ERP or WMS: Why not Both?

John Klare, President, FASCOR
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John Klare, President, FASCOR

Each scan of the bar code, click of the mouse, and push of the button generates information about picking efficiency, order status, shipping costs, replenishment, inventory levels, and so on. All of this presents a golden opportunity to leverage technologies, streamline operations, boost efficiency, and accelerate productivity– but only if this information is effectively managed and leveraged.

ERP

Today’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are capable of handling vast amounts of data. And while not specifically designed to operate within the supply chain realm these systems are generally adequate for smaller, low volume distributors. But as they grow, companies in warehousing, distributing, manufacturing, and other supply chain-driven industries should replace or enhance ERP capabilities with a Warehouse Management System (WMS).

Just as ERP systems were created to operate within the world of finance, a WMS is specifically designed to handle the types and volume of data being generated throughout supply chain and/ or manufacturing processes. Sales, order fulfillment, shipping, replenishment, inventory, tracking, manufacturing raw materials and beyond, are all areas of the operation must be tightly integrated as part of a complete supply chain management strategy. A WMS drives responsiveness and supports critical decisions with the most up-to-date and accurate information. This in turn synergizes the entire operation turbo-charging efficiency, productivity, and ultimately improving the bottom line.

In today’s world warehouse, distribution, and transportation management systems are affordable for virtually any size company and offer various levels of functionality to meet varying needs and unique requirements. Fortunately for smaller to mid-size businesses, a WMS doesn’t need to break the bank. Now even modest sized companies can get the same results as their Tier 1 counterparts without spending millions. If you have already deployed an ERP system, a WMS leverages the strengths of each to deliver a truly automated and responsive distribution environment. The result is a clear, accurate, and on-demand view of the complete operation.

ERP/WMS Integration

Supply chain operations must be well-choreographed to generate, feed, process, update, receive and disseminate information at every stage. From sales, order fulfillment, shipping, replenishment, inventory, tracking to finance and beyond, all areas must be part of a complete warehouse management strategy.

Those just beginning to explore the benefits of a WMS, might simply view it as a way to automate current processes or do things faster. While it is true that this approach will yield some improvements, the true value of a WMS lies in its ability to deliver the flexibility to do things differently. A WMS provides the foundation for far more technology options such as implementing voice picking, advanced outbound order management, and more. Furthermore, a WMS has the power and flexibility to handle more than just SKU data; it is capable of servicing a variety of customers (B2B, B2C, Internal, etc.) while closing the loop by managing downstream tasks such as transportation and shipping. This ensures meeting delivery dates/times, printing messaging on packaging, determining best carrier, lowest rates, and so on. By eliminating steps, removing bottle necks, boosting efficiency/productivity, and maximizing tools, a WMS transforms companies who are now able to leverage lean “do more with less” principles.

Flexibility and scalability are keys for any size company. One way to win business is to be able to meet all the needs of a customer. In the upstream order-taking stage a WMS works with ERP systems allowing users to say “yes” to customer needs. This encourages the building of partnerships and fostering of relationships rather than simply performing transactions. All organizations strive to be flexible; but with limited resources and capital, smaller companies have to be “extra-flexible”.

A tightly integrated ERP/WMS solu­tion delivers visibility, control and respon­siveness. Understanding the intricacies of both ERP and WMS systems is the key to bridging gaps, accelerated implemen­tation, and fully leveraging the strengths and capabilities of each.

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