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Warehouse Management

10 Key Features of a Warehouse Management System (WMS)

A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is the heart of many fulfilment operations. The software is designed to optimise warehouse operations, allowing you to maximise the use of your space and resources, ultimately allowing you to fulfill more packages on time in full.

A good WMS can provide insight, enabling you to make key decisions when expanding and growing your business, but with many different options on the market, the process of choosing the right WMS for your business can be daunting.

With that in mind, our very own Mintsoft product experts have put together 10 key features of a good Warehouse Management System as well as looking at how to pick the one that’s right for your business.

8 minutes

Written by Luke Owens

10 Key Features of a Warehouse Management System

1. Inventory Management

A WMS should provide real-time tracking of inventory levels, statuses and location within the warehouse. Movement of inventory should be logged to provide traceability and insight, this starts at with goods into the warehouse, encompasses all movement within the warehouse and ends with goods out. 

Key inventory management features include:

  • Real-time inventory level and status 
  • Support for Stock Keeping Units (SKU)
  • Attribute logging for Serial Numbers, Batch and date information
  • Barcode scanning to maintain stock accuracy
  • Inventory allocation to orders, replenishments and warehouse tasks (FIFO,FEFO)
  • Inventory movement reporting
  • Stock take functionality

2. Warehouse Location Management

A key feature for a WMS is the ability to uniquely identify and classify the space in your warehouse. Depending on the size of the operation, it may provide support for unique location IDs across multiple warehouses or internal warehouse zones with many different use cases like pick faces, bulk storage, goods in or out locations and controlled storage (Chilled, frozen, high security).

A WMS can provide:

  • Unique IDs for each location taking into account the aisle, column and shelf
  • Support for locations across multiple warehouses or warehouse zones
  • Barcode scanning of locations for inventory control and traceability
  • Location types (Bulk, Pick etc)
  • Location contents and inventory traffic reporting
  • A warehouse map allowing visibility of locations and contents at a high level 
  • Access control for security, health and safety and loss control

3. Goods In Processes

Managing goods in efficiently can be one of the biggest challenges for a warehouse. A WMS should provide visibility of upcoming deliveries, including delivery date and time as well as the size of the delivery to allow you to forecast the resources needed to handle it efficiently. Ideally a staged receipt should also be supported allowing larger shipments to be quickly received for subsequent put-away minimising the time a loading bay is occupied. A WMS should also support blind receipt so that even unexpected deliveries can be properly logged into the system.

Features to consider include:

  • Support for advanced shipment notifications (ASN)
  • Delivery calendar to show upcoming shipments
  • Serial Shipping Container Codes GS-1 label support
  • Staged receipt and put-away actions
  • Suggested put-away logic to optimise the use of available space

4. Order Management

A modern warehouse has to deal with order input from multiple sources. Omni-channel systems allow receipt of orders from a variety of online store fronts, social commerce platforms, from CSV upload, API/EDI connections, EPOS or manual input. A WMS allows you to manage your orders from one platform allowing you to allocate to all your orders and back orders from one inventory source, automate for accuracy and speed of operation, and track from receipt to delivery. The business can also report on key order data to allow you to make key decisions through data analytics and forecasting driving efficiency in operations. 

A competent order management system should include:

  • A central point for managing your orders in bulk
  • Able to receive orders, provide inventory and despatch updates across multiple channels
  • Backorder management
  • Order statuses to allow automation, and drive warehouse action
  • Order detail amendment and logging
  • Query and response logging
  • Order tracking
  • Automation rules for common actions
  • Reporting and analytics

5. Shipping Management

A WMS should be capable of automating aspects of a warehouses shipping requirements. Automated courier and service selection considering the order and package details, destination and generate any required documentation. Integration to couriers will allow for the automation or bulk creation of shipping labels and return of tracking information.

The key elements of a shipping management solution in a WMS are:

  • Automated service selection
  • Document production
  • Integration and shipping label generation
  • Automated receipt of tracking information
  • Reporting and analytics

6. Order Picking and Packing 

Depending on the volume of orders being processed and the types of product being handled by the warehouse different pick and pack processes may need to be followed. You may wish to pick specific orders depending on shipping or order details, pick multiple orders to a cage in bulk or use tote trollies. The WMS should have the capability to assign the relevant picking type to each batch of orders. When packing, a WMS should offer the ability to double verify picked items and attributes as well as generate any required paperwork like despatch notes, customs documentation and packing lists. 

Key functions a WMS will support for picking and packing:

  • Support for multiple different pick types
  • Barcode scanned pick verification
  • Walk sequencing to maximise efficiency 
  • The ability to skip damaged or missing items
  • Double verification on pack
  • Document generation 
  • Reporting and analytics

7. Returns Management

An inevitable part of fulfillment is returns management. A WMS needs to provide a clear efficient returns process both against an order and returns received blind. Returns management processes should generate any documents required, log the returned items and their condition and provide options to exchange or refund before inspection of the returned goods and lastly preparation for restock or scrappage.

Key functions to look for in returns management are:

  • Return of items against an order or blind receipt
  • Logging of reason for return and return actions (refund or exchange)
  • An inspection process with options to restock or scrap
  • Reporting and analytics

8. Integrations

We have touched on order and courier integrations but you may also wish to integrate to other elements of you ERP software solution such as a finance management system or CRM. A WMS may have standard integrations to common platforms but an open API allowing for custom integration is also an important factor to consider.

A WMS typically has the following key integration functions:

  • Prebuilt integrations to popular order sources and couriers
  • Integration options for finance and CRM software solutions
  • Integration to assembly and manufacture solutions
  • An open API for custom integrations not supported as standard
  • Integration error reporting

9. Mobile Functionality

Mobile functionality is typically thought of in regards to picking and tasking allowing users to scan barcodes for SKUs and Warehouse Locations when completing tasks to log for traceability and ensure efficiency of operation and accuracy. With the rise of cloud-based WMS solutions and the trend in increasing warehouse size being able to access the full features of a WMS from a tablet or laptop while on the move should also be a consideration.

Key mobile functions to be aware of are:

  • Mobile barcode scanning for goods in, picking, warehouse tasks and returns
  • Internet dropout protection
  • Mobile access to a cloud-based system

10. Reporting and Analytics

A WMS needs to provide both real-time data reporting and trend based analytics on all aspects of your warehouse. This allows users to monitor KPIs, SLAs and make informed decisions to optimise operations. More recently, forecasting driven by artificial intelligence has been employed to suggest required inventory and resource levels in advance of peak trading periods.

A Warehouse management systems reporting capabilities may include:

  • Real time reporting on key operational data like inventory, stock movements/adjustments, outstanding orders and daily despatch reports
  • Trend based analytic data logged over time to allow analysis for optimisation and forecasting
  • AI driven forecasting to assist in informed business decisions
  • Custom reporting options
  • Report scheduling 

Choosing your Warehouse Management System

Ultimately the needs of your business will determine which features are the most important and the level of granularity required. By considering the types of product you will be handling, your key performance indicators and service level agreements, and your users and their required levels of access against the features detailed above you will have a good basis to choose the WMS that is right for you.

If you need a little more guidance, read our guide on how to choose a warehouse management system, or if you’re ready to consider the cost of a new WMS, please read our guide on how much a warehouse management system should cost.

We’d be happy to show you all of the features that Mintsoft’s WMS has to offer, please book a call with one of our experts if you’d like to see more about Mintsoft.