Cloud ERP & Warehouses of the Future
Today’s distributors must remain agile. They must constantly adapt to evolving customer demands, strict vendor requirements, faster supply chains, and omnichannel sales, exchange, and returns strategies. Managing inventory and warehouse operations is easy when you are small. However, warehouse management becomes more complex as distributors grow, adding locations, expanding facilities, entering new markets, selling to international customers, and increasing product lines. In this guide, we discuss Cloud ERP & Warehouses of the future.
Growing distributors and those using entry-level accounting or legacy distribution ERP systems must modernize warehouse operations to remain competitive. Failure to modernize your business opens the door to competitors to gain market share with lower prices, more extensive product offerings, and a better customer experience. In addition, digital transformation projects often warrant a business system replacement or the acquisition of expensive warehouse management software.
This solution brief provides wholesale distributors with an overview of warehouse management system (WMS) features and technologies. In addition, it includes warehouse management strategies and a process for executing WMS implementations to modernize warehouse and distribution center operations.
Introduction to WMS Features
There are several types of features distributors need to consider when modernizing their warehouse operations. These categories include general features, inventory management, order management, automation, and compliance reporting.
Today’s warehouse applications are developed using modern programming languages and database applications. You should have cloud or on-premises deployment options with low-code or no-code connectivity to external systems. Look for customizable workflows, real-time inventory updates, and flexible packaging definitions. Unit of measure conversions for sales, purchasing, and inventory are also crucial.
Some WMS systems include order management while others integrate with the sales order module in your ERP application. Systems should support backorders, item substitutions, inventory order allocation, and drop-shipments. Flexibility is essential for pricing, promotions, and discounting. Integration with commerce and retail systems may also be required.
Modern warehouses automate processes using bar code scanners and RFID. Other automation technologies include labeling, automated replenishment, carousel and robotics integration, EDI, and scale integration.
COMPLIANCE & REPORTING
Do not neglect compliance reporting. Look at industry and customer labeling requirements, quality assurance, lot and serial tracking, inventory valuation, and industry regulations.
Robust inventory management provides flexibility for warehouse configuration by location with bins, containers, and slotting requirements. Matrix items simplify product management using item attributes with tools to expedite purchasing and sales for like items. Physical inventory cycle counting ensures inventory accuracy with ABC rank codes to optimize warehouse layouts.
Inventory receipts should support preferred item stocking locations with multi-step transfers to track in-transit shipments between facilities. Perishable goods distributors need systems to manage lots and stock rotation. Picking should support multiple methods such as batch, wave, and zone picking with first-expired-firstout (FEFO) picking by expiration date. Look for systems that support flexible packing options including various packaging definitions and carton management.
The shipping process should be completely integrated with sales order and inventory management. Consider systems that natively support small parcel, less than truckload (LTL), or truckload (TL) carriers. You may also require route and delivery management if you own your own fleet and manage direct shipments to customers.
Consider features for inventory replenishment using demand forecasts, kitting and disassembly, and availability of connected applications for quality management, container management, and consigned inventory.