What is a WMS Software? Warehouse Management Systems in the Food & Beverage Industry
To achieve efficiency in a food plant’s operations, management must implement the right software solutions across the entire plant. For example, the plant floor requires both a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Warehouse Management System (WMS). Simply put, MES governs the production and WMS controls warehouse inventory.
Another major piece is the ERP System. ERP controls all business management processes but is not specialize in production or inventory management. The MES, WMS, and ERP operate in an integrated fashion to achieve efficiency in operations. This article focuses on the intricacies of the WMS System and provides tips on implementing a WMS System.
Understanding and implementing a robust WMS solution can be difficult for a business. Use this guide to understand how you can best meet your business’s warehouse management needs using a WMS software solution.
What is WMS?
WMS stands for the warehouse management system. Many businesses, including food processing plants, use WMS software to track inventory, from receiving through to shipping. For example, with robust and dependable WMS software, like Symphony WMS, food processing plants can track sales orders from the entry of orders through picking, staging, and shipping with a single application screen. [Symphony WMS is part of Carlisle Technology’s food plant solution portfolio.]
What does WMS Software Do for Food Processing Plants?
WMS software solutions, if implemented correctly with a dependable platform like Symphony WMS, can provide a seamless food traceability process from supplier to customer.
Cost reduction, improved warehouse efficiency, reduced human error, and streamlined warehouse operations are what a food processor can expect from a WMS system. Reporting allows executives to make strategic decisions and have full visibility into warehouse operations and where improvement is required.
WMS software solutions make it possible for warehouse managers to navigate complex logistics and deliver products and services more quickly at a lower cost. Software systems achieve these goals with organization, communication, and tracking features that support your work processes.
Some of the benefits of a WMS for a food processor are:
- Complex serialized inventory management
- (FIFO, holds, Cycle counting, locations, and warehouses)
- Label management
- Sales orders, purchase orders, product costing, and invoicing
- Pricelist management
- Reports on purchases, sales, and inventory
WMS in the Warehouse
A purpose-built and robust WMS Software like Symphony WMS:
- Works in tandem with the MES
- Integrates well with plant floor hardware
- Enables data-collection
- Seamlessly integrates with front-office ERP and Accounting systems
MES and WMS work in tandem to ensure raw material flows seamlessly from inventory into the WIP process, and also to ensure that finished goods production goes directly from production into inventory. The WMS manages the bill of materials, and coordinates with the MES to supply the production lines.
WMS software integrates with hardware to ensure a streamlined efficient operation. Mobile computers are one of the hardware components that communicate with WMS software. Operators can scan finished goods inventory to fill sales orders, label incoming products on the receiving dock, and perform inventory movements like issuing products to WIP or cycle counting. The hardware in the warehouse carries out the objectives and tasks from the office and sends data back into the WMS software for reporting, viewing, and visualizing the data.
Carlisle’s Symphony WMS was engineered to minimize the impact felt on the plant floor while automating the collection of data with integrated scanners, scales, and mobile devices. This process will minimize employee resistance to new technology and accelerate its adoption by reducing training times while eliminating time-consuming and costly manual data-entry errors.
WMS software can integrate into ERP and Accounting solutions to bridge the gap between the office functions and the warehouse. This is beneficial to the Food Processors when their ERP or Accounting system doesn’t extend to the warehouse.
A good WMS system comes down to functionality not just in the office, but also in the warehouse. Symphony WMS system specializes in plant-floor data collection and was purposefully designed from the ground up to optimize productivity and ease data collection within the four walls of your food plant.
Integrating WMS with ERP and Accounting Solutions
Many ERPs that are well known in the industry, such as SAP, Ross, Oracle, and Microsoft Dynamics, incorporate WMS systems to complement processes. The integration requirements between an ERP and WMS will come down to how the company decides the process function for their ERP.
For example, a company with an ERP system might use their ERP for purchase orders and sales orders and use the WMS for receiving raw material, inventory, and order picking/shipping. A company will need to define the relationship between the ERP and WMS and how it will function relating to the warehouse.
ERP and Accounting systems such as SAP and QuickBooks can be used to create purchase and sales orders from the office. A sales representative can create a sales order from the ERP, and through integration that sales order information can be sent directly into the WMS for picking.
Using the WMS, an operator on the warehouse floor will receive the picking information on a handheld mobile computer. Picklists typically contain information such as product SKU, order quantity, and the location of the product in the warehouse. Operators scan the inventory to fill the order, and through the WMS the office can real-time picking information.
The WMS also has functionality with inventory information. If a company’s ERP is doing production scheduling then the WMS can send inventory information for raw ingredients, and packaging material, so that the processor can see what’s available for production and what needs to be ordered.
A company needs to identify which system will handle which processes. Once they have marked out the territory for each system, they can design an interface using industry-standard methods like a shared table, flat file exchange, or web service.
What makes a good WMS?
Not having a WMS system in place can make operating a warehouse more difficult. A manual pen and paper system can be inefficient, susceptible to human error, time-consuming, and lead to higher operational costs.
A WMS system can streamline a warehouse’s processes and give critical visibility into daily operations.
What makes a good WMS comes down to two major components. How does it function in the office? How does it function in the warehouse?
A good WMS will augment how the front office operates. Purchasing, order management, and order fulfillment can happen quickly and efficiently through the WMS software. Sales Reps create orders, release them to the floor to be picked, approve the picked orders, and orders are shipped out quickly and efficiently with a good WMS.
Good WMS software also provides the office with real-time visibility into the operations. Inventory reports by location, warehouse, and movement within the facility allow the office to check inventory levels in real-time. Cycle counting, utilizing a FIFO system, and having controls such as QA locks are standard features that provide a processor with complete inventory control.
Traceability reporting is a vital function of a good WMS. It is important to have inventory visibility, from raw material receiving to finished goods shipping. This not only adheres to government regulation, but allows a processor to expand their market, meet supplier requirements for larger-scale distributors, and saves time and money.
Written by: Joe O’Keefe, Account Manager – Carlisle Technology
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