We touched in previous posts upon the benefits of WMS, and we’re now looking at the basics of getting started. As implied in the prior post, the planning phase is the most critical, and often the most daunting task. While beyond the scope of a blog, our tips were aimed at getting your creative juices flowing in terms of what you need to consider before deployment.
As your plan develops, you need to consider the hardware elements. Fortunately, in many respects, this is ‘the easy part.’
In a typical WMS layout, most of the work will be done by plant/warehouse floor workers equipped with radio-frequency (RF) handheld mobile computing units. Each person charged with putting inventory in or out of the bins on a regular basis will need one, or at the least, you will need one for each defined section of the warehouse.
To use our experience as an example, we like to use Dolphin 9500 Windows based units which, with battery and charging cradle run about $2,000 complete. These are essentially handheld computers that run on RF and are optimized for warehouse use. The number you need will be determined in your planning phase, but start small. A couple units should get you started as you work your way through deployment. You can always add more later.
You will need a file server for your WMS software. This is typically located inside the office, and is not directly accessible by the handhelds. Rather, the handhelds connect wirelessly to their own server – in our case, it’s a web-browser interface. Handheld functionality is limited to what the program dictates. The idea is to keep it simple. The less functionality on the handhelds (to a point), the fewer mistakes can be made.
For the RF web-server, you don’t need anything high-end or special. Companies often have a spare, relatively new PC lying around that will usually do. For the WMS file server, which speaks to the RF web-server, a standard PC file server will suffice.
You’ll need access points at high points in your warehouse, which typically run about $200 to $300 apiece, and there are a few cabling issues, but nothing your I.T. staff or outside provider can’t handle.
A good ballpark figure for the hardware for getting started in an average warehouse is probably around $10,000. Again, this can vary widely based on, mostly, number of handhelds and, less so, the size and density of your warehouse (and thus, the number of additional access points required). But generally, you can at least get started for around $10,000. Later, you add components (mostly more handhelds) as you deem necessary, or as more people become engaged with the system.