Selecting a Cloud WMS Product – Key Challenges, Concerns and Questions
This is the first in a series of blogs relating to the selection, implementation and management of a Cloud Warehouse Management product.
When reviewing a Warehouse Management product it is beneficial to keep in mind the challenges that you are currently facing with your existing environment and software. Below are a few examples of typical challenges or questions that companies face on an ongoing basis.
In today’s rapidly shifting environment, many organizations, both big and small, are looking for cloud-based warehouse solutions that can address their needs for speed, accuracy and fast shipping turnaround times. In most companies a quick turnaround (order to delivery to cash collection) is treated as a core competency.
In the current COVID-19 environment businesses are struggling to predict sales and forecast demands. They all are looking for solutions that deliver flexibility that meet or exceed their business and industry needs. It will always be difficult to build a solution that can meet every vertical’s needs but there are few products that have been developed to offer maximum benefits and incorporate industry best practices.
Before Business and IT make any decision to buy cloud-based warehousing and distribution solutions, they need to see whether the considered products have addressed some significant challenges that are addressed below:
1. License Plate Numbers (LPNs) – Most distribution warehouses use LPNs as part of their daily routine. While receiving of Purchase Orders, ASNs( Advanced Shipment Notice), Internal Organization Transfers or Distribution Product Transfers, can the system generate LPN’s using standard screens or do you need a scanner to receive products?
2. Unrestricted use of locations – Most ERP systems have the concept of subinventories. Systems use these to physically separate material of different product categories during receiving or distribution. This prevents employees from using single location across subinventories causing frustration during some standard warehouse operations. Most workers want flexibility to use single locations across subinventories or they do not want the subinventory concept at all. This is especially important in a Third-party logistics (3PL) environment where it is always challenging to manage warehouse physical locations as customer’s products change frequently.
3. Real time inventory snapshots – Does the product offer real time inventory snap shots of warehouses and all DC’s (Distribution Centers) in centralize location? Can the application publish the information on a customer portal so the customer can make an informed decision while placing orders? This could prevent one of the largest problems in sales order fulfillment process which is the back-end-forth communication between customers, order management and the distribution team.
4. Order Fulfillment – Does the product offer flexibility to fulfill customers’ orders by using different delivery shipping methods like full-truck-load (FTL), less-than-full-truck-load (LTL), ground shipment and parcel shipments? Does the application offer integration with different shipping service providers, such as UPS or FedEx? Does the product support the latest technologies for data integration, such as Dell Boomi or MuleSoft?
5. Waving – What options does are offered to enable aggregating order picking group using different business criteria. What kind of stock allocations rules are possible? Once sales orders are released for picking, will the system provide an estimate of the picking work load? Will the system take into consideration the manpower available on the shift to manage picking loads effectively? Does the system provide flexibility to create and release rush or emergency orders for picking? Does the application allow the capability to plan different waves as per customer shipping methods? Do supervisors have visibility to the order picking progress via screens and dashboards? Do users get graphical representation of orders vs inventory vs picking data snapshots?
6. Inventory counting – Many organizations are looking for strong cycle counting solutions that can eliminate the need for annual physical counts saving approximately one week of warehouse operation downtime. Users are looking for best cycle counting solutions that can help them
- Count total LPN’s which are found on the location physically that are not present in the system and record it against location, provide list of LPN’s which are physically missing in the location and record it.
- Cycle count location stock as either loose or consolidated and record discrepancies easily.
- Provide flexibility to generate cycle count transactions on specific events during order picking like short pick, product missing on location, wrong location, product damage, etc.
7. Reporting – Business Customers are looking for Business Intelligence reporting tools that provide real time reports which provide inventory snapshots, customer order information, order picking information, cross-functional reporting, open and forecast order information, order picking turnaround time, inventory adjustments, etc. Business teams are looking for reporting solutions that allow users to build reports without being dependent on the IT Team.
8. Labelling – Business teams also need to know what kind of labelling capabilities are offered by the various WMS products. Some industries, like Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), a food industry vertical, are looking for the capability to create customer-specific compliance labelling. Can the WMS application offer 2D/3D labelling features? Do they have pre-built logistics service providers like FedEx/UPS/USPS labelling requirements included? In addition, do they have capabilities for building custom labels?
Now that you have read about some of the concerns, challenges and questions that people have when deciding on their next, or maybe their first enterprise Warehouse Management System, we will speak about how some of the leading applications have addressed the concerns, resolved the challenges and answered the questions in our next installment on this topic. In the meantime, if you have specific questions, we would be glad to assist where possible. Please send all inquiries to email@example.com.