When it comes to inventory management and fulfillment many businesses find that having a centralized warehouse or fulfillment center is enough to meet their needs. After all, having your inventory in one consolidated place makes it far easier to manage. However, as a business grows this may become untenable, however easy managing a single warehouse may be.
Growing businesses face increased demand, greater fulfillment expectations, and keeping costs low for their customers. This being the case businesses may invariably need to scale to multiple warehouses to adequately meet demand, reduce delivery times, and keep overall transportation costs low.
With that in mind lets discuss some of the challenges involved with multi-warehouse management and how businesses can effectively manage a multi-warehouse operation.
Probably the biggest challenge when operating multiple warehouses is communication between them. In a multi-warehouse operation warehouses and fulfillment centers are usually some distance from each other so that they can effectively service the regions that come under their area of operations. This can lead to issues where the business can’t effectively manage problems, especially if one of the warehouses is further from headquarters. Ensuring that you have proper means of communicating between all your warehouses is key to resolving this challenge.
Another challenge that arises is that of stock counts. Ensuring that you have sufficient stock while managing one warehouse can be a challenge on its own. Doing so for multiple warehouses can be even more of a headache. Often this issue can be directly correlated to how warehouse data is maintained and can be attributed to either error prone paper process tracking or else software systems that are not seamlessly integrated.
Geographic distance can also result in warehouse processes and controls not being standardized. This may be a result of circumstances on the ground, lack of support, unclear documentation, or different software being employed. If there is a lack of standardization across your warehouses operations cannot be tracked effectively and can produce varying results in the level of service.
These challenges present issues that can be an encumbrance on multi-warehouse operations. Yet with the right tools and strategies these can be resolved. Let’s see how.
One of the ways that proper multi-warehouse management can be achieved is through your WMS. Specifically, a WMS with multi-warehouse functionality and support is the best approach. A WMS that has multi-warehouse management will allow you to manage all your warehouses in the same environment. What do we mean by this? Let’s say your business operates three geographically separated warehouses. A multi-warehouse WMS will allow you to see all the data for each warehouse without having to switch platforms or even logout of one warehouse, in order to access another. Essentially the warehouses that you manage, and their data are all held in one place. At the same time a multi-warehouse WMS will silo the data according to the warehouse it belongs to so that everything stays organized, while still allowing the business to manage the entire operation. Akatia’s WMS for Salesforce, WAM, is a great example of this.
A multi-warehouse WMS like WAM, will also allow you to control access to each warehouse. Multi-warehouse management can seem like a bit of a monster especially when it comes to who is doing what. A multi-warehouse WMS will allow you create permissions and restrict access based on the given roles and tasks of each staff member. For example, a warehouse worker in one fulfillment center probably only needs access to the warehouse data they work in. Whereas a senior manager may need access to all three. A multi-warehouse WMS will help regulate this aspect of operations.
Furthermore, a multi-warehouse WMS will allow you to standardize your processes across your entire warehouse operations. By using the same platform and having all warehouses operating under it you can guarantee that tasks and processes are being conducted in the same predictable manner.
Finally, because your warehouse data is consolidated onto one platform all the inventory data can be provided and viewed in real-time. This means that there is no required duplication or upload of inventory stock levels, inbounds, outbounds, and so on. If a warehouse is low on stock you can either order more, or else take stock from one of your other warehouses to make up the shortfall in the other. This gives you options and flexibility. A multi-warehouse WMS like WAM also gives you up to date data ensuring that your data is well maintained and accurate. As well your organization will be able to leverage reports on a per warehouse level and multi-warehouse level so that you have a clear view of how operations are proceeding.
As we can see switching to a multi-warehouse operation can prove to have its challenges. Yet those challenges do not need to control your business. By choosing the right approach and putting into place the right WMS solution you can surmount these challenges and manage your multi-warehouse operation smoothly. In doing so you will be able to grow your business, scale effectively, and deliver an unprecedented level of service to your customers.
If you’re looking to transform the way you manage your warehouse and inventory, click the link below to get in contact with us. We’d be happy to speak with you!
Also for more information feel free to take a look at our Salesforce AppExchange listing for more information about WAM, the WMS for Salesforce.