WMS vs. IMS – what’s the difference?by Brooke Anderson on 2010-07-09
Many ERP and Accounting systems will have Inventory Management; what it is, how much you have and (maybe) what the bin number is. Correlate that bin number to a map on the wall and ‘bingo’ you have a basic inventory control. You can even have multiple warehouses.
Where this comes unstuck is when you grow in volume. Then you will need additional features and unfortunately – you will probably need them all-at-once. Here is just a sample, and you may have some ‘Eureka!’ moments reading them.
As described, this a location where stock is held to replenish the ‘pick face’ or where the stock is broken out of packaging and picked for dispatch. Replenishment locations are ideally stacked up high above the pick face for easy ‘replenishment’ when pick face runs low, but as this isn’t always possible it would be anywhere in the warehouse or even out of the warehouse at a bulk store. A good WMS will automatically issue replenishment once the pick face runs low and will also account for that stock in your total quantity on hand.
Single, Batch and Wave Picking
These are different ways of picking orders and not as scary as they sound. Single as it sounds is how you are probably doing it now; an order comes in and staff pick it, bring it back and package for dispatch. Efficiencies can be gained from a good WMS by listing items in the direction of travel and therefore the order that they should be picked, minimizing pick times.
Batch picking is similar but staff can pick multiple orders at a time. Using ‘bins’ or ‘baskets’ they essentially are given multiple orders compiled and grouped by the WMS so they can pick the same line item and put it in different ‘bins’ representing different client orders. This extends the pick time but means when staff return they may have up to six orders picked rather than the usual one.
Wave picking is less common and usually for bulk dispatches, often used for marketing material or product launches. This is where bulk pallets are taken from the shelf via forklift and dumped in designating picking areas. Then a team of pickers take what they need and the WMS calculates what should be left. Once the pick is completed the fork lift returns and take what remains back to the shelf.
Usually only for Third Party Logistics warehouses whom vary charges for stock movement be it receiving and put-away, pick charges and often packaging as well as storage. ERP will allow you to add these charges as non-stock charges or handling fees but often won’t calculate these fees automatically as a WMS will.
A good WMS will be able to use stock movement metrics and space calculators to surmise the best warehouse floor plan. Fast moving (high turnover) stock comes closer to the packaging area and slow moving down the back. Also taken into account similar sized items are grouped together so that labour and machinery requirements are as common as is possible.
The reality can be different from the theory but every little bit helps keep stock moving quickly and visibility accurate.
MD - XM Developments