Key Things to Consider When Choosing WMS Software
Key Things to Consider When Choosing WMS Software
Warehouse management system (WMS) software is a powerful tool for enhancing distribution center (DC) productivity, accuracy and throughput, especially if your operation is growing. It can be confusing, however, to determine which WMS package is right for your business.
To begin with, many providers offer WMS software in some form, so there are a lot of possibilities to consider. Making an apples-to-apples comparison among the different options can also be difficult because many packages offer a diverse range of additional functions or capabilities.
In fact, there are often so many “bells and whistles” that DCs frequently end up paying for a lot more than they need. Others try to develop DIY systems or modifications of off-the-shelf systems, which become more difficult to maintain as their needs change over time.
Although the various WMS packages on the market today aren’t created equally, there’s probably one out there that will provide the functions you need at a price point that’s within your comfort zone. Here are five key attributes to consider when comparing the options.
In today’s distribution market, the only thing that seems to be consistent is change. From SKU variations and packaging to vendor demands, consumer buying habits and global supply disruptions, new challenges can literally change your business overnight.
As a result, your WMS needs to be able to adapt to changing business needs and demands quickly. Ideally, you should be able to make any necessary adjustments on your own on an as-needed basis.
The flexibility of the system should also extend to your day-to-day operations. It should be easy, for example, to onboard new clients or third-party logistics (3PL) partners. And since the needs of different clients will vary, you should be able to define customer-specific rules and preferences for each one within the same system.
The need to stay nimble makes it risky to modify your WMS with custom programming. Although this kind of customization might solve current problems in the short run, maintaining a heavily customized system can quickly become challenging, both for you and your vendor. In addition to limiting your upgrade capabilities, it can become much more expensive in the long run. It’s far better to have a WMS that offers a robust selection of configuration options. This allows you to set the system up exactly as you need it today, while giving you the abilities to add, remove or change options quickly tomorrow. Reducing or eliminating the need for custom development also keeps your total cost of ownership (TCO) lower over the lifetime of the system.
Having your WMS based on an in-house server is less of an advantage than it may seem. In addition to your initial capital investment, the equipment needed to host it takes up space and requires ongoing maintenance. Depending on your provider, you may need to purchase additional devices as your operation grows. On-premises systems also require your IT team to take full responsibility for upgrades and security enhancements, which can disrupt your operation, lead to unplanned downtime, or create conflicts of interest between IT and operations during peak shipping times.
A more reliable approach is to utilize a cloud-based WMS under a software as a service (SaaS) model. One of the first benefits you’ll get from this approach is a significantly lower cost to implement the system. Instead of a large capital cost upfront, you can spread your investment over time in the form of operational costs. You’ll also eliminate the need for an on-site server to host your WMS, along with all the related equipment and upkeep that go with it.
SaaS benefits your IT team by relieving them of the majority of the burden of maintaining the system. Under this model, your WMS vendor takes on the responsibility for ensuring that you always have the latest features and world-class security. There are no proprietary devices to buy or maintain, since any internet browser can access the system securely.
Your operations team also benefits from the SaaS model because it virtually eliminates shutdowns caused by upgrades. All system updates are handled transparently in the background by your WMS vendor, ensuring they don’t disrupt your operation.
Scalability and Integration
Your WMS should have the capabilities to adapt and grow as your DC’s “automation journey” proceeds. Scaling capacity to handle additional equipment as your DC evolves from a manual to semi-automated or even fully automated operation is only one piece of the puzzle. It will also need to scale to reflect the number of users who need access to the system.
As your DC becomes more complex, integration quickly becomes a necessity, rather than a luxury. Internally, your WMS should be able to coordinate with all of your systems, from automation solutions to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This increases throughput and productivity, eliminating bottlenecks while enabling your entire operation to function at peak performance. At the same time, your WMS can streamline your business by integrating seamlessly with any external systems used by your vendors, partners and customers.
Support for Your Long-term Vision
It’s not enough for your WMS to handle your DC’s current needs. Your decision should factor in where you want your operation to be in the next 5–10 years, or even longer. Investing in a WMS that can’t serve your long-term vision will only create costly hassles for you down the road.
Tailored to Your Specific Needs
Your long-term vision, and the role your WMS will play in it, needs to be balanced against the specific needs of your operation — those you have now, and those you anticipate.
Building Momentum for Your DC With WMS
If you’re looking for the kind of robust, configurable WMS we’ve described herein, Momentum WMS from Honeywell Intelligrated is a solution that can be quickly deployed and scale with your future needs as they arise. With hundreds of parameters that can be activated or deactivated as needed, you’ll get the precise system your operation requires while paying only for what you need. For more information, visit the Momentum WMS page or contact us today.
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