As much as you may wish things would just stay the same, things are always changing.
That’s true for life in general, especially in the last couple of years. And it’s true in warehouses, where, although their basic function hasn’t changed much over the years, there are always new tools, procedures, and general best practices.
One big change these days is “supply chain issues,” and they’re causing challenges for warehouse managers charged with getting inventory in and out as fast as they can – when they have it.
These challenges mean distributors and manufacturers that want to stay competitive should take steps to modernize their operations and overall efficiency of their warehouses. The sooner a product can be moved, the more satisfied customers and clients will be.
In comparison, trying hard to adhere to pre-COVID protocols or other past less efficient practices may not work as well, especially if your competition seems like they’re trying to adapt.
One useful way distributors can move toward better coordination and modernizing their storage operations is adopting a new Warehouse Management System. This type of software can help more agile companies better keep track of orders, general inventory, other processes and any compliance needs.
Newer versions of established WMS systems also have new features as well as upgraded tools and processes that better enhance what the recipient may be to accomplish.
A newer ERP-based system also offers the potential for even more collaboration and rapid data sharing.
(Plus, sticking with an older WMS “just because we know how it works” ultimately can prove to be a bad idea in terms of weaker security, and increased maintenance)
If your company is considering switching to a new or at least an upgraded WMS in 2022, here are some useful items to consider in your planning.
What Do You Need to Move Forward?
General concerns like “We need to modernize” and “We don’t want our competitors to have a competitive advantage” are both great motivators in getting the right people moving. Specific intel confirming that a competitor is modernizing their own operations or invested in new software or equipment can increase the urgency.
But the decision on how to upgrade should be based more on your own products and services.
- Basic knowledge. Are you and your staff familiar with ERP systems? If there’s already an ERP system in place, how old is it, and what do employees like and dislike about it? Can new modules be added and new training take place?
- An ERP consultant/partner can help look at your warehouse to identify what areas could be modernized. They can also talk about the different customized modules that may be needed that are unique to your operation, such as certain equipment or types of items typically stored there. Learn what areas aren’t working well and could be improved.
- Figure out priorities. What areas are more important to be improved faster than others? Are you overdue for critical improvements? Are you doing a lot of tasks manually that can be automated? Which needs to be addressed first?
- Create a timeline. This can include how to roll out different features, install equipment and train your staff in ways that aren’t disruptive to operations.
(A caveat: some employers and managers get a little uneasy at this last step. They know their staff does well with the current system, including finding useful work-arounds for some of the gaps or processes that don’t work as well anymore. But there’s sometimes fear that they may not adapt well to a new, modern system. We often turn this concern back on the employer – you’ll be surprised at how well people adapt. But they also do better if their employer provides adequate opportunities to learn and train).
What WMS Features Do You Need Most?
When envisioning an ideal WMS, it helps to figure out what tools are included and which will work best for your current and future warehouse needs. A consultant may be able to guide you through the assessment process to figure out what you may already have and may need. Some common items include:
- Order management tools. How do you set prices, and then change them temporarily, such as a sale or discount? How do you manage back orders? How do you handle substitutions? These types of questions are useful anytime but especially important during the current supply chain crisis, when there may be too many of one product or not enough of another.
- Automation tools. Do you use barcodes or RFIDs to better keep track of your items? Do you want to? More automation at a small level, such as product IDs, and a larger level like carousel robotics, can all be part of the solution managed by a WMS.
- Inventory management. Different types of products may require different types of containers or storage requirements in your warehouse. This may require different configurations of your space. Your WMS can help identify these items as well as what types of packaging you’ll need to store them, plus other factors like expiration dates and shipping methods.
- Your system can keep track of important regulatory and legal data like labeling requirements, lot info, valuation, and industry regulations.
Get the Full Warehouse of the Future Guide
Improving warehouse operations to adapt to evolving customer, vendor, supplier (and more) requirements—and prepare for the future—is exactly what wholesale distributors should be doing. But before they do, there are some simple considerations they need to keep in mind.
This Warehouse of the Future Guide looks at the inventory and warehouse applications and features wholesale distributors need to consider when upgrading to a modern warehouse solution. Click here to download now.
Streamline Warehouse Operations With Acumatica and MIBAR
With the right features and technologies, modern warehouse solutions like Acumatica’s Distribution Edition provide wholesale distributors with streamlined, automated processes, efficient inventory management, compliance reporting, and more.
As a leader in the distribution space, MIBAR has helped hundreds of distributors to increase margins, decrease costs and take control of their business with advanced software like Acumatica. To learn more, schedule a free consultation or watch our Acumatica demo now.