A Checklist to Picking the Best WMS for My Distribution Centers
Modern warehouses and distribution centers need systems that match the growing demands of today’s consumers. Consumers want more value, customer service, attention to detail, faster shipping, better customer service, sustainable retailers and even more customer service. Did you catch that?
Everything needs to give customers what they want, and the only way to achieve this feat with growing demands for omnichannel shopping experiences is to align your distribution centers with these demands. In other words, you need an advanced, functional warehouse management system (WMS). However, the variability in WMS solutions can be extensive, so you need to know how to separate the worst systems from the best WMS. In fact, you need to use this checklist to get the features that will help your company grow.
The best WMS will have broad configurability, including customization of the following functions:
- User interfaces.
- Slotting tactics and recommendations.
- Metrics and key performance indicators.
- Mobile and desktop dashboarding tools.
- Versatility among automated and manual systems.
- Adaptability to individual and company-wide goals.
Scalable Within and Outside of Your Warehouse.
Next, the right WMS for your distribution centers should have broad scalability for your company. This goes beyond scalability within your distribution centers. The system should allow for unlimited scalability across multiple distribution centers, storefronts, suppliers and other business-to-business partners. In addition, scalability must allow for use and implementation with new vendors’ systems.
The level of scalability required leads to integrability among the systems. The best WMS should offer a plug and play solution, meaning little to no work is required to implement the system. However, your company should not forgo a solution for lack of plug and play systems. Instead, look for systems that have integrability with other systems, regardless of current, existing systems.
Integrability also requires consideration of the company’s implementation plans and methodologies. Will the system be able to handle a broad, enterprise-wide deployment, or will small-batch testing be required? An ideal WMS should give you the option to use both and adapt to your company’s deployment and implementation plans.
The best WMS will also include alerts and push notifications that rely on information gathered, analyzed and tracked by the system. These notifications should also have configurability to be sent to one or more individuals throughout the company, and notifications should do more than just alert to problems.
Push notifications may be leveraged to create order streaming picking processes, health hazards among workers, lulls in operations and performance measurements.
Task Creation and Assignment.
Push notifications will help drive the WMS to create tasks and assignments, including notifying respective individuals of new or changing duties. This will eliminate redundancy and improve accountability in the distribution center.
Exchanging Information Via EDI or API.
Manual entry should be possible within a WMS, but the best systems will automate all order entry, information processing, and user interface tools. This includes device management, analytics, reporting, follow ups, quality control monitoring, enterprise-wide use rates and cyber strengths within the system.
Cloud-based and system-based security features should also be included. In other words, the WMS system should have a multi-stage authentication process, if not use biometrics, to ensure users have the authorization to access the system.
Self-Auditing, Support, and Reverse Logistics Management.
Another indicator of the best WMS solutions is its ability to self-manage operations and handle both inbound and outbound logistics, including reverse logistics. It should manage consumer service, inventory, labor and material resources, and auditing processes, including initiating chargebacks or assessing penalties for vendors violating inbound routing guidelines.
There is another way to identify the best WMS available. Ask other companies what WMS they prefer and use. Even if they refuse to answer, you do not suffer any losses. Ask your vendors and business partners about WMS systems, and do some research to review the reputation of the WMS being considered. If the system is widely used and lacks complaints, it may be the system best-suited for your distribution centers.
There are thousands of individual processes you could look for in the best WMS. Do you like the color scheme of the user interface, and how long will implementation take? Rather than focusing on the extraneous details, put the items in this checklist first. If your WMS lacks any of the key indicators of the best WMS solutions available, move on to the next option.