While Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are closely related, they are distinct pieces of software that service different purposes within an organization.
Fortunately, many ERP systems now have modules or ways to integrate your WMS with your overall ERP system. But first, we’ll explain the major differences between ERP vs WMS.
ERP vs WMS
The main difference between ERP systems and WMS is their overall scope and functionality.
ERP systems are comprehensive software solutions designed to integrate and manage a wide variety of business processes across your entire organization. ERP functions include finance, human resources, procurement, manufacturing, sales, and more.
Some ERP systems include basic inventory management features, but their primary focus is on managing and consolidating the broader aspects of business operations.
Warehouse management systems, on the other hand, focus specifically on managing warehouse and distribution center operations. At its core, WMS functions include tracking, order picking, packing, shipping, and optimizing warehouse layouts and workflows.
WMS systems are focused on enhancing the efficiency and accuracy of warehouse processes in particular.
Can ERP and WMS Be Integrated?
If you’re in manufacturing, you’ll want to find an ERP system that has turnkey warehouse management system modules. This will allow you to easily integrate your WMS with your ERP for a more accurate view of your business operations.
Scroll to the bottom of this article for a WMS demo video.
How to Integrate ERP and WMS Systems
The integration process will be slightly different depending on your ERP vendor’s requirements, however, the overall process is the same.
1. Define Integration Objections
Before you begin, you’ll want to clearly define your objectives. Determine what data needs to flow between the systems, which processes should be automated, and what you hope to achieve by connecting your systems. You might want your sales team to have access to real-time data on inventory levels, or your manufacturing team to have visibility into order processing and warehouse operations, for example.
2. Choose the Right Integration Approach
There are different integration methods that your chosen ERP consultant can help you choose from. Your choice will depend on your business’s specific requirements and the capabilities of your ERP and WMS systems. Here are 3 common methods:
- API Integration: Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allow for direct communication between your ERP and WMS systems.
- Middleware: Middleware platforms like Zapier connect WMS and ERP systems like a translator. This is a good option if your software isn’t compatible out of the box.
- Custom Development: Complex integrations may require custom development. This means your IT department may need to write custom code to connect your WMS and ERP.
3. Data Mapping and Digital Transformation
Connect with the team leaders of IT, Warehouse Operations, and other relevant departments to determine what data needs to be shared between the ERP and WMS systems. Map the data fields from one system to the other with consideration for any differences in data formats and structures. Some data may need to be transformed to perform this step successfully.
4. Establish Communication Protocols
Define the communication protocols for data exchange between your ERP and WMS. Your teams will need to collaborate to determine when and how data should be sent, received, and processed. Both systems must be configured to use the same communication standards and security protocols.
5. Implement Real-time Data Synchronization
Perhaps the greatest benefit of integrating a WMS with an ERP system is real-time data synchronization. Ensure that inventory levels, order statuses, shipping information, and other relevant data are updated in both systems to maintain accuracy.
6. Address Data Validating and Error Handling
Validation checks and error-handling procedures are crucial during the implementation process. Before you begin, make sure you have a plan on how to address and resolve errors to prevent data discrepancies.
7. Test, Test, Test
In a controlled environment, thoroughly test the integration before deploying it in a production environment. Make sure to use a wide variety of test scenarios, such as data synchronization issues, order processing, and error handling.
8. Training and User Adoption
Once the technical kinks are resolved, train your warehouse staff and employees on how the integrated system works. Your integration probably changed workflows and processes, so make sure to take your time and answer all questions to keep morale high.
9. Monitor and Maintain
After deployment, keep monitoring the integrated system for performance, data accuracy, and potential issues. Retain error reports from employees. Update and maintain the integration as needed to accommodate changes in processes or system updates (again, your ERP consultant can help keep you up to date).
Documentation is often overlooked, but the most successful ERP integrations started with detailed documentation. This includes data maps, communication protocols, error handling procedures, and any custom code or configurations. This will help the IT team troubleshoot problems and handle future enhancements.
11. Scalability and Flexibility
Always keep scalability and flexibility in mind! Make sure your integration is adaptable to accommodate new updates, process changes, and additional integrations.
Infor Syteline Warehouse Management Module
Godlan’s ERP experts choose to work with Infor Syteline’s Warehouse Management Module because it integrates seamlessly into Infor Syteline ERP. Check out the video below for a demo of the module.
ERP vs WMS: Do You Really Need Both?
If you’re interested in scaling your company, it’s time to upgrade your ERP and WMS systems. While ERP systems often come with some basic inventory management software, a comprehensive and integrated WMS system will decrease errors, predict inventory issues, and streamline warehouse operations.
Not sure where to start? Contact Godlan Consulting to learn more.