4 supply chain management requirements to factor into your WMS selection


Controlling your warehouse is a lot work, you've got to stay on top of everything and everyone or it can all get away from you quickly. Expanding that control over your entire supply chain is an even more daunting task.

The positive news is that your warehouse management system can play a smart role in giving you this control. For best results, choose a WMS that meets your supply chain management requirements.

Use our free requirements template to ensure your WMS meets all your selection criteria

For many companies, supply chain management is a process with a variety of best practices and needs to run your daily operations. However, some companies also have a specific piece of supply chain management (SCM) software.

SCM tools often focus on dashboards and data integration so you can manage supplier relationships, execute different supply chain and inventory transactions, or manage related business practices. If you have a dedicated piece of SCM software, your first step is to find out which WMS integrates with it. Proper integration means the best utilization of your data.

As you move through the four requirements, keep your SCM in mind. If you don’t have an SCM tool right now, you can still follow this guide to make the most of your WMS and prepare for any potential future SCM integrations.

KPIs to track

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a vital tool for your WMS because they enable you to see how well your operations are performing. There are a variety of supply chain tools to collect data, including your WMS. Top metrics for it to track include inventory levels and accuracy, receiving and putaway times, storage costs per item, orders picked per hour, cost per line item picked, labor costs, costs per item shipped, as well as cost per order, and percentage of correct shipments.

There are also a variety of metrics you can use to understand customers and leads.

If you’ve been in the warehouse for any time, you know that these numbers can help you understand and improve your operations. That list is just a start, so be sure to customize yours for your supply chain process.

Supply chain size

WMS supply chain requirements should always focus on the size of your individual efforts, as well as your supply chain. You need a platform that can support all your warehouses, SKUs, staff, and equipment.

Just as important is a WMS (or any other supply chain management software) that supports your supply chain partners. Look for systems that allow you to share or collect information with supply chain partners, and specifically ask vendors about the full length of your supply chain.

One item most warehouse management systems support, but is worth asking about, is the electronic data exchange. An EDI is a standardized format that makes it easier to share business documents. A mix of EDI support and collection of photos or signatures in a WMS simplifies the auditing process, as well as helps you track goods, materials, or finished products at every step in your supply chain.

Automation requirements

As warehouses adopt more automation tools, we see an increase in support for a variety of different supply chain management requirements for specific automation tools, as well as broader applications.

If you already have automation tools in place, or are considering adding them to your 5-year plan, add automation support to your list of supply chain requirements. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot more trying to find, or create, an automation module under a more significant time crunch.

The important piece to remember here is that automation takes many different forms. Yes, you can have robot pickers to help your staff, but there are also WMS automation tools featuring AI that reorder supplies when you reach a certain inventory level or can split orders across warehouses to optimize on-time deliveries.

Staff levels and needs

It takes a team to manage a supply chain and run your warehouse. So, an important question to ask is: how many people can you spare to run a WMS during the day?

Supply chain management requirements need to look at your available staff for each shift. If a system requires one person to be continually at the helm, you’ll need a specific staff level.

Complex systems that are automated may also require significant training to operate. Your existing talent needs to be able to use this system, or you might need to hire for this knowledge and skill-set. Review your team’s capabilities to see what you can support already. Or, if your business is growing, this could be a smart element to consider for your next hire.

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Geoff Whiting

About the author…

Geoff is an experienced journalist, writer, and business development consultant with a focus on enterprise technology, e-commerce, and supply chain development. Outside of the office he can be found toying with the latest in IoT, searching for classic radio broadcast recordings, and playing the perpetual tourist in his home of Washington D.C.

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Geoff Whiting

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