07 March, 2024


Supply chains vary based on industry and warehouse size, requiring different warehouse management systems to boost productivity.

One of the obstacles that most supply chains deal with is inventory visibility as the products move through receiving, storage, and shipping processes. Warehouse management systems are used to bring more transparency to operations, reduce costs, and accurately report the state of inventoried goods.

These systems are software applications that help manage and control warehouse functions to improve visibility, reduce redundancy, and gather data to further improve operational productivity. The functions that are offered by a warehouse management system will differ based on the type that is purchased by the customer.

Every supply chain is different based on its operations, size, industry, and market segment. A heavy equipment manufacturing supply chain dealing with parts that will be sent out to construction sites will not be the same as an Ecommerce fulfillment supply chain providing finished products directly to the public. Due to this factor, WMS vendors offer an array of warehouse management systems that align to the needs of their customers.

Let’s look at the different warehouse management systems available, how they work, and which companies may benefit from using specific applications.


There are many warehouse management systems out there, and more are being created to enter this market. We will discuss these four types of applications available today: standalone, supply chain modules, integrated ERP systems, and cloud-based systems.


Standalone warehouse management systems are applications that are brought directly into the warehouse premises. They are installed into your network systems, and you will handle all the security measures and upgrades for the systems. This application provides the basic “one-size-fits-all” functions to allow multiple industries to deploy the software throughout operations.

The two basic features are inventory management and warehouse operations. You will have access to barcode scanning, picking, packing, cycle counting, expiration date tracking, receiving, slotting, put-away, and shipping tasks.

There are several advantages and disadvantages to standalone systems. Advantages are that they are a good starting point for new businesses that do not have a large budget to place toward software. The application can also be used by companies that are not directly involved in warehouse management but need a system to track goods and processes. It provides enough functions to handle the most basic tasks.

However, for more leverage with the logistical side of operations, standalone systems simply do not have the functions that other, more advanced WMSs can provide. There may also be issues when integrating the system with other software applications and performing customizations.


When talking about supply chain modules (SCM), you must consider that warehouse management systems are a subcategory of SCM. This system offers greater reach into overseeing inventory management and the supply chain by providing functions that can span to cover areas of your choosing.

Aside from covering the basic functions of materials sourcing and product cycling, SCMs also allow for vendor relationship management, risk assessment, and business process management.

A main advantage of an SCM over a standalone system is that it covers warehousing management and certain business management tasks. This software would be ideal for companies that have stable warehouse operations yet are looking for more functionality in their management applications to scout for deficiencies and help get rid of work redundancies.

The main disadvantage is that an SCM offers many of the same functions as other software systems that you may currently have in operations. In other words, it is possible to get modules that you already possess that will not be put to use. This issue can increase software application costs.


Integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are enterprise-wide software applications designed to centralize functions throughout the entire company. ERP systems bring accounting, sales, warehousing, and supply chain tasks into a centralized network for greater real-time data visibility and communication to help streamline and automate tasks.

When an ERP system offers warehouse management features, it provides complete supply chain operation transparency. The application’s main functions include supply chain planning, human resources, marketing, sales, customer relationship management, and accounting.

ERP systems are known for “playing nice” with other systems. Companies that are looking to boost sales, automate more processes, reduce data entry errors, and make ROI improvements will typically switch to an ERP WMS system to integrate all their software applications into one combined system.

While the main advantage of an ERP system is that it offers enhanced levels of control over the entire enterprise, some ERP vendors may not offer WMS. If you want to use an ERP system, you will have to research the specific software features to ensure that warehouse management is included. In addition, ERP solutions are typically the highest priced solutions available, which might deter smaller companies with tight budgets.


Cloud-based warehouse management systems are software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that are hosted by the vendor. Your company can access the application that is on a private or separate server over the web.

These systems are much like traditional standalone systems with additional SCM functions to allow for inventory management and warehouse operations management. What makes this system unique is that it allows for customization depending on what the software vendor provides. Also, all IT upgrades and data security features are controlled and managed entirely by the vendor. This setup can provide cost savings to the customer.

Cloud-based systems work well for companies that have multiple warehouse operations around the world, as it helps bring the many systems into a centralized system. It is also ideal for companies that are going through fluctuating growth, as these systems are highly adaptable.

However, keep in mind that because cloud-based WMSs are managed and hosted by the vendor, the types of features that are offered can change with the next upgrade. A feature that you may have used previously could be phased out later. In addition, you need to ensure the vendor you work with has developed high data security protocols and risk assessment to handle any attempted data breaches.


Automation robots can fill numerous roles in the warehouse, typically supplementing human workers for the most undesirable tasks — those which are dirty, dull, and dangerous.

Automation robots generally comprise of an articulated arm (with a variable number of joints enabling different axes of motion — usually between three- and six-axis movement), a grabber or picker at the end of the arm (which can be switched for different tasks), a stationary or mobile base, and an interface device (similar to a tablet) to facilitate programming and interaction with workers.

Types of robots for the warehouse include:

  • Warehouse picking robots: Pick-and-place robots are among the most common types of automation found in the warehouse. What is a pick-and-place robot? It is any type of robot that is capable of picking up a piece or object from one location and setting it down in another location. Common applications for pick-and-place robots include packing, sorting, order picking, and machine tending (including loading and unloading).
  • Goods-to-person robots: These automation robots primarily facilitate order packing, and — as the name implies — are used in close conjunction with human workers. In a typical goods-to-person automation application, robots separately deliver packaging cartons and inventory to a central location staffed by an employee, who places the correct SKUs into the correct containers, which are then ready for fulfillment. These can also be mobile robots that lead employees to designated locations throughout the warehouse to pick inventory for fulfillment.

Other types of automation robots for the warehouse can include maintenance robots, such as those that clean the facility floor between shifts.


Robotic automation in warehouses offers numerous benefits, with the result being savings in time or money — and usually both.

Specific benefits include:

  • Fast, consistent operations for repetitive tasks: Repetitive, high-frequency tasks such as picking and placing objects from one place to another (such as one conveyor to another) can quickly become boring for employees, making it likely that they may lose focus and be more susceptible to errors. Fluctuations in speed and efficiency are also normal and expected in these scenarios. Automating these processes eliminates those concerns, with highly repeatable, consistent movement in every pick-and-place cycle.
  • Coverage for undesirable jobs: In addition to repetitive, dull tasks, automation robots are ideally suited to dirty and dangerous jobs. These roles are typically difficult to fill and retain, and may require extensive training. Fulfilling these tasks through automation improves productivity throughout the facility by vastly improving uptime and safety — and, thus, employee morale and satisfaction.
  • Around-the-clock, lights-out operation: Once they are programmed, automation robots can run essentially around the clock. They do not need breaks and are capable of third-shift, lights-out operation with minimal oversight. Robots require no sick days or vacation time, boosting productivity even further.
  • Collaboration to increase employee productivity: Working in collaboration with employees, robotic logistics and automation can also increase the speed and accuracy of their tasks — whether used in applications such as leading workers to the correct shelf in an inventory area or ensuring that the correct SKU is always next in line to be packaged or assembled.

With the benefits of these types of robots in mind, you are now equipped with a greater sense of how they can help improve your efficiency, productivity, and — above all — bottom line. WSI provides a broad range of innovative 3PL solutions that leverage advanced technology.


At WSI, real-time warehouse management systems are fully integrated into the operations so that we can provide enhanced 3PL services to companies of all sizes. By taking advantage of WMS benefits, we offer superior service when you need professional logistical work. Contact WSI today to learn more.

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