WMS: New approaches in a fast-changing environment

As a warehouse management system, the legacy one is essential and powerful, albeit with some limitations. Inventory management and planning are areas where traditional WMS is strong, but weaknesses, such as their focus on daily, waterfall-style task assignments, cause them to have shortcomings. These shortcomings are crippling in a workplace that is experiencing a huge demand for fast execution of orders, which are increasingly complicated, during what can only be described as a boom in e-commerce.

Trends suggest that operations seeking alternative or intermediate approaches to an upgraded (or new) WMS do have a few options, such as voice solutions and WCS (warehouse control systems). However, the managing director of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors, Ian Hobkirk, has stressed that these options also come with their unique strengths and weaknesses and should be adopted in a complimentary role to a WMS rather than a replacement. He also claims that adding one of these two options can make WMS upgrades in the future less disruptive: “If you deploy voice right now in a legacy WMS and keep it doing what it’s good at, you can keep voice when you update … but if you stretch voice or WCS to things not in its wheel house, you might throw away a lot of that development.”

A new WMS can transform an operation, but there can be just as much impact made by small software point solutions. WCS and voice solutions can be safe investments for systems both old and new.

Some systems already offer plug-and-play functionality and small-scale, targeted software solutions are certainly on the up, notes Bob Kennedy, vice president at DM Logic: All of these exist beneath the “adaptive software” umbrella, which is comparable to the app approach—involving an emphases on interface, change and ease of deployment.

“It’s a radically different paradigm shift in how software is developed and delivered,” Kennedy added, “… and it’s not unique to our solutions. The concept is to allow less tech-savvy people to create software so the customer can take control of the direction, evolution, and maintenance of their WMS system.” Furthermore, he said that if the supplier and customer are building apps then these should be made available through an app store, for the whole community.

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