As companies’ scale, logistics becomes increasingly expensive and many businesses will consider a warehouse management software system to automate day to day operations – goods receiving and putaway, stock counting, picking and dispatching of customer orders, plus returns management.

They tend to ask questions like this enquiry we received from an ecommerce company. The query is common and relates to ensuring IT systems can communicate directly with each other, so information is exchanged automatically, with no need to run updates. This means that the data available to those on the ‘shop floor’ is as accurate and up to date as the data that management can access.

Here’s the customer’s question:

“We have an ecommerce business and are looking at developing our logistics capabilities. At the moment I don’t have any idea of what is needed software-wise to run our warehouse, so was wondering if you have any information or advice? We process hundreds of orders a day and that’s growing fast. We currently have over 60 SKU’s and that’s growing too. We use Royal Mail for shipping, but larger orders require a courier.

Presumably we need software that links up with our ecommerce software and that would pull orders onto your system? We then need to print out the shipping label, sheet, pick and pack the order, and then attach the shipping label. The ecommerce software would need to update your system with the tracking number which would in turn update the ecommerce software.”

Where existing software is already in place – an ERP system, finance management, shopping cart technology as in this example, a TMS (transport management system) or perhaps a document management system – this can be integrated directly with a warehouse management system using industry standard APIs.

Indigo’s experience with integration

Indigo are experts at integration, whether it is to a shopping cart or an ERP, weigh scales or load scales for industrial level measurements or efficient picking using automated storage and retrieval systems. Over the last 18 months, we have completed numerous implementations for clients, here are some examples:

Sage 1000 integration for homewares specialist

A recent project for a home fragrance manufacturer included integrating with Sage 1000, to give management a real-time view of stock and business performance. They now have an accurate record of all goods movements, from booking in raw materials, pick for production schedules and also the transition of goods coming off the production line and into the warehouse for putaway, sales order picking and then final dispatching.

Oracle integration for seafood manufacturer

Our fish processing customer receives orders from the UK’s 3 biggest supermarkets into their Oracle system and since integrating Indigo, they have seen a 20% improvement to order turnaround times. The company wanted a WMS to ensure product turnaround processes were more efficient and cost effective, plus to meet the strict service level agreements set by customers. Now a picking list is automatically created for all raw materials required for the different fish products and the picking request is sent straight to the warehouse. Once products have been picked, Indigo WMS’s involvement stops briefly before automating the packing and dispatch of finished goods onto the retailer.

Integration with shop floor technology

A WMS can also be integrated with shop floor technology – storage and retrieval systems or packaging machinery. However, all too often I visit warehouses to find companies have invested in this type of technology, but it hasn’t been integrated with a WMS. We see this in 50% of installations. A lack of integration means the real benefits can’t be realised.

If you would like advice on integrating a WMS with your ERP, finance or shop floor technology, contact our supply chain consultants. Author: Mike Chadwick is a Supply Chain Consultant at Indigo Software.

INDIGO SOFTWARE

www.indigo.co.uk