Key functions of warehouse management systems

Your warehouse is filled with inventory. Some of it is ready to sell immediately and some of it needs some conversion first. 

This could be meat cut according to a restaurant’s requirements, or an item you stock for an online seller that gives their customer a choice in the color of the cover. Your job is to manage that inventory. 

You need to know exactly where each item is right now and where it needs to be for packaging and shipment. You want to keep it all moving in an efficient and effective process. That is warehouse management.

Your WMS, warehouse management system, is your assistant. The most basic function of WMS is to know the location of every inventory item within the warehouse. From that beginning, WMS can perform miracles that will help your business earn a profit.


What items are needed to satisfy a customer order? Where are those items now? What is the optimal path a person can take that finds each of those items and leads to the packing area?


What items are included in the delivery truck that just pulled up at your receiving dock? WMS will make the transactions that convert a purchase order to an inventory item. Those transactions set up your accounting system to pay your supplier when the time is right.

Put away

Now those newly-received items are in your inventory, where should they be kept? Some of them will be needed to ship out today to a customer so a cross-dock movement is made and those items never need to sit on an inventory shelf. 

Other items will be part of a shipment soon - where should they be stored so that day’s picking path is as short and simple as possible? WMS will find those locations.


You might have multiple people picking items through your warehouse and different people will pick items for the same customer order. WMS helps you sort out the picking baskets so that the right items are matched quickly to the right customer orders.


Some of the deliveries will go by your own trucks, others will ship with parcel carriers and perhaps some will ship through the mail. WMS will help keep each batch of shipments together ensuring that when the parcel shipper arrives, all the right orders will be in one place

WMS will help print labels for every package so they arrive at the correct customer after shipment.

Yard management

Often your inventory cannot be held in your warehouse and you have containers and trailers parked outdoors. Some are waiting for space within the warehouse and some can wait until the merchandise within is needed to ship to a customer. 

WMS extends beyond your walls and tracks the location of all the items held in those containers and trailers.

Labor management

How many people are needed on any day? WMS calculates the time required for work on any day and gives you the tools to employ the right number of people every day. WMS also tracks the productivity of those people. 

Who picks the most items? Who picks with the highest accuracy? Who can find the putaway shelf in the least time? WMS helps ensure you have the best people in your warehouse.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle.

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Tom Miller

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