Automation in the warehouse continues to expand in popularity and effectiveness. While warehouse automation comes in many forms, from mobile barcoding to automated material handling systems, advanced warehouse management systems (WMS) can deliver leading-edge digital automation.
But if you’ve ever looked into best-of-breed WMS solutions available on the market, you may be hesitant to implement advanced warehousing technology due to its complexity and intimidating total cost of ownership (TCO).
If this sounds familiar, then a more flexible, lightweight WMS “Lite” alternative may be a better fit for your organization, offering a quick implementation, less configuration, lower TCO and a shorter path to ROI.
Warehouse Automation is the Future
In a 2019 survey titled Warehousing Vision Study conducted by Zebra Technologies Corp., 60% of participants felt that labor efficiency and productivity were among their top challenges in the next five years. These challenges are precisely the areas where WMS software can enhance your operational effectiveness.
In the same survey, 80% of respondents indicated that they planned to invest in new technologies to remain competitive while 92% believed WMS functionality will benefit mobile-equipped workers for inventory tracking tasks.
With the global WMS market positioned to reach $5 billion by 2025, according to DC Velocity, it’s clear that WMS is only going to become more prevalent as time goes on.
WMS vs Advanced WMS
Warehouse automation software is a necessity in the modern warehouse. Whether your WMS uses mobile barcoding technology for inventory control and asset tracking, or utilizes a standalone WMS, these supply chain accelerators drive efficiencies throughout your operation. Major ERP systems can handle some of this functionality, but a true WMS is purpose-built to execute warehouse processes with optimal effectiveness.
The next layer of warehouse automation comes in the form of Advanced Warehousing. Advanced warehouse automation empowers your facility to move materials in more precisely-controlled configurations with directed picking, put-away and replenishment, as well as other movements within the four walls. Best-of-breed WMS, Warehouse Management ERP modules (such as JD Edwards’ Advanced Warehouse Management) and WMS-Lite are all examples of various classes of advanced warehousing solutions.
What is WMS Lite?
WMS “Lite” is a class of advanced warehousing solution that provides essential high-performing inventory control functionalities without the burden or expense associated with a best-of-breed WMS. RFgen’s Warehouse Director is a prime example of a modern WMS Lite solution pre-built for warehouse mobility.
Unlike a heavyweight solution that includes anything and everything a warehouse could possibly need (and may never use), WMS lite software helps your warehouse gain a competitive edge by enhancing your environment with key value-add technologies.
Why You Should Consider WMS Lite Software
Many solution-seekers evaluating WMS platforms do so primarily because they are trying gain a handful of advanced measures for controlling and directing inventory management, such as optimized pick-pathing or intelligent material movement. They turn to best-of-breed WMS solutions because they are considered “the best.”
Picking from among the top-rated WMS leaders can be difficult, especially when you consider that best-of-breed WMS platforms and ERP add-on modules come with considerable drawbacks, such as excessive complexity and difficulty to implement, high total cost of ownership (TCO), among others.
For instance, the cost of the WMS software combined with the expense of a long implementation period can make for a challenging business case. Added to this is the sustained revenue impact of maintaining the solution with costly development hours as well as integration with other technology systems. With such a burdensome solution, it could take years to achieve ROI.
Compare this to WMS lite software that provides supply chain companies with a set of advanced inventory control capabilities without having to bring in an overweight WMS platform – and the TCO price tag that comes with it. Your facility achieves next-level efficiency and productivity gains at a fraction of the cost, effort and ROI.
The Benefits of a WMS Lite Solution
The best WMS lite solutions like RFgen’s Warehouse Director can enhance your warehouse with significant benefits:
- Maximize worker efficiency and productivity
- Optimize material flows through your warehouse
- Lower cost, lower TCO, and shorter path to ROI than best-of-breed WMS
- Simpler and more flexible with non-invasive integration (zero footprint)
- Scalable to any size or location
- Effortlessly extends onto mobile devices
- Easily tailor a suite of out-of-the-box mobile apps
Among others. Learn more »
As one of the best barcode warehouse management software options available, Warehouse Director in particular offers many additional benefits.
For example, RFgen’s Warehouse Director:
- Builds on your existing RFgen environment, utilizing existing ERP transactions.
- Expands inventory processes with intelligent, suggestion-oriented directed movement.
- Runs on your RFgen server, requiring no additional software or new databases.
- Uses soft-coded suggestions based on our existing ERP business rules rather than separate hard-coded rules.
- Enforces strict inventory rules, such as FIFO, LFIO, FEFO, and more.
Where WMS Lite Excels
While a powerful digital warehouse technology like Warehouse Director can streamline your inventory workflows, where WMS Lite solutions really stand out is in directing inventory movements for pick, put-away and replenishment. For fulfillment/distribution centers, this is an obvious benefit.
For manufacturers, Warehouse Director can generate pick suggestions for raw material work orders, replenishment suggestions and put-away suggestions on purchase orders for finished goods in harmony with a Manufacturing Execution System (MES).
In directed picking, a suggestion-oriented WMS lite solution creates pick paths that optimize a worker’s route through the warehouse, offering suggestions for picking in waves or batches. This minimizes walk time as the employee makes their way across the floor, increasing efficiency and productivity on each task. Using your ERP’s inventory data, Warehouse Director can make intelligent suggestions for the worker’s next transaction. Directions can be assigned to a mobile device, vehicle (such as forklift), robot or person.
In directed put-away, Warehouse Director uses the inventory data to look up all possible locations, then provides suggestions to the worker rather than hardcoding individual locations. If the location has been occupied before the inventory can be put away, then a new location suggestion will be generated automatically. If an outbound customer or delivery truck is waiting on a particular item that has just arrived at receiving, the system can direct the item for put-away directly at the shipping dock rather than in the warehouse.
Directed replenishment functions in much the same way. Warehouse Director watches bin locations in picking areas. When one of those bins falls below the designated threshold, the intelligent WMS locates the item required to replenish the flagged bin and makes a replenishment suggestion.
When it comes to finding the best WMS software or the best advanced warehouse management solutions, instead of trying to find the biggest, most powerful advanced WMS out there, consider the benefits vs total expense first.
This is not to say that a WMS Lite solution will replace an add-on like JD Edwards’ Advanced Warehousing, which is focused on providing big picture data and overall warehouse optimizations. But rather, that if you are looking for specific advanced warehousing tasks, like directing inventory movement, and you need efficiency gains without the price tag or implementation weight of best-of-breed, then WMS Lite could provide the next level of automation you are looking for – without all the hassle.