Why your refrigerated warehouse needs a warehouse management system (WMS)

Why your refrigerated warehouse needs a warehouse management system (WMS) developed specifically for cold storage

There are many choices for warehouse management systems (WMS) in the world of industrial software today, yet most were not developed specifically to meet the needs of cold storage providers. Working in harsh environments, public refrigerated warehouses must have special functionality to deal with the range of inventory housed, often in multi-locations with differing temperatures.
Warehouse management systems developed for dry storage often cannot meet these needs. Cold storage warehouse operators should consider not only the type of inventory handled but also future potential client needs, regulatory requirements and other factors when evaluating warehouse management systems. For example, when handling meat, fish or produce, it is often necessary that a WMS has the ability to handle variable or “catch” weight effectively. This is not always common to warehouse management systems developed for dry storage.
Top end warehouse management systems developed for cold storage warehouses typically have specific features designed to deal with temperature capture and locations in order to minimize costly damage to inventory that must be stored in specific temperature zones. This can be a business essential and help the cold storage provider attract new clients to their business.
To aid in the search for and evaluation of WMS software, here is a list of features that can be highly desirable in warehouse management systems (WMS) for cold storage warehouse operators:

Temperature controlled environments:

• Temperature capture
• Ability to restrict inventory to specific temperature zones
• Ability to allow inventory to be stored in either a primary or secondary temperature zone

Weights and measures:

• Uses variable units of measure
• Handles inventory with inconsistent product weight configurations (Catch weight)
• Can handle warehouse tasks on either a quantity or inventory weight basis

Activity based billing:

• Ability to charge accessorial fees from either handheld or desktop computer automatically to capture every element of potential revenue
• Ability to create customized contracts to meet client needs and bill accordingly

Barcoding, RF and RFID capabilities:

• Ability for system to work manually or in combination with barcoding, RF or RFID to create one automated operation throughout

Real time visibility

• Real time inventory visibility including the ability to access information regarding orders, receipt, invoices and more
• Ability to extend beyond the warehouse and provide cold storage clients with real time information regarding their inventory on a 24/7/365 basis via web portal
• Ability to provide cold storage clients with the ability to access and interact with inventory data in real time, to place orders, view inventory, reports, invoices and more

Reporting

• Ability to create a variety of reports including customized reports for both the facility and its clients
• Ability to provide and use International Association of Refrigerated Warehouse (IARW) reports

Security:

• Ability to restrict system access on a per user basis
• Provides audit trail of all system activities by user with date/time stamp

Document management

• Ability to attach documents, photos and more to inventory records
• Ability to retrieve attachments quickly

Trading partner integration

• Ability to integrate with key software including ERP, MRP, shipping carriers and more

Inventory management:

• Track and trace by Lot, SKU, UPC or ingredient
• Lot control
• Blind and bulk receiving
• Uses inventory measurements and storage conditions to determine best location within the warehouse to maximize space and meet other considerations
• Supports wide variety of allocation strategies: FIFO, FEFO, FMFO, LIFO, LEFO, LMFO and more

Kitting, assembly, packaging and more:

• Ability to handle staging and handling of tasks such as stretch-wrapping, labeling, stamping, kitting, assembly and packaging
• Ability to manage storage and staging of components needed for accessorial processes

Yard management

• Ability to schedule dock door appointments and provide a visual real time interface for users to view to check load status


Article Author:
Laura Olson,
Sales and Marketing Director
Datex Corporation
lolson@datexcorp.com
www.datexcorp.com