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WMS - Warehouse Management Systems Basics

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SageData is based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

System to help manage the receipt, put away, audit, pick and ship of products. These may be SKU or UIC based - which means that items can be tracked by their part number or serial number as appropriate. WMS systems typically link to a web element which permits users to review stock held, and place pick orders.

Configuration

WMS (Warehouse Management Systems) typically use handheld computers linked by RF to a central server. Many remote warehouses can be linked as part of one system. The link to the web element enables orders to be placed and processed quickly and accurately. The system computes the shortest pick route, and guides the picker through that route. Because the system prompts for verification, miss-picks can be reduced or eliminated.

For most systems, the basic functions are: receiving, put-away, audit, picking, and shipping.

Receiving

The WMS system can receive UIC or SKU items either against a prior list, or as new items. Receiving is generally done at a receiving area, so that receipts can be processed quickly, and information immediately posted to the web element of the system.

Put-away

Done from the receiving area. Put away can be flexible or rigid, at the users' option.

Audits

If required, can be completed easily, quickly, accurately. Audit times are typically reduced by a factor of five or ten, as compared to the traditional, paper based, audit process. Apart from the saving in time (and therefore labour, and therefore money) and disruption, the automated system provides more accurate counts, and in a more timely fashion. Counts are placed directly to the database, which means that when the counting is done, the numbers are available - no data entry step. And because the system maintains a full audit trail, management can review the stock adjustment numbers, and recheck or review as required.

Picking

Generally initiated from the web, and optionally supervisor-controlled. Inevitably, in any system, errors creep in, usually through human error. The system is intelligent enough to respond to unexpected pick situations (stock out, when the system shows stock available), and is able, if appropriate, to make stock adjustments on the fly.

Shipping

The WMS system can produce packing lists and mailing labels. Printing of these items can be initiated from the handheld unit at the conclusion of the pick.

Whodunnit?

The WMS system maintains an audit trail of all activities, who did what and when.

Barcode or RFID

Traditionally, items are identified using labels with an identifier (part number or serial number, SKU or UIC) in barcoded format. There is an increased interest in using RFID technology. RFID provides an excellent solution for some very specific applications. However, the vast majority of warehouse management systems use a barcode based identification.

Contact us for more information.

If you found this useful, you might also want to review:

an introduction to barcode technology

an introduction to RFID

RFID in warehouse - a brief video

WMS: warehouse management system - a brief video

QAOK2579-8