The Truth about Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

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I have been in the supply chain software industry for more than 15 years. I have visited hundreds of potential customer sites in roughly a dozen countries.  I’ve been blessed to see and experience many unique companies and meet some of the most extraordinary people in the world.

Through it all, I’ve noticed that companies selling supply chain software greatly vary. Most are the real deal, while others rely on inventing “new” (still the same just rebranded) software packages to set themselves apart. When selling software, market transparency is key. Ideally you want the best solution when it comes to functionality, flexibility, and return on investment without over spending. Avoid any company that tries to oversell on modules that do not directly affect your bottom line.

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

Definition “A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software application designed to support warehouse or distribution center management and staff. They facilitate management teams in their daily planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling the utilization of available resources, to move and store materials into, within, and out of a warehouse, while supporting staff in the performance of material movement and storage in and around a warehouse.”

Over the years I’ve noticed that companies tend to fall into two categories when looking at warehouse management system software.

Group A consists of growing companies that either don’t have a legacy system in place or have outgrown the current system controlling their warehouses/order fulfillment process.

Group B includes established organizations who need to jump start their operations and feel a new WMS package might be the key.

Now each of these groups should be considered differently as many aspects of their needs are quite different.  In either case, I contend that considering the impact their decision may have on their organizations, a warehouse management system isn’t the answer.

That is right…a VP of Sales from a WMS provider telling companies they may need to look at other solutions.

Sure companies in:

Group A – should consider a warehouse management system if they don’t have one, as there are plenty of established benefits that can come from a WMS install.  Improved inventory accuracy, system-directed tasks, and reduced labor inefficiencies are all real, tangible benefits their company will experience.  I’m here to say: It is not enough.  WMS installs are way too costly, time consuming, and drain on your internal resources if the “standard” benefits are all you are going to see.  You deserve and need more to truly impact your bottom line.

Companies in:

Group B tend to be looking for the next best thing.  They believe new functions provided by the warehouse management system will have a lasting impact to their operations.  I am here to explain…

At this point, a warehouse management system is a commodity.  Traditional offerings of receiving through shipping applications with all the bells and whistles (i.e. Internet of Things (loT) control, directed tasks, etc.), everyone has it, old news, and quite frankly there are 50 companies you could find in a 10-minute Google search that provide these functions.  This isn’t news to the WMS industry.

Providers have for quite some time been adding more and more to their offering to try and set themselves apart.  Vendor management, yard management, fleet management, and asset management have all been developed to convince potential buyers they are the answer to your problems and will increase your bottom line.  My favorite is labor management modules. For prices as high as $250k, this package will tell you that the functions provided but your WMS aren’t very efficient and aren’t making the productivity impact you need.

You don’t need to spend that kind of money to tell you that standard WMS activities aren’t providing you the kind of competitive advantage you are looking for. Walk your floor for 15 mins.  You will notice too many people performing way too many manual tasks. This is not where you need to be to compete.

So what is the answer?  What is the best solution for your distribution center?  Since every provider has the same WMS offerings shouldn’t I go with the cheapest one? NO! I contend that your WMS needs to give you more integration opportunities, be more scalable, and should be more in tune with improving your operations in a meaningful way.

Focus on packages that allow you to leverage the integration of various technologies.

augmented reality for the warehouseAsk providers questions about how their offerings can increase your fulfillment labor by 40%.  If they don’t have an answer, look elsewhere.  Look for WMS software that leverages advanced technologies such as good to person, and companies that are forward thinking with their R&D towards augmented reality or robotic picking.  These types of functions reduce labor while increasing quality.  Don’t spend money on a labor management software to tell you your processes are not efficient.  Spend that money on ways to actually impact and change processes by employing better and more advanced tools.  Choosing a WMS that can open up these possibilities without increasing complexity for your IT teams will truly impact your bottom line.

Warehouse Execution Software

Exacta Software screenWhat started off as a rebranded marketing term for most; our Exacta software has been a true warehouse execution software package all along. By combining warehouse management system  and warehouse control system (WCS) modules, we create a complete platform that aligns all of your labor and automated processes within your four walls of the distribution center.

Conclusion  

When seeking professional help on supply chain software whether it is WMS, WCS, or WES offerings, please consider:

  • You may think a new WMS is the answer when in reality, your company may need more functionality.
  • Seek out experts with years of real-world experience of implementation to a vast majority of technologies.
  • Find the right software company and package that’s doing the right type of R&D with the right technology. Are they looking into the future of robotic picking, augmented reality, Internet of Things, and advanced warehouse execution software? If not they should be.

 

Learn more about Exacta supply chain software.

Eric Cameron
Eric joined Bastian Solutions after graduating from the University of Louisville. In 2005, he transitioned to the role of Sales Manager and in 2009, to VP of Sales. In this role, he directs sales activities as well as takes an active role in project execution and company finances. During his time at Bastian, Eric has been involved in the sales, design and implementation of more than 50 systems in a variety of industries.

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