A productive warehouse has many elements. Key among them is the use of enterprising resource planning software combined with inventory control, such as with Microsoft Dynamics NAV Barcode Scanning. Just as important is the warehouse management system, which helps cater to the layout of the building as well as coordinate orders between different zones and employees. More often than not, many distributors will have an ERP system in place but not a WMS, feeling the former can adequately perform the same job. Additionally, some find that WMS implementations as silos from the rest of the operation.

With that said, many ERP platforms – Dynamics NAV included – offer some level of WMS integration. However, it can only be done when warehouses consider all the options and work out a solution that strengthens productivity on the shop floor.

Different types of system implementation
Warehouse management systems come in a variety of forms, which makes integration with a company ERP system a unique challenge. Industry Week cited four options. The first is using a WMS module that already exists within the ERP platform. Microsoft Dynamics NAV has one of these, usually from a third-party partner. The second is the ERP provider offering customized warehouse and logistic capabilities as standalone or integrated portions. Due to the complexity of these projects, only large enterprises tend to pursue this route. The third option is to run a standalone solution created by a third party outside of the ERP vendors, while the fourth is a specialized option created by niche developer.

When taking into account the development of different WMS options, companies have to consider choosing between integrating or a separate product. One of the key differences is using interfaced WMS solutions over integrated ones, as noted by TechTarget. The former, while sounding similar to the latter, is more its own product, and tends to function with ERP solutions through a middleware program. This can make things more complex and arbitrary because of the need for duplicate databases and extra software. In most cases for small- to mid-sized businesses, the best option is to use an ERP-WMS integration. This will be more cost-effective and much simpler to install and use.

Complexity matters
Once a company decides on the type of integration to use, it should consider how its warehouse operations function. Do they function as a storage facility, or as a cross-dock? What types of slotting are in play? Are barcodes being used or RFID? All of these questions matter because it helps determine what level of complexity is necessary for an ERP solution. While Industry Week argued the best possible option is an advanced WMS solution from the ERP provider to meet that level of robustness, that's not always the case. For many parts warehouses or supply facilities, it's not always necessary to have the most advanced features, especially if there's no real use for them.

Instead of aiming for complexity, companies should focus on what the most important needs at the moment. Integrating the ERP's customer order system, assuming there is one, is an essential element. It's one of the key factors of making the ERP and overall merchandise movement more efficient. Orders are automatically delivered to the warehouse instead of manually through different communications. Another feature of importance is labor management through time collection. This can be a useful feature in handling overhead, since it allows supervisors to look for ways to cut down on time spent on the floor. Finally, a graphical warehouse layout benefits everyone since it gives a clear picture of what items are where. From this point, businesses should see what their needs are and whether the module or a custom solution is best. The result could save them money in the long term.

Businesses interested in how Microsoft Dynamics NAV can work with their WMS should download the white paper "Keeping the Physical World and the Virtual World in Sync" today.