Choosing the Right WMS For Your Business

Q: The WMS selection process seems to be based on spreadsheets and feature-driven lists of requirements. Is this the best place to start?

A: Many consultants and professional organizations suggest companies can select a WMS by reviewing standard feature lists, conducting a conference room pilot, and adding customization as needed to deliver the design and WMS that suits their business.

But this process is expensive, and ignores some of the fundamental tenets of process re-engineering. Most companies insert processes and build workarounds over the years to manage specific business environments and conditions—many of which cease to exist over time.

This process also ignores the opportunity to craft elegant solutions that are highly efficient and precise, and built to economically meet exacting business needs.

Start by developing a clear understanding of your business processes, including orders, physical handling, inventory flow, and data flow. Conduct a process and business engineering review, eliminate non-value-added steps, and automate where appropriate. Concentrate on what your business needs, not how to fit your business to a software product. Create an ideal solution based on your functional needs, and select partners and approaches that are focused on listening to and precisely meeting these needs.

Q: What influence does automation have in selecting a WMS partner?

A: Increasing reason exists to select a WMS partner with real-time orientation and process engineering experience. It will deliver better ROI and a more reliable result.

Several years ago, large manufacturer integrators became disenchanted with the risk and reward of WMS software development, the constraints of in-house software on their manufacturing capacity and utilization, and post-sale support liabilities.

These integrators simultaneously developed independent zone controls to manage automated conveyors and other machinery within the warehouse as they began to develop contract WMS relationships. A gradual split began to occur between the experts in automation, real-time controls, or warehouse execution systems, and the WMS providers that were more interested in the broader planning, scheduling, order management, and inventory management aspects of the business.

The impact of this shift is still being felt today. Many fulfillment center owners yearn for a single source of responsibility and accountability, as well as more efficient solutions that use fewer computers; deliver comprehensive tools for managing order flow, inventory, and automation; and have only one software support contract—all with a complete and real-time situational awareness of the physical and logical subsystems in the fulfillment center.

Today, by combining WMS, WCS, TMS, and automation into a seamless solution, companies can achieve substantial savings, including reductions in computer equipment and controls, more efficient routing and order picking, less automation, and decreased space, labor, transportation, and support costs.

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