Best Inventory Management Software for Small Business
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Last updated: May 07, 2018
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A Buyer's Guide to Inventory Management SolutionsWarehouse Inventory System Buyer’s Guide
If Sales and Marketing group is in the frontline of operation of most businesses, at the backend is the Warehouse and Inventory team. Warehouse management is an aspect of logistics and supply chain management and its role in every business is to control the movement and storage of materials within a warehouse and process the associated transactions, including shipping, receiving, putaway and picking. Every warehouse is different from another. Perhaps, a warehouse is a planned space for the storage and handling of goods and materials of different shapes, sizes and weights. In many industrial zones, warehouses are operating 24/7.
Warehousing and inventory always go together. Inventory management’s function is to track inventory levels, orders, sales and deliveries. A Warehouse Management System (WMS), on the other hand, is a technology consisting of tools that managers and supervisors need in analyzing the stock and creating plans for inventory movement and replenishment. In this Buyer’s Guide, we from ITQlick.com will provide you more information about this automation technology for warehousing and inventory management. New technology trends such as radio-frequency identification and mobile computing will also be discussed in this buyer’s guide as part of our objective to better assist you in finding the right WMS solution for your business.
In today’s market situation, a buyer like you who’s looking for a WMS solution might encounter a little bit of confusion when it comes to selecting the right software package for your business. This is because of the overlapping functionalities between Warehouse Management Systems, Enterprise Resource Planning, Distribution Requirements Planning, Transportation Management Systems, Supply Chain Planning, Advanced Planning and Scheduling, and Manufacturing Execution Systems. But we do not want you to arrive on that situation because we are certain that there is a lot differences among these software solutions when it comes to functionality, features, and most of all, areas of application.
It is important to know that WMS solution is there to provide every organization a set of computerized procedures for management of warehouse inventory, space, equipment and people. Overall, WMS has the following functionalities that differentiate it from other systems:
· Sets standard receiving process to properly handle a shipment when it arrives
· Receives and returns stock in a warehouse facility
· Performs modeling and managing of the logical representation of the physical storage facilities
· Enables a seamless link to order processing and logistics management
· Tracks where products are stocked, which suppliers they come from, and the length of time they are stored
To further differentiate WMS solution from other systems, here are more specific functions of most WMS.
- Warehouse Design/Configuration
- Inventory Tracking
- Storage and Facility Management
- Receiving and Putaway
- Labor Management
- Yard and Dock Management
- Inventory Management
- Order Fulfilment
- Inbound/Outbound Logistics
- Reverse Logistics
- Manufacturing and Value-Added Services
Over the years, well known WMS solution providers Accellos and Oracle have introduced numerous improvements and upgrades on their offered solutions. Accellos now offers various features that transform their software product into a hub of every organization’s supply chain solution. Their solution, AccellosOne, is an integration of accounting, order management and shipping software systems, electronic data interchange (EDI) systems, Crystal Reports software, radio frequency and barcode hardware, and warehouse automation equipment. Oracle Warehouse Management system, on the other hand, is a component of Oracle's Supply Chain Management and Manufacturing solution. It covers the areas of warehouse resource management, warehouse configuration, task management, advanced pick methodologies, and value added services.
Features distinguish one solution from other solutions. They are absolutely many but once you indentified the features that are only needed for your warehouse and inventory operation, there is a greater chance that you can find the right WMS product out of the many solutions available in the market. Therefore, it is your task as a buyer to filter from this range of features those that are only needed by your business.
- Asset tracking
- Service management
- Product identification
- Wireless Picking and Receiving
- Order Management
- Lots/Serial/Expiry Management
- Container Receiving
- License Plates
- Carton Splitting
- Multi-Location/Site Transfer
- Return Material Authorization
- Packaging Carousels/Conveyors
- Multi-Carrier Shipping Toolkit
- RFID Toolkit
- Wave Picking/Batch Picking/Zone Picking
- Task Interleaving
- Automated Data Collection
- Integration with Automated Material Handling Equipment
- Advanced Shipment Notifications
- Cycle Counting
- Cross Docking
- Labor Tracking/Capacity Planning
- Activity-based Costing/Billing
- Integration with existing systems - Accounting/ERP/Ecommerce/Order Management
Solutions per Business Size, per Vendor
As a buyer, it is also your duty to look for a solution that can truly offer the most advanced functionality, operational features, configurable architecture, and competitive cost of ownership. Moreover, you should also act as an inquisitive buyer who is able to weigh which solution, when fully implemented and used over a certain period of time, can provide the winning results such as accurate inventory and optimized labor cost. Here are then the two types of solutions in the market for you to carefully examine.
Best-of-breed or Stand Alone
Best-of-breed solution offers better in-depth functionality compared to integrated suites. It offers more picking configurations, labor management features, built-in integrations with other technologies, and other warehouse-specific features.
Integrated Suite or Supply Chain Execution Suite
This solution can be acquired as a module of a much larger enterprise system - ERP. Meaning, aside from warehouse and inventory functionality, it is also capable of managing other aspects of business such as accounting, human resources, manufacturing, and customer management.
As our recommendation from ITQlick.com, consulting with experts in business application solutions is also one of the options that you can consider when you arrived at critical stage of the buying process. We have wide experience in implementing software solutions and it is our guarantee that we can help you in finding that right WMS for your business.
An experienced supply chain management consultant probably has the best ideas to share when it comes to the pricing models offered by various WMS solution providers. More likely, he will discuss with you the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Being in the software business for years, here’s what we from ITQlick.com would like to share with you about WMS pricing which we believe can surely guide you on your TCO computing process.
There are three types of WMS software products: Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3. Their estimated cost pricing and other characteristics are as follows.
Tier 1 WMS solution costs between $750,000 and $2,500,000. Most Tier 1 vendors provide mainframe or web-based applications that use an operating system. This solution usually includes features such as voice-activated technologies, radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging, wireless communications, and physical automation support.
Tier 2 WMS solution costs between $200,000 and $750,000. This solution is provided with mainframe applications or PC-based platforms or the combination of both. Features included in this solution are cross-dock planning, automatic wave planning, system-directed replenishment, and stock location management.
Tier 3 WMS solution costs between $35,000 and $200,000. Most products are designed to run on personal computers (PC) and use an operating system such as Microsoft Windows. The core feature that usually goes with this solution is a standard inventory management system (IMS) with functions such as wave picking, zone picking, cross-docking, and directed put-away.
According to surveys, the past four to five years have dramatically altered the warehouse management landscape. In search for improved efficiency and increased profitability, many companies have adopted alternative technologies that have transformed the way various warehouse operations are conducted.
Many companies are now using voice-directed picking hardware to determine the amount of goods to be picked up. Smartphones are also beginning to emerge into the hardware scene. Many companies have started using smartphones as data collection devices. In relation to this, solution providers say that many young IT technicians nowadays are seeking to deploy consumer-grade phones and tablets on their company warehouses.
Other growing demands include more value-added activities, such as building mixed pallets for specific stores or attaching item-level RFID tags to satisfy retailer requirements.
From these trends, we can say that the WMS solutions providers are continuously moving forward to better improve the solutions they are providing to the market. This is a go signal that a buyer like you should proceed finding the WMS solution that is just right for your business.
Finding the right Inventory Management software for your business
Proper Inventory Management software selections are the precursor to successful deployment and business growth. Finding the right Inventory Management solutions doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to take days or weeks of your time.
After researching over 2,000 systems, we can identify the best solution for companies of all shapes and sizes. ITQlick.com is 100% free for software buyers.
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