Inventory Management Software vs. Warehouse
The inventory management functions provides view of the stock
from an accounting perspective. The total
quantity of a stock item available to sell is maintained and various
costing models are available.
The system tracks the total quantities into and out of the warehouse, to
maintain the current stock levels of each product. Many systems allow a
single pick location to be allocated to a product, that is used when
storage and picking instructions are issued.
In contrast, a WMS views the stock from a
physical perspective. The system deals with the physical goods and
tracks the product and quantities down to bin or location level. Total
stock quantities are available, but the system tracks the details of the
product down to the location level, for full traceability in the physical
Where applicable, the WMS would keep track of product batch and expiry
information down to the location level as well. The WMS will also track
the product within the warehouse. For example, the WMS would track
whether the product was in the receiving area, had been placed into the
correct storage location, had been picked or dispatched. The full
physical movement history of a product would be available on the WMS
system, along with the person responsible for that movement. By keeping
track of the physical aspect of the warehouse, a WMS is able to use this
information to optimize the resources used in the warehouse. These
resources are the space available, the material handling equipment and
By using storage
rules, taking the product class, category and dimension information into
account, an optimum pick and bulk storage location can be allocated to
received products. Since the system tracks the product location
quantities, in both bin and bulk, pick face replenishment instructions
can be generated on the WMS. These can be issued to the warehouse
workers in real time, if radio frequency equipment is used or will be printed
out in a batch environment. A pick sequence can be defined in the
warehouse, to optimize the pickerís movements through the warehouse,
ensuring that the picker walks the smallest distance possible to pick
the products required for an order or a pick group.
The WMS is also able to group the items on dispatch orders into groups,
allowing a picker to visit a location once per group of orders, rather
than many times for the same group of orders. Using the date of entry or
the date of expiry, the WMS is able to ensure that the oldest product is
picked first, thus eliminating wastage due to product expiry or
write-offs due to products damaged or dirtied over time in the racking.
The WMS should interface to the host system, to allow
passing of data between the systems, so that the inventory (accounting)
system and the physical (warehouse) system appear seamless to the user.
Warehouse management and inventory management complement each other,
both providing a different, yet useful view of the same data. By using
warehouse management functionality, a business can optimize many of the
aspects of stock control, ultimately providing better client service
though better delivery mechanisms.