There are certain features that a warehouse management system (WMS) typically includes and an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system lacks.
- Work flow management -- schedule employee activity based on needed activity and employee location
- Worker optimization -- system knows worker capacity as well as the pick of each item and where the item is located. Optimizes work route for highest volume in shortest period of time
- RF Task queue -- automatically send next task to employee via RF device
- Bin locators -- most ERP stops at a location. Bins are locations within bins and allow for greater warehouse mapping
- Cart picking -- allows an employee to pick multiple small package orders at once and greatly increases productivity
- 3PL support -- third party logistics management
- Yard management -- trailers in yard. Where they are located; what is in them; when they are coming and going
- Slotting optimization
- Transportation management system -- will include items such as route optimization, freight shopping, load consolidations
- Various pick methods (including wave picking or zone picking) -- typical ERP picks by order only; ruins warehouse productivity
- Full recall management
- QC quarantines.
According to Rebecca Gill, vice-president of Technology Group International: A good ERP package which includes its own WMS system will offer all of these features.
Benefits of integrating WMS into ERP
There are numerous stand-alone WMS systems; however there are numerous benefits when the WMS is integrated with the ERP system.
- Warehouse is not a separate entity
- Manufacturing, customer service, and purchasing all quickly pull real-time data from WMS and make better decisions
- Manufacturing schedules can be better optimized due to correct real-time raw material and quality data
- Customer service provides better customer response due to accurate inventory data and quick response time
- Warehouse activities immediately feed electronic notifications to purchasing or customer service or short shipments or short receipts from vendors
- Complete and tight integration from freight manifest systems, scales, and small package carriers into sales order entry
- Real-time and accurate data linked to e-commerce modules or 24/7 feedback to online customers
- RF and bar code activities move outside warehouse and into manufacturing plant floor. Reductions in errors; more efficient
- Produces a "single version of the truth" for inventory, availability, and costing since there is a single system
- Reduced purchase costs and reduced implementation costs
- Faster project ROI when WMS is part of ERP and not third party add on
- Allows for true paperless environment.
According to Gill, Any effective integrated WMS/ERP system must demonstrate functionality including receiving, put away, locating, order pool management, picking, replenishment, and shipping. In addition, physical and cycle counts as well as vendor returns, license plating, warehouse labor allocation, and product specific multiple storage types provide the tools necessary to effectively manage inventory in various types of industries.
Different ERP vendors utilize WMS integration in a variety of ways. The best ERP software allows the warehousing functions to integrate seamlessly with manufacturing activities. The WMS package should track both work-in-process (WIP) and finished goods inventory, forging a link between the warehouse and manufacturing assembly areas, achieving accurate real-time links to higher level systems.
Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based TR Cutler, Inc., the largest manufacturing marketing firm worldwide. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of twenty seven hundred journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is also the author of the Manufacturers Public Relations and Media Guide. Cutler is a frequently published author within the manufacturing sector with more than 300 feature articles authored annually.