A variety of software systems are used throughout a company’s supply chain to streamline the tracking and flow of raw materials, component parts and finished goods. Software integrates the business processes involved in supply chain management, coordinating a company’s network of suppliers, factories and trading partners. It helps with planning, executing and evaluating strategies deployed to achieve the best overall, system-wide performance in terms of total cost, customer service and minimum in-process inventories. Typical software solutions include logistics planning and execution, order management, warehouse management, inventory management, transportation management and workforce management.

Many different software systems work together to help coordinate, direct and monitor a company’s supply chain, including:

Forecasting and Order Management Systems (F/OMS): This software helps with planning for anticipated trends in customer demands. It interfaces with technologies that enable demand sensing and forecasting; order capture, entry and administration; distributed order management; and order fulfillment.

Automatic Identification & Data Capture Systems (AIDC): This software processes the information collected by automatic ID devices, including bar code, RFID, voice, sensor, pick, put and pack-to-light technologies for receiving, Q/A, put-away, replenishment, picking, packing, shipping, track and trace.

Warehouse Control Systems (WCS): This software provides device control for automated materials handling equipment, including conveyors, sorters, carousels, AS/RS, mini-load, and industrial robots, as well as related process management functionality.

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS): This execution software manages people, inventory, time and equipment for picking and processing customer orders. It directs receiving, inbound Q/A, put-away, cross-docking, put-to-store, replenishment, slotting, picking, packing, outbound Q/A and shipping; dock scheduling and yard management; inventory management/optimization and cycle counting.

Workforce Performance Management Systems (WPM) (also called Labor Management Systems): This software optimizes workforce deployment by establishing realistic performance standards and matching those standards to planned activity for optimal scheduling. It captures time and attendance data, supports best practices/preferred methods development including engineered labor standards; measures performance and feeds incentive tracking and payroll systems.

Yard Management Systems (YMS): This software facilitates and organizes the arrival, departure and staging of trucks with trailers in the parking yard that serves a warehouse, distribution or manufacturing facility. It handles carrier appointment scheduling; gate check-in/check-out; deploys and tracks trailers by location in the yard; controls trailer movement in the yard and to and from appropriate docks.

Transportation Management Systems (TMS): This software optimizes the use of domestic and international transportation resources used for inbound, outbound and internal shipping at the lowest cost consistent with customer service standards and trading partner requirements. It handles planning, procurement, routing, carrier rating and management, load consolidation, scheduling, load tendering, shipment tracking, freight payment; communication portals, shipment visibility; parcel carrier management and fleet management.

Supply Chain Visibility Systems (SCV): This software collects, integrates, validates and disseminates data from other supply chain systems for internal users and trading partners. It monitors inventory and order status; triggers event management and exception handling; performs analytics; and communicates with trading partners through performance dashboards and reports.

Simulation software: Software tools that are used to test-drive or simulate the anticipated operation of a material handling system—or to aid in the evaluation of the impact changes to that system will have—in a production or warehousing facility. When run with data on projected throughput, the software model will show the behavior of the proposed or modified system “under load prior to purchase and implementation.

Software systems are used throughout a company’s supply chain to connect trading partners, materials, inventory and facilities:

  • Assembly: Queuing work-in-process for additional production steps
  • Order picking: Organizing and releasing orders for fulfillment
  • Production: Releasing work-in-process and directing the movement of materials and components to the production area
  • Receiving: Collecting data on received materials and inventory
  • Put-away: Directing the proper placement of stored items for easy retrieval
  • Replenishment: Directing the removal of inventory from storage to forward picking locations
  • Shipping: Coordinating transport of outbound materials
  • Simulation: Modeling changes to existing floor plans or processes prior to implementation

Software systems provide a variety of benefits:

  • Accuracy - By keeping track of all materials and products in a facility and throughout a supply chain, software improves inventory and location accuracy.
  • Efficiency – Because it organizes tasks by priority, software ensures that the most important jobs get done first.
  • Lowering labor costs - Directing workers to tasks by priority and monitoring productivity for benchmarking, performance improvement and incentives.
  • Increased productivity – Order fulfillment activities are sequenced to enable the most efficient method for completing each task, such as grouping orders to reduce travel and allowing workers to pick more orders in less time.
  • Process flow – Software directs the right components to the correct production line, pick location or packing station as needed.
  • Storage and slotting – Software analysis helps determine which items are picked more often and recommends their storage in more accessible locations.

Software systems process information and direct activities at facilities in nearly every industry, including:

  • Aerospace
  • Appliance
  • Automotive
  • Beverage
  • Chemicals
  • Construction
  • Consumer goods
  • E-Commerce
  • Food
  • Government
  • Hardware
  • Hospital
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials processing
  • Paper
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Plastics
  • Retail
  • Warehousing and distribution

Read more about how software systems are used in different industries and applications.