By Lowry Solutions | April 9, 2014

Today’s retail landscape is drastically different than it was a decade ago. Consumers demand and expect their products to be in stock, shipped on time, and traced throughout the shipping process. They’re concerned with time savings and environmental conservation — and they want businesses to align their operations accordingly. Supply chain businesses are looking to software and technology to eliminate slow, manual processes and paper waste.

And the retail market — both in-store and online — is more competitive than ever before. So if supply chain and distribution businesses are not effectively able to meet these expectations (or exceed them), consumers may choose to buy from another business. Streamlining your warehouse operations is key to maintaining consumer satisfaction.

What is WMS?

A warehouse management system (WMS) automates the movement and storage of inventory items in a supply chain warehouse or distribution center based on real-time information and status updates. Using a WMS, supply chain businesses can oversee shipping, receiving, picking, and putaway to optimize their operations for speed and accuracy.

The system combines software and automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) technology to create a strong infrastructure that encourages communication between employees in each stage of a project. This includes a combination of barcode scanners, handheld computers and/or radio frequency identification (RFID) readers used through a wireless LAN connection. The data is collected and stored in a central database, where businesses can run valuable reports to gain insight into inventory-related costs and the efficiency of their operations.

What are its benefits?

Keeping track of inventory can be daunting, especially if items are being moved from one spot to another without documentation. With automated data collections such as barcode and RFID technology, supply chain businesses can store and access valuable information about each inventory item — lot number, serial number, expiration date, etc. — in an organized digital database with its WMS.

Supply chain businesses can increase their inventory visibility and employees will be able to trace the storing, transferring, moving and shipping of each item or pallet. Information can be obtained with the quick scan of a barcode label or read of an RFID tag. The information can then be accessed through back-office computers, handheld devices, or mounted tablets at your employees’ convenience.

Here are three areas of your business that a WMS can improve:

Customer service

Great customer service ensures that consumers’ and clients’ desired items are in stock, available right away and arrive on time — with accuracy. Doing so improves customer experiences and business relationships, which will in turn contribute to your business’ reputation.

By leveraging handheld devices that collect and store data in a central database, your picking and shipping processes can be carried out in a quick, organized, error-free manner. WMS allows customer service representatives to trace orders and check order status in real time.

The software also includes the functionality to set alerts to replenish warehouse supply and avoid issues related to stock-outs. This allows employees to get orders right the first time, every time.

Carrying costs

A WMS allows supply chain businesses to keep an accurate count of on-hand inventory to minimize inventory carrying costs. There’s no need to keep more than you need on your shelves — the system will help you reach an optimal amount so you can avoid high carrying costs and stock-outs.

With all valuable inventory information stored in a central database, managers can also monitor inventory levels to increase turnover and profitability. And as mentioned, managers can set safety stock levels or receive notification when they need to reorder and restock inventory.


Using a WMS, supply chain businesses can quickly and easily generate inventory reports and employee performance audits. With this information, managers can determine the cost-effectiveness of their labor and operations — which is very valuable information for improving the profitability of a business.

Supply chain businesses and distribution centers can leverage this information to pinpoint their self-inflicted issues and improve accordingly — to empower their employees, gain a competitive edge over competitors, and become consumers’ first choice.


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