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Software as simple as a warehouse management system (WMS) helps eliminate manual processes and can establish distribution as a core competency, no matter the size of your business. Investing in a WMS enables SMBs to leverage fundamental best practices that reduce costs, improve customer service and increase profitability, while building distribution into their capabilities.
Here are four ways that a WMS helps SMBs embrace distribution as an essential element of their business strategies.
1. Streamline receiving processes through RF labeling.
Using RF labeling, otherwise known as barcoded receiving, allows you to quickly and efficiently capture details on inbound orders, no matter how rapidly new product flows into your warehouse. You can integrate this process directly into your workflow just by scanning the barcodes and automatically sending the information to the WMS.
From there, the WMS does the hard work for you. It gives you visibility into your inventory through easy-to-understand dashboards and allows you to run analytics that offer insights that can lead you to refine processes and boost productivity. Think of it like the receipt you get from the grocery store: All the details about each product you bring into your house – product, price, quantity – are contained in one, concise place, helping you to monitor and organize your pantry.
2. Simplify quality assurance checks.
Especially when you work in the food industry, quality assurance checks are an absolutely critical part of your business. After all, you can't send spoiled milk to grocery stores. Your business's reputation depends on fresh, high-quality products. To continue the grocery metaphor, it's just like bringing home a bag of frozen goods. Before you put them in the freezer, you touch each item to make sure it's still cold enough.
Obviously, touching every item to get its temperature is not a very efficient way to handle things in the warehouse. But a WMS lets you automatically sample, capture and collect crucial information, such as temperature, from inbound shipments while monitoring the product's status until you've had a chance to complete the checks. It takes the guesswork out of managing product quality as new inventory arrives at your receiving dock. The WMS collects the data for you and flags shipments that don't meet your standards.
3. Adjust inventory storage on the fly.
If you're like me, you typically put your carton of orange juice in the same spot in the refrigerator every time you come home from the store. But what if today you buy two jugs of apple cider on special instead? Now you need to rearrange things a bit. The same thing can happen in your warehouse if you get new products or unusually large shipments – but the stakes are a whole lot higher when there's a truck sitting at the loading dock.
Your operator doesn't have to be the one who figures out where everything goes. With a WMS, you can set dynamic rules that define how you put away product, while adjusting the strategy based on a particular shipment's needs. A WMS provides both flexibility and innovation, which enables you to maximize the storage space in your warehouse, automatically, so you don't have to invest in more real estate as your inventory grows.
4. Use Big Data to make better decisions.
Say your kids bring home a bunch of friends after school, and each wants to drink some soda. You pull out 10 cans from the pantry and pour them in 10 glasses filled with ice – and end up with 10 leftover, partially filled cans of soda. You may realize that, next time, you can get away with pouring 10 servings in 10 glasses from just eight cans, making more efficient use of the soda.
This is where Big Data comes into play in your warehouse. It can analyze what's happening in your warehouse and help you make more informed decisions that lead to more effective processes, lower costs and, ultimately, greater profitability.
That's just a sampling of how a WMS can make automation attainable for an SMB. And a WMS itself doesn't have to break the bank: The software is now obtainable in cloud or SaaS-based models that you can essentially lease for a monthly fee rather than slapping down a huge chunk of money all at once. Even better, most SMBs see a return on their investment, with a 20 percent payback, in just one year.
You can make distribution a core competency. All it takes is the right software solution to make automation a cinch – and take your business to the next level.
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