warehouse costs accrued. Thankfully, Warehouse Management Systems offer a number of ways to decrease the labor intensity of running a warehouse. Apps on mobile phones and tablets allow for individual workers to receive updates, pick requests, and communications instantly. This drastically reduces the time and effort required to physically transmit messages across the warehouse; a particularly important perk for larger operations. Intelligent systems can optimize pick schedules and effectively guide them from bin to bin, allowing warehouse employees to pick the items in a shipment in a more efficient manner. Further, these scanners and mobile apps can help reduce mis-picks and other errors that typically occur with spreadsheet management.
Less storage costs
When you run a leaner warehouse, you can enjoy major cost savings through smaller storage space requirements. With the improved reporting and management capabilities that come along with a WMS, just-in-time deliveries are made significantly easier. Firms can save on storage costs by only storing what they need at that exact moment in time.
Piggybacking off the decrease in storage costs, businesses with perishable or easily damaged goods can enjoy less waste in their operations by decreasing the amount of time product spends in the warehouse. This is especially important for the food & beverage industry where shelf lives and expiration dates come into play. By having in-depth visibility into perishability, expiration dates, and demand fluctuations, you’ll drastically reduce the inventory levels that end up discarded.
Data entry is another issue that plagues companies who have not adopted a Warehouse Management System. When you have RFID, mobile, and barcode scanners in place, workers can simply scan an item and update its status or stock quantity directly within the system. No error-prone or time consuming data entry required.
Improve customer service
In today’s day and age, customers expect deliveries to be instant and seamless. In recent years, modern consumers have come to enjoy next day (or even same day) deliveries and are beginning to hold these rapid delivery times as the standard. It’s not much different in the B2B space. Delays in shipping times, even just an extra day for the item to leave your warehouse, can be enough to turn off customers. By optimizing your warehouse operations, and responding to orders, returns, and refunds as quickly as possible, you’ll be able to improve customer service and end-user experience. A strong reputation with your clients ensures repeat business and word of mouth exposure.
Better warehouse automation
With a WMS in place, you can streamline the use of other automation efforts such as carousels, conveyor belts, and robotics. When utilizing pick-to-light, barcoding, and sensors you can seamlessly monitor picking and packing activities. By integrating your WMS with carousels and robotics, you can utilize these machines intelligently, drastically reducing the level of manual labor required and getting the best ROI possible on your expensive machinery.
Many warehouses struggle with picking redundancy with multiple orders being picked individually, rather than simultaneously. With a WMS, you can gain insight on how to expertly pick and pack orders utilizing a wave-release system and multi-order picking. Pick multiple orders in a single run through the warehouse, saving time and effort for your employees. Plus, mobile applications can show your employees exactly what to pick and in what order to achieve maximum efficiency.
With NetSuite’s WMS, you can prioritize and assign tasks to your warehouse workers through their mobile devices. This allows for total control of the warehouse operations, and the prioritization of time sensitive tasks. Users can simply check their device and see the order of their assigned tasks so no one is operating like a ship without a rudder.
When you have accurate data, you can act on it and improve on it. Knowing which processes are taking up the most labor time, which areas create the most waste, which order types are most error prone, and other key metrics is essential to optimizing your warehouse. With the in-depth reporting capabilities that come within NetSuite, you can easily view these key metrics, and anything else you might want to know all from a centralized dashboard.
NetSuite comes preconfigured with a variety of warehouse reports including:
- Inventory Turnover
- Category reports
- Sales per hour
- Same store sales
- Sell-through ratio
- Stock to sales ratio
- Units per transaction
- Weeks of Supply
Empower your employees to never miss a beat with NetSuite’s WMS mobile application. Utilize tablets and smartphones to give warehouse workers instant access to real-time information no matter where they’re located. Plus, the app includes smart guidance that optimizes your employee’s movements. Get recommendations on what to pick, pack, or receive next to optimize your efforts.
Every business is unique. A great perk about NetSuite is that it can be fully customized to perfectly fit your organization. You can customize the interface, dashboards, menus, and anything else you can dream up until it’s tailored to you and your employees.
Easily define stock locations through the use of mobile devices allowing your employees to easily locate stock. For smaller warehouses or retail stores, you can even define the location of product without the use of bins, making this key feature effective for mom-and-pop shops, Fortune 100’s, and everything in between.
NetSuite WMS gives your company clear insight into the order profile of each and every product. You can capitalize on this information by adopting a velocity based approach to packing. By placing the highest order quantity products in the most accessible locations, you can reduce the effort required to pick, pack, and ship.
Cycle Count Planning
Inventory counting can be an extremely time consuming and costly endeavor. Some organizations shut down their entire operations for days at a time just to conduct their yearly inventory audit. Cycle counting, or conducting an inventory audit only on specific items or areas at a time, is a great way to keep operations up and running while accurately managing inventory. However, if the process isn’t tracked properly you risk skipping inventory and creating incorrect counts. NetSuite’s Warehouse Management System allows you to effectively plan and execute cycle counts for maximum accuracy and minimal effort.
Improved Supply Chain
When automated systems are helping warehouse laborers manage delivery schedules, improving demand forecasting, and running overall leaner operations, businesses are better able to time their inventory orders. Some side benefits include giving key suppliers more manageable lead times, allowing suppliers to better predict your delivery needs, cadences, and volumes, and decreasing delivery costs.
Better Back Office Automation
Everything that happens within the warehouse must be visible to the back office, preferably in real-time. When your WMS is loosely tied to your accounting software, for example, you risk delays in data processing times through APIs and scheduled data dumps. The problem is even worse when managing off of spreadsheets. When you have a single system like NetSuite serving as your warehouse management system, as well as your accounting, finance, CRM, marketing and more, you can enjoy real-time data flow and guaranteed accuracy.
NetSuite WMS is an incredibly powerful warehouse management system that can be perfectly tailored to your organization. It allows warehouses to prevent out-of-stocks, fulfill orders with speed, better manage suppliers, improve logistics, decrease manual labor and much more. Through these optimizations, you can run a leaner warehouse that incurs less overhead, boosts productivity, and fortifies your bottom line.
Even better, this cloud-based system means that everyone is looking at a single source of truth. From accountants on their back-office computers, to dock workers on their mobile devices, you can ensure that everyone has 100% visibility into what is happening, where it’s happening, and when.
While there are many options out there for a WMS system, there’s only one that’s part of the world’s leading cloud-based ERP system. Afterall, your business is more than just a warehouse. You’ll need fully functional accounting, HR, sales, and marketing software to keep your warehouse afloat. Rather than investing in several point systems, and tying them all together with APIs and messy integrations, it’s best to invest in an all-in-one software solution like NetSuite.
You can learn more about NetSuite’s Warehouse Management System on our NetSuite WMS page, or contact us to start the conversation.