Warehouse Management Systems vs Inventory Management Systems: What’s the difference?


The terms “warehouse management” and “inventory management” are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably as they both deal with operations and products for the manufacturing, distribution and retail industries just to name a few. Let’s discuss WMS vs IMS.

If you’re looking to streamline your warehouse inventory process, you might have noticed there are an abundance of options to manage the inventory, including WMS (warehouse management system) and IMS (inventory management system).

Don’t worry… you’re not the only one confused by WMS and IMS. Despite their similarities, there are many notable differences between warehouse and inventory management systems.

What Is Warehouse Management?

Warehouse management controls the storage and movement of products and materials within a warehouse. The system that manages these operations is known as a warehouse management system (WMS). WMS programs allow for centralized management of warehouse management processes, such as inventory tracking and stock locations.

WMS includes:

• Real-time inventory
• Warehouse layout and slotting
• Picking
• Packing

WMS includes:

• Shipping
• Receiving
• Quality control
• Advanced reporting

What Is Inventory Management?

Inventory management refers to inbound processes like receiving inventory and put-away. IMS’ primary capabilities are the tracking of products, materials, and items within inventory dependent companies and is typically the first step before integrating a warehouse management system. Tools involved in inventory management include safety stock, ordering quantity, cost of goods, inventory turnover, customer-managed inventory, and vendor-managed inventory. The amount of inventory management necessary varies by industry.

IMS includes:

• Inventory quantity
• Simple picking
• Barcoding
• Locations

Differences and Similarities Between Warehouse Management Systems and Inventory Management Systems

The key difference between a warehouse management system (WMS) and an inventory management system (IMS) is that one involves tracking counts of individual products and the other involves tracking units of space, such as bins and compartments and workflow.

power bi dashboard

Warehouse management systems and inventory management systems enable you to use barcoding devices to track and monitor products within the warehouse, pick, pack, and ship items, manage various locations, receive orders into inventory, and perform cycle counts. Companies that integrate inventory management systems with warehouse management systems benefit from knowing that their entire warehouse is visibly and properly managed.

Aside from what they track, the most significant difference between inventory management systems and warehouse management systems is their complexity. In addition to managing warehouse space, a WMS offers multiple solutions from issuing order receipts to shipment and delivery.

A WMS tracks very bin or compartment, so you’re able to track multiple bins of the same product and distribute them to different areas of the warehouse. A WMS also tells your exactly where that location is, where an inventory management system only gives you the count of each bin.

Inventory management systems provide you with the total count of inventory in specific locations, whereas warehouse management systems tend to be more complex and divide warehouses into multiple compartments and bins. This allows you to manage the entire storage system within the warehouse rather than a location.

Below are some other key differentiators between warehouse management systems and inventory management systems differentiate.


An effective inventory management system will include tools to evaluate current stock levels of materials and products to meet demand while reducing overall inventory costs and turnover. Warehouse management systems are more intricate and have capabilities to manage entire storage units within a warehouse. If a warehouse has multiple storage unites of the same product, a WMS can manage all of them, but an inventory management system will only be able to provide how much product is available.

Adaptability for Integrations

Warehouse management systems (WMS) incorporate a warehouse’s operational processes and usually integrates with other enterprise systems, including production and sales programs, along with inventory control functionality or inventory management systems integration. Inventory management provides a basic level of information to make material and product tracking more efficient. WMS deals with production supply, sales and distribution, and quality management. It is integral to ongoing operations.


With inventory management, companies can only know that they have a certain product in stock and its quantity. Warehouse management systems give your business far more control of both your enterprise warehouse inventory and overall warehouse process. Other capabilities that make a WMS a larger part of the overall logistics of a warehouse includes production supply, sales and distribution, and quality management. WMS gives companies much more control over their operations as it provides them with more information required to complete other duties.


WMS offers businesses the opportunity to analyze and adjust inventory and storage when needed while inventory management systems typically don’t. Useful communication devices used in WMS make it possible to make these variations and gain a greater understanding of inventory and location of products, which results in a more efficient and streamlined operation.

Why PICK WithoutWire?

  • Rapid deployment – using it immediately – up and running fast
  • Mobile centric view vs legacy
  • Intuitive easy to use experience
  • Adaptable to the customer’s inventory and industry – flexible and configurable
  • Configurable inventory built your way
  • 24×7 immediate support – We are there for you no matter what

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