How WMS improves your supply chain visibility

Supply chain visibility has long been considered a must-have, but there are plenty of gaps in warehouses that prevent you from end-to-end clarity. This is especially true for systems that don’t communicate or still require some pen-and-paper effort.

We’ve seen a significant uptick in WMS sales materials and module development focused on visibility for data and activities. That’s the right place to start a conversation on how a WMS can benefit you and your partners, by making it easier to share and proactively address supply chain bumps.

What does WMS bring to visibility?

Two areas of visibility come into play for your WMS: internal and partner. Both impact your supply chain, though in slightly different ways.

Internal visibility helps you look at your inventory and keep levels high enough that you don’t experience out-of-stocks. You can also get individual and team labor management monitoring that allows you to run more efficiently. Visibility into this supply chain can make it easier for your team to perform at their best, meeting the needs of your partners too.

Partner visibility is an extension of the internal visibility that helps you share information with vendors, customers, and other partners, as well as get information from them. The core WMS benefit here is its ability to manage and standardize your data, simplifying sharing and ensuring you and your partners can react as needed.

A WMS can also help you be more transparent in real-time, by supporting information sharing and controlling some of your data exchange. The faster you can send and receive information, and the sooner it gets to a system that knows what to do with it — like ensuring the dock is clear if a shipment is going to be later than expected — the better you’re able to react and not disrupt business.

With a quality WMS, supply chain visibility happens across your chain and can be used to improve operations in and out of your warehouse. For best results, look for systems that use data standards and are known to integrate well with popular ERPs, CRM, ecommerce, and other platforms.

Are there core visibility features to look for?

Most standard WMS will be able to benefit your entire network. However, to get specific WMS supply chain benefits, there are a few features and tools to ask for specifically. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it should get you started:

  • Labor and workforce management that can be tracked to the person and devices
  • Standardized data and reporting, including support for electronic data exchange (EDI) to help with integration.
  • Automated inventory tracking and cycle counts.
  • Returns support, including data capture and receiving management
  • Multi-jurisdiction support so you can add new partners as you grow and adapt if any partner or customer changes the locations you ship to and from.
  • Document management to simplify international moves, allowing you to get the best components or sell at the best prices with minimal business interruptions.
  • Specialty functions where you already interact with your partners, such as integrating with tools for matchbacks or street-turns to match import and export containers.

The underlying theme for these features is that they help you run a flexible operation. You can scale and adapt while delivering information to your partners whose businesses are changing too.

Where do you start?

If there’s any doubt, ask your preferred partners about the software they use and look for tools that make it easier to share between, which can improve interactions and profitability for you both. Then, look at the processes you need support and the places where data can make your warehouse more efficient.

There’s no truly wrong answer, but you get better answers by working hand-in-hand with your supply chain partners.


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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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