The gap analysis of what a warehouse management system (WMS) provides in comparison to an ERP system often reveals a disparity that usually needs to be resolved. Integrating the two into one platform is a common problem facing many businesses and one that cannot be overlooked in the long term if you wish to remain agile and competitive.

With more companies moving towards the digitisation of their facilities the need to integrate the WMS and ERP together is becoming more important than ever. So what is the typical set-up today and what benefits will business owners get from integrating the two systems?

The importance of connecting your ERP And WMS

ERP systems serve as the foundation for any number of distribution or wholesale organisations, as it allows for the automation of a host of supply chain processes and facilitates the constant flow of data between various departments. Some ERP systems are more specialised than others but in the main the software enables warehouses to manage their inventory, which includes the tracking and full process of items that have been picked, packed and then shipped out to the customer. However, the use of a WMS enables high volume facilities using semi or full automation to digitally control every aspect of their inventory.

Compared to an ERP system, a WMS provides far more scope and functionality. The software is able to track goods as soon as they arrive in the unit, their movements inside and out of the warehouse, while controlling all the historical and up-to-date information about the products. A WMS is a sophisticated system able to work in real-time to maximise the use of stock and, just as importantly, space within the warehouse.

As powerful as a WMS system is, it also needs to serve the needs of a multitude of departments such as customer service, purchasing, manufacturing (if applicable) and senior management. This will allow them to make business critical decisions based on live information. What this is also means is the WMS will have to find a way to communicate with the ERP software.

The difference between an interfaced and integrated solution

The problem many businesses face is finding a way to seamlessly integrate the two platforms. The majority of WMS systems are usually interfaced with their ERP counterpart, rather than integrated. They will usually run on separate servers or databases and through the use of middleware, import and export the relevant data through physical means.

While this is a workaround of sorts, it is laborious and complicated, duplicating data and while creating a custom-made interface can resolve this, it is often an expensive solution. The two systems will also invariably throw up two opposing sets of inventory data, making it more difficult for the business to make informed decisions.

Fully integrating the ERP and WMS will allow you to:

  • Produce real-time information that will support decisions made by senior management.
  • Become a leaner, efficient and competitive organisation in the current market.
  • Ensure the sales team are able to secure better deals based on an improved supply chain infrastructure.
  • Provide further support to the customer service team and your customers.
  • Keep a tighter rein on purchasing based on the goods that have or haven’t been delivered.
  • Reduce human error with a straight-though transactional flow.
  • Improve the speed and accuracy of billing your customers and suppliers.

With a full integrated system it will dramatically improve every aspect of the process, providing more control and visibility from start to finish. The impact on the organisation of goods in the warehouse ensures space is fully optimised and staff time is used far more efficiently. The value this sort of system creates feeds through the entire business, providing a single platform that provides factual and reliable information to push the company forward.