NetSuite Warehouse Management Systems Integration Patterns

This article is relevant if you are looking to integrate NetSuite with a Warehouse Management System (WMS).

Background

We just went live assisting a client who migrated from NetSuite’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) to a proprietary on-premise system. The client sought a local inventory management platform designed to drive specialized picking carousels and part holding machines which included various on-the-warehouse-floor optimizations.

Prior to engaging us, the client did the work to find a warehouse management platform they wanted to work with.  The WMS platform had not been integrated into NetSuite in the past.  Having worked with us on other NetSuite endeavors, they engaged our firm to help lead the software integration between the WMS and NetSuite ERP.

Topical Concerns Related to NetSuite and WMS

In this article, I will not discuss the strengths and weaknesses of NetSuite’s Warehouse Management System as this topic deserves close examination depending on your specific situation.¬† Instead, the purpose of this article is to illustrate some of the points one may consider should they desire an integrated NetSuite ERP to WMS solution.

General Warehouse Management Transaction and Master Data Sets

In any reasonably scoped integrated warehouse management to ERP system, you can anticipate a number of transaction and master data elements that come into focus. Consider the following fundamental information flows:

  1. Parts: inventory parts or items come in various forms. Some items are serialized or lot controlled while others may be organized into bundles or assemblies. Unit of measure factors should be addressed to line up stock keeping units and order quantities.
  2. Inventory Updates: inventory records between the two systems need to stay in sync so that a perpetual real-time system can reliably inform the business on parts availability.
  3. Item Receipts: parts are going to come into the warehouse from ERP purchase order and warehouse transfer activity.  Thus, transactional information must be provided to account for anticipated inbound-inventory.
  4. Item Fulfillments: traditionally originating from sales orders, parts are going to be shipped to customers. However, inventory transfers between warehouses are common and inventory returns to suppliers hopefully are very infrequent.
  5. Assembly Operations: often thought of as a simple form of manufacturing, the warehouse may perform assembly work to put materials together into a finished good.

Qualifying Processing Models

The fundamental master and transaction data sets above drive all kinds of business process considerations. For example, in our client’s situation, they wanted to pick specific goods for shipment but not actually perform the shipment until they asked NetSuite to capture the funds on the customer’s credit card and generate a respective invoice which would be subsequently packed as a printed document to be included in the actual physical shipment.¬† If¬†these¬†checks succeed as designed, then the process will continue so that the goods will leave the warehouse¬†with the designated shipment provider.

The point here is to understand that warehouse management system integration demands planning discussions between order and warehouse management teams to ensure that the desired sets of coordination can be supported.  There is a good chance that if you select a warehouse management system that is already integrated to NetSuite, there may be needed information flows that may not have been accommodated for.

Technology Considerations for NetSuite Warehouse Management System Integration

The associated diagram represents an overview of the connection endpoint needed to drive our client’s integration requirements. There are some important architectural considerations here for a scalable pattern:

  1. Batches: Being able to move information in batches versus individually is more efficient when there are higher transaction volumes to consider.
  2. Queueing: NetSuite’s scheduling architecture¬†suggests that batched information be queued so that information can be parsed into smaller unit elements for business record updates.
  3. Record Updates: when a record has been changed in NetSuite, a mechanism is needed to mark it as “dirty” so that it can be included in the next queued batch update. Marking records in this fashion depends on business criteria so that only meaningful records are transmitted to the WMS.
  4. Endpoints: while NetSuite supports different integration technologies, we elected to use Restlets (HTTP REST) so we could get full control over the shape of the payload and the logic we wanted as information was gathered. There may be other approaches that shape the integration behavior.
  5. Monitoring: an integrated warehouse management system is going to require a degree of ongoing monitoring and care. With proper statuses and logging, NetSuite saved searches can drive dashboards and other alerting looking for situations that deserve inspection.
  6. Capacity: NetSuite offers an add-on module called SuiteCloud Plus to produce additional threading and scheduling. With the new Map / Reduce algorithm offered in the SuiteScript 2.0, we can powerfully utilize all available threads to act on information batches.

Strong Leadership Success Factor

The goal of this article is to help you think about what may be required if you embark on a journey to produce your own warehouse management systems integration. What has not been discussed, but is implied, is that planning, conceptualization, design work and ultimately software development and testing are needed to produce the final situation. In our experience, strong leadership in multiple domains drives quality outcomes both in terms of time to deliver and effort required.

We appreciate that our clients trust us to bring a special blend of business operations, accounting, and technology acumen to deliver meaningful solutions. If you have a challenging NetSuite integration endeavor, let’s have a conversation.

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Marty Zigman

Holding all three official certifications, Marty is Southern California's NetSuite expert and leads a team of senior professionals at Prolecto Resources, Inc. He is a former Deloitte & Touche CPA and has held CTO roles. For over 25 years, Marty has produced leadership in ERP, CRM and eCommerce business systems. Contact Marty to set up a conversation.

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