Most warehouses use warehouse management software to better understand how their business uses inventory over time. These warehouse management systems can also help warehouses stay organized, conduct faster audits, more accurately forecast demand, keep costs down, and plan during periods of instability.
This article will define warehouse management software and help explain the many benefits of adopting such a system. We’ll also touch on some of the essential features of the best warehouse management software available today.
What is warehouse management software?
Warehouse management software, often called a warehouse management system (WMS), is a system that allows your business visibility into your company’s inventory, assets, logistics, and fulfillment operations. With warehouse management software, your business can keep tabs on every item across multiple locations.
While just about every business needs an inventory management system, such software is especially essential for warehouses. That’s because warehouses play a unique role in the supply chain and rely on properly-stocked shelves and accurate inventory reports more than just about any other industry.
Without software that provides real-time transparency about exactly what’s in stock and where it is, warehouse employees would have to physically account for inventory constantly. This is expensive, tedious, and a poor use of resources. But with the right warehouse management system, employees can rely on data, powerful automation features, and barcode and QR code scanning to track their inventory in real time.
Plus, warehouse management software creates tons of detail-rich reports perfect for companies that need to forecast demand, prepare for the future, quickly generate a balance sheet, or claim depreciating assets.
Related: Warehouse Management: What It Is and Why It Matters
What are the benefits of warehouse management software?
There are many benefits to utilizing warehouse management software, from a more organized warehouse to faster physical inventory counts. Here are some of the most notable positives:
1. Better transparency
With the right warehouse management software, your business won’t have to “guess” what’s on warehouse shelves a thousand miles away. With the click of a button, your team can review a robust inventory dashboard full of details on each and every product you stock.
You’ll also have access to every item’s history, so you can see exactly when an item arrived, was used or sold, or changed hands. Plus, each item’s profile features barcodes, QR codes, a detailed description, high-resolution photos—anything you need to understand what you’ve got on hand.
2. Improved collaboration
You already know that your warehouse management system will be full of detail-rich information about all your inventory. Your entire business—from stockroom employee to head of accounting—can use these details to sail through some of their most tedious job responsibilities.
For example, your stockroom employees can use smartphones and tablets to quickly check items in and out, update inventory details, or learn more about an item. That’s because many warehouse inventory management systems, including Sortly, use smartphone cameras as barcode and QR code scanners.
The best warehouse management systems will also allow you to make accounts for every user on your team. You’ll be able to customize permissions, including read-only and restricted access.
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3. Ability to track just about everything
While your warehouse surely needs to track the inventory it stocks, the right warehouse management software will also help you keep tabs on your high-value assets, including machinery and technology.
Look for software that allows you to add categories and tags to your inventoried items, so you can easily differentiate supplies and materials from long-term investments.
4. Improved forecasting
Correctly forecasting demand is essential for those in the warehouse business. But without meaningful numbers and figures about inventory, it’s difficult to predict what customer demand might look like down the road.
Fortunately, warehouse management software can help you track your inventory usage in the past—and you can use those patterns to help you place more accurate, thorough orders in the future.
5. Tighter inventory control
Another reason to insist your warehouse uses inventory management software? Optimized inventory control. Inventory control is the balancing act of having enough inventory to meet customer demand—without ever overspending on inventory you don’t really need.
Of course, inventory control is an art and a science. Your team will have to balance past inventory usage with forecasted demand while factoring in safety stock and rapidly-changing market conditions.
6. Faster inventory counts and audits
Upgrading to warehouse management software can also make your business’s physical inventory cycle counts, end-of-year inventory counts, and inventory audits way more efficient.
The reason is two-fold. First, your team will already have a robust inventory checklist to assist them in verifying inventory. And second, those performing the inventory count or audit will have access to lightning-fast automation features like barcode and QR code scanning.
All of this means that the most challenging parts of warehouse inventory management can be conducted in a fraction of the time, freeing up your employees to focus on keeping your business safe, profitable, and productive.
Features of warehouse management software
When searching for the right warehouse management software for your unique business, there are many factors to consider. Here are some key features you’ll want to insist your warehouse management system includes:
An end-to-end inventory dashboard
Think of your inventory dashboard as a robust, detail-rich inventory checklist. It’s the perfect place to review everything you have on hand, all in one place. Best of all, this dashboard can display high-resolution photos—because a picture is worth a thousand words.
Barcode and QR code scanning
Barcode and QR code scanning can speed up just about every inventory-related task. From checking items in and out to conducting inventory counts, barcode and QR code scanning saves time and reduces costly human errors. Look for warehouse inventory software that lets you use equipment you already own—like smartphones and tablets—as scanners.
The ability to generate and print barcode and QR code labels
Barcode and QR code systems are perfect for warehouses. But what if your business stores inventory that’s unlabeled or bundled? With the right warehouse management system, you can generate barcodes and QR codes for your unlabeled stock, then print customized labels for those items.
Now that all your data has been stored in your warehouse management software, you’ll want to extract the numbers and figures that offer improved visibility and forecasting insights to your business. And since they’re so easy to customize, reports are also the perfect way to share critical information with employees, accountants, and even customers.
Low stock alerts
Nothing plummets productivity and profitability like a stockout. Avoid a work stoppage altogether by setting customized low stock alerts in your warehouse inventory management system. That way, the right person will be notified the minute an item’s stock levels fall below a custom-set threshold.
You can customize the alerts to work around your supplier’s lead time, too.
When selecting inventory software for your warehouse, you’ll want to choose a system that’s built for teams. Pick a solution that can support multiple users, allows you to customize access levels, and works on multiple devices. After all, maintaining inventory in a warehouse is a team sport—and the more help you have, the better.
Finally, you’ll want to look for an inventory system that lets your warehouse put its own spin on things. Whether that’s how you set up folders and tags or customizing the look and feel of your inventory app, find a system that really works for you.
Some solutions, like Sortly, even offer Enterprise-level subscriptions for businesses that require extra customizations.
Do I need warehouse management software?
Almost every business that operates a warehouse has something to gain from using warehouse management software. That’s because for all but the smallest of businesses, maintaining handwritten or spreadsheet inventory systems can be time-consuming, inaccurate, and impossible to audit.
Plus, while these systems might do an adequate job listing basic details about inventory, they don’t offer the time-saving automation features most warehouses need to keep up with customer demand. After all, every minute your warehouse team spends handling disorganized inventory could be better spent.
A general rule of thumb: if you’re warehouse is tracking more than just a few items, you need warehouse management software. That’s especially true if you track items in multiple locations, need to include photographs of your inventory, and want your whole warehouse team to work off one, always-synced database.
If you’re wondering what is the best warehouse management software, consider trying Sortly. Affordable, intuitive, and easy to customize, Sortly is an excellent choice for warehouses of all shapes and sizes. Plus, it offers all the essential features warehouses need: barcode and QR code scanning, low stock alerts, customizable organization, detail-rich reports, and more.
Ready to get your warehouse organized? Unlock all of Sortly’s premium features with a free two-week trial.