Choosing The Right WMS: Three Key Considerations For A Foodservice Distributor

The best food WMS provides accurate, real-time, cloud-based data to act fast on. With the right WMS, inventory management and distribution flow is streamlined, warehouse employees feel supported and the business is set up for future growth.

July 26, 2022

The nation’s foodservice distribution market is experiencing supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and a hastened pivot toward real-time data for agile decision-making. A swift first step to ensure a foodservice distributor stays ahead of the curve is to consider moving to a modern warehouse management system (WMS).

A WMS is built to track inventory information, intelligently navigate space utilization, improve personnel productivity, and enable faster responses in warehouse operations as a result of outside influences. 

There are three keys to consider when implementing or upgrading an inventory management solution - considerations that go beyond the “what” of a software application to the “why” of running a business.

The right WMS must help foodservice warehouse managers and product buyers care for:

  • The product managed 

  • The people involved 

  • The business’s future growth

Care For The Foodservice Product 

A lot of work goes into manufacturing or processing a food product, maintaining its freshness and integrity en route to a distributor, and then getting it into the operator’s kitchen. There is stricter care and regulation required when a product is perishable. As a result, significant weight is on the shoulders of warehouse managers and foodservice product buyers.

It’s important to maintain real-time visibility of product quantity and location as warehouse managers battle balancing the risk of out-of-stocks against ordering too much product that will spoil before it leaves the warehouse.

To best care for the product, growing foodservice distributors need to move beyond the spreadsheets or accounting software-based inventory tracking that got them off the ground. Growing distributors need a modern solution, purpose-built for the job and industry.

Attributes to look for in a modern WMS that is purpose-built for foodservice distribution include:

  • Fully integrated with any mobile device to eliminate tedious manual entry of foodservice products received.

  • Accurate reporting on “need to sell before expiration” as well as damaged goods by combining photos, temperature captures, and memos in one place.

  • Smart replenishment software that alerts staff to low inventory to reduce out-of-stocks.

Beyond averting crises and enhancing warehouse efficiency, a wisely selected WMS eliminates questions and phone calls about the status and accuracy of inventory, simplifies purchasing activity, and maintains the quality of food that chefs and customers expect. 

Gaining Efficiency From A Challenged Warehouse Team 

Warehouse managers have a tough job - today more than ever. When it comes to the people who work together to keep a warehouse moving, it’s equal parts about attracting and retaining talent. Distributors across all industries are facing labor shortages and scrambling to support their existing team members by making their demanding jobs doable and as automated as possible.

The right WMS does more than add efficiency, speed, and quality control to the picking process and warehouse operations, it enables a distributor to tout quality of life recruiting points like “be home for dinner,” “no all-nighters,” and “no manual paper and pen tracking.” A WMS also eases the staffing burden by enabling a warehouse to continue its growth trajectory with the same or a similar number of people.

Knowing there is a significant cost in attracting and training new talent, it’s important to make adjustments that increase the likelihood that existing employees stay, especially in regard to reducing new employee onboarding. 

Key features of a modern WMS can benefit the staffing of a foodservice distribution business in many ways including:

  • Compatibility with any existing warehouse equipment reduces manual processing of reports, pick tickets, move tickets, and packing lists.

  • Feeding real-time information to all involved parties lowers error rates and eliminates guesswork.

  • Streamlining and standardizing warehouse operations cuts onboarding and ongoing training costs.

Making a technology investment in a new or upgraded WMS demonstrates that an employer cares about the health, success, and work-life balance of their current and prospective employees. 

Future-Proof The Foodservice Distribution Business 

If there’s one piece of advice for any distributor to consider when evaluating a WMS provider, it’s this: Invest in a WMS when it’s clear its creators invest in it, too. 

It should be apparent that the WMS of choice adapts to changing supply chain requirements and food compliance regulations with regular update rollouts with immediate live tech support for how to use them.

With the level of complexity in the food industry, it’s critical for a distributor to choose a WMS specifically designed for the food industry, and built by people dedicated to serving it. 

Key attributes to look for in your WMS software solution:

  • Ability and ease of integration with an ERP so that there’s a single source of truth for all data.

  • A trusted connection to financials, providing near real-time visibility to cash flow and balance sheet data.

  • Keenly focused on cybersecurity, assuring your business evades or overcomes any potential attacks.

At a more foundational level, the WMS must provide real-time information, remote data access, and accurate reports enabling distributors to respond faster to customer demands and supplier snafus. 

“Our WMS improves demand forecasting and order fulfillment workflows that keep customers happy and trusting us. It was important for us to use a WMS that would scale with us. After all, if you use it right, it’s designed to build your business.” - Tyler Krecklow, Warehouse and Facility Manager at Quality Beverage of Omaha.

To achieve scale, one input is vital: customer satisfaction. 

Use The Right WMS To Ensure Customer Satisfaction

The three keys detailed above truly work together to enable the growth of a foodservice distribution business. The warehouse is a critical part of the operators’ experience despite the fact they may never set foot in it.

To provide service that a distributor’s customers will rave about, it’s important that products ordered are in stock, customers get exactly what they ordered, and it is delivered when they need it.

More than that, though, the right WMS designed for the foodservice industry specifically shows that a distributor deeply cares about the products it moves, the people it employs, and the business's future success. 

Encompass is a cloud-based WMS and comprehensive ERP solutions provider for distributors in the foodservice and beverage industry, trusted by more than 650 distributors worldwide. Visit our Foodservice WMS page to learn more about the solution.

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