This article is about developing a custom WMS app (warehouse management system).
We’ll explain what warehouse management software is, and how warehouse automation reduces costs. Further, we’ll talk about the reasons why choose custom build warehousing apps, WMS features, and what should be kept in mind while creating a warehouse management system app.
What is warehouse management software?
Warehouse management includes activities related to warehouse processes from when goods enter a warehouse until they move out. Basically, it includes such warehouse activities as receiving, storing, tracking, picking, packing, and shipment.
The purpose of a WMS (warehouse management system or software) is warehouse management automation. It helps to ensure that goods and materials move through warehouses in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
It usually includes web admin part and mobile application for workers integrated with other 3rd party platforms and services so that the business has a unified management system.
Why automation is needed in a warehouse?
- Reduces labor costs: less time spent on warehouse management, fewer specialists needed.
- Eliminates errors in picking and shipping goods: removing manual data input and the human factors.
- Increases revenue thanks to optimized inventory operations.
- Reduces cases of theft and loss of goods.
- Provides real-time visibility and analytics: the most current information on activities like orders, shipments, receipts, and any movement of goods.
Why develop a custom warehouse app?
There are multiple off-the-shelf solutions available on the market like Dynamics 365, Microsoft, Salesforce, and some others. However, sometimes they do not fit the business needs properly. In this case, developing a custom application for managing warehouses is more reasonable.
- Cost. For small and medium businesses a high-quality ready-made warehouse management software may cost a pretty penny. The costs usually include sign-up, separate subscriptions for each specialist, and even contractors. Furthermore, to make the most of such software, it is required to set up, customize and support it properly which also adds additional expenses. It may seem that a custom WMS app costs more, but in the long run, the ROI of custom-made solutions for such companies is higher.
- Functionality. Despite the wide functionality available, it might be a challenging task to find one warehouse app which can cover your business needs. In the case of narrow purposed tools for various steps like yard management (parking, entrance to the loading/unloading dock, etc.), you’ll need to select several providers and integrate them with each other which means more expenses and potential problems. Your best option is a custom-developed WMS app in the following situations: if the existing software can’t satisfy your needs in terms of functionality, you require a specific functionality like managing perishable goods or generating custom reports, or you are looking for advanced features like AI-driven insights.
- Integrations. If you need to integrate warehouse management software with complex or legacy systems or you already have some part of the functionality. For example, a business may have a web application for warehouse managers and needs to develop a mobile application for workers which will be integrated with each other.
WMS app features
A WMS consists of several parts or applications. As a rule, there are two apps — a mobile warehouse app for workers and a web and/or mobile application for managers. In this article, we will focus primarily on the warehouse mobile app for workers.
Inbound functions refers to the activities related to receiving and validating items. At this stage, it is important to check if the goods received are right in terms of quantity and quality. For custom warehousing apps it is possible to create rules to spot mismatches and take the appropriate steps.
- Scan Purchase Order (PO) number / barcode (EAN) or RFID or it may be entered manually if there is no built-in scanner.
- Select item quantity.
- Display and edit information of a specific Item Number (EAN): PO, item name, quantity, unit of measure/type, size, color, SKU, etc.
- Confirm or cancel item received: if the Item Number is confirmed it will be added to the warehouse's inventory.
- Load over-receiving or under-receiving: automatic notifications informing about the mismatch between the initially announced quantity and the number of goods actually received. The next steps in case of over-receiving may include confirming or rejecting it.
- Generate license plate: for each approved item, the system automatically generates an internal number to track this item in the warehouse and a place for storing it (putaway). WMS best practices include rules to group similar items for better storing and management.
- Quality check - report issues of Item Number (EAN): if the received item is damaged or faulty, a worker is able to report a problem by adding a photo and describing a problem.
Once the item has been approved, the WMS app generates its license plate and determines a suggested location within the info of a specific EAN.
- Scan or enter manually EAN or license plate;
- Display info of a specific EAN;
- Confirm EAN or cancel;
- Display a suggested location;
- Confirm or cancel the suggested location;
- Check in items into racks: scan EAN or license plate and scan rack barcode/QR. It is used for newly arrived items and for item movement. Item check-in can also be realized with pick-to-light or pick-to-sound technology.
Advanced tracking and automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) systems, including RFID and barcode scanners, help warehouse managers ensure that goods can be found easily.
- Search for an EAN: when entering or scanning an EAN the system displays the EAN information (item name, quantity, unit of measure/ type, size, color, SKU) and locations (racks);
- Edit EAN information.
Automated cycle count saves time and resources while minimizing the probability of mistakes. It is especially important for larger warehouses where manual cycle count is a great challenge.
- Scan or enter an EAN / license plate;
- Select quantity;
- Notification about shortage or overage;
- Edit the EAN quantity.
Outbound features are for managing items departure from the warehouse. The worker receives the request to prepare the items for shipment with the description of the goods including EAN, license plate, quantity, time of dispatch, and destination.
- Scan or enter license plate;
- Confirm license plate;
- Generate target license plate - the number to control in the bay door location.
Labor management helps warehouse managers distribute tasks and monitor workers' performance. Furthermore, for warehouse workers, it helps to optimize their workload and view task lists.
- User authentication, sign in and log out;
- User permission configuration;
- User work list;
- Display tasks with preview;
- Open a task page: view full task description;
- Sort tasks, e.g. by priority or by status (pending, in progress, completed, etc.);
- Manage tasks: take to work (start), pause, finish.
Reporting tools empower managers to analyze the performance of warehouse processes and spot areas that can be improved. With properly set analytics which may also be enhanced with AI, it is possible to reduce costs, maximize storage space, and leverage seasonal inventory.
Factors to consider when designing a warehouse management system app
- Custom processes and maximum workflow automation by leveraging barcodes for stock management, implementing document templates, and other technologies such as battery intelligence.
- Creating a unified system with every application in it using the same records, tables, and other data which eliminates data synchronization issues and mismatches.
- Scalability of the WMS and mobile app is an important factor while every business is started with growth in mind.
- Intuitive UI to help specialists onboard easily and boost productivity.
- Qualified and experienced development team will make help you automate the processes in the right way and stay confident during the whole development journey.
- Predictive analytics to detect errors, predict stockouts and overstocking, preferences, trends, and optimize warehouse management based on this data.
Developing custom software for business automation requires a profound industry along with technology expertise. To make it right and reduce software development risks we recommend starting with discovery phase services.
At SolveIt, we provide various discovery phase packages for different business purposes. Speaking about the WMS app, the package “Business automation” is an ideal option. Contact us and we’ll share the details.