Warehouse management systems
Distribution, wholesale, and e-commerce
Wholesalers, distributors, and e-commerce sellers keep track of products purchased from suppliers and sold to customers. The top level concepts involved in warehouse management systems are suppliers, purchases, shipments, locations, transfers, products, stock items, sales, quotes, invoices, packing, and customers. Reading left-to-right, you can follow the path from which products are purchased from suppliers and received through shipments to the company's locations. Many companies leverage a mobile barcode scanner solution to expedite the receiving process.
Once received, the products are considered stock items that can be transferred from one of the company's locations to another. The products leave the company through sales to customers, a process that often includes picking the products from their locations and packing the products into cases or other handling units before shipping them in one or more shipments associated with the order to the customer. The sale may originate as a quote for the customer, and may generate an invoice as a basis for payment.
Instead of keeping stock on hand and replenishing it when stock levels reach reorder points, some businesses run the process in the other direction.
Beginning with a customer's placing an order, the company creates purchase orders to acquire the products or parts to be sold. If the nature of the business is that the company assembles or combines products from its suppliers to fulfill the order to the customer, the company may have its suppliers ship the constituent parts directly to the customer's job site, to be received by a technician and assembled right there at the customer's location without ever passing through the company warehouse.
Stock tracking focuses on details of the stock item in the block diagram above.
Stock is stored in warehouses or other specific locations, and within those warehouses in bays, or aisles or bins. In a warehouse management system, keeping track of stock levels entails keeping track of quantities per location and sub-location. Items may be stored individually or packed into cases or handling units. Sometimes stock of the same product is packed in cases of different quantities, which entails keeping track not just of individuals versus packed items, but of which packing.
Some types of products have expiry dates, or serial numbers, or other properties identified by lot or batch. Thus stock may not just be quantities of a particular product, but of a particular lot.
E-commerce companies using ShipStation to manage the processing of orders from multiple marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, or their own websites. Orders come in from the marketplaces, and go out as they are shipped. At no place in the ShipStation process, however, is a record kept of stock on hand. Companies using this type of process can add Finale to the backend warehouse management system to keep track of stock on hand. Finale's ShipStation inventory management integration communicates with ShipStation behind the scenes through a software API to watch the orders as they are marked complete, and to copy the orders into Finale automatically to record the changes to stock levels.
Using Finale in combination with shipping software allows e-commerce companies to avoid stock outs, and to implement a more systematic stock replenishment process based on reorder thresholds. For further explanation of the ShipStation integrationplease see: ShipStation inventory management.
Stock control software / warehouse management software
All these details notwithstanding, it remains the case that many small businesses in wholesale and distribution have needs that are closer to the simplified drawing at the top of this section. If your business just keeps track of quantities of product in one or more locations, the task of inventory management software is conceptually straight forward and your inventory management software shouldn't burden you with details that you don't care about.
Examples from Finale Inventory
Here are a few example videos of using Finale Inventory.
Shipments and pull sheets
Keeping track of lots/batches of a particular product