Choosing A WMS Provider in 2023: A Comparison Guide to Popular Warehouse Management Systems
TL;DR: The choice of Warehouse Management Software should be informed by the recent and future changes in the supply chain industry. Check out our overview of the main features that Blue Yonder, Manhattan Associates, Infor, SAP, and Oracle have to offer, and get the rundown on pros and cons of developing your WMS from scratch.
Warehouse Management Systems have been around for nearly half a century, since the first computer-based WMS was used by J.C. Penney in 1975. This technology went through a long journey of innovation in the next several decades to become what it is today – a known way to optimize, customize, and control your warehouse. For the companies that introduce a WMS into their processes today, this history can blur into an avalanche of once-relevant, but no longer cutting-edge, features. It can throw a company off the scent of what it really needs in its own modern WMS. That is exactly why we are here. In this article, we will help to make your choice of a WMS provider informed not only by the past, but by the present and upcoming trends of warehouse management.
START YOUR SEARCH IN THE FUTURE
The landscape of supply chain keeps changing, affected by new technological advancements, changing customer demands, and industry trends. All of these tectonic shifts need to be taken into account when making your choice of a warehouse management system. Organizations should think about WMS solutions that align with their business goals and strategies.
Manual data entry and paper-based processes are gradually becoming obsolete, and single-function warehousing solutions are taking a step back, pushed out by the integrated technologies that take transportation management, order management, and inventory optimization into account. On-premises software, particularly one with limited scalability is also making way for cloud-based solutions that better accommodate the companies’ expansion. According to Innovecs’ Business Development Representative Vitaly Nguyen, other features that are likely to become more popular are:
- Advanced Analytics and Business Intelligence. WMS solutions with robust analytics capabilities will become increasingly important. Features like real-time dashboards, predictive analytics, and data visualization will enable users to make data-driven decisions, optimize operations, and identify areas for improvement.
- Integration Capabilities. With the growing complexity of supply chains, integration capabilities will gain significance. WMS solutions that can seamlessly integrate with other systems like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), TMS (Transportation Management System), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and e-commerce platforms will be sought after for end-to-end visibility and streamlined processes.
- Mobile and Handheld Device Support. WMS features that support mobile devices and handheld scanners will continue to gain relevance. Mobile apps, barcode scanning, and voice-directed picking will enhance worker productivity, accuracy, and flexibility in warehouse operations.
- Automation and Robotics Integration. The adoption of automation and robotics in warehouses will increase, making integration capabilities a critical feature. WMS solutions that can seamlessly integrate with automated systems like robots, conveyor belts, and sorting machines will facilitate efficient and optimized warehouse processes.
- Cloud-Based Deployment. Cloud-based WMS solutions will continue to gain popularity due to their scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. Cloud deployment allows for easier updates, access from anywhere, and seamless integration with other cloud-based systems.
Feel free to factor some of these features into your list of requirements for the perfect Warehouse Management System. It is also import to set your priorities regarding all of the tools in your future WMS toolbox. Having a clear order of importance will make for a great guide when comparing what different providers have to offer.
Do your research and set boundaries regarding what programs and processes you should extensively invest in, as opposed to the aspects of your warehouse where the most basic package will suffice. Identify areas of growth for the things your warehouse does not need today, but will likely need in several quarters or years. Now that you have your demand figured out, let’s look at the supply.
POPULAR WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM PROVIDERS
Warehouse Management Systems are a fully developed vast market that offers many options. The providers are easy to differentiate by company size and rating, but to fully grasp the nuances of each solution, you need to dig a little deeper. With help from Vitaly Nguyen, we extensively explored the five leading Warehouse Management Systems commonly utilized on Supply Chain market.
Blue Yonder’s WMS prioritizes end-to-end supply chain visibility and orchestration, and integrates well with other supply chain solutions. According to Vitaly, it offers advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities for predictive analytics and optimization, and can handle complex, high-volume distribution operations. Blue Yonder’s cloud-native infrastructure also lays great groundwork for scalability and flexibility of supply chain operations. When it comes to the disadvantages, Blue Yonder’s support for labor planning and cost management is rather minimalistic. Users have also reported complications in contacting support.
This provider has extensive experience in the WMS space with a strong focus on supply chain execution. Their solution has multi-channel and omnichannel fulfillment capabilities, as well as advanced labor management features for workforce optimization. Manhattan associates’ scalable solutions are suitable for both small and large enterprises. Customer support and professional services are frequently mentioned as another advantage, but, according to Gartner reviews, sometimes the company drops important updates unannounced, and the support-post implementation is less stellar that the communication that came before. Another potential consideration is the learning curve of Manhattan Associates Warehouse Management for IBM (WMi), implying the need to adjust to its nuances in the early stages of use.
The adjustment period should be better with Infor, whose solution has a notoriously user-friendly interface and intuitive design. That simplicity might be a bit of a double-edged sword, seeing how Infor’s toolbox is a bit less versatile, when compared to other WMS providers. Still, its configurable and flexible solutions will meet diverse warehouse management needs. Infor has deep industry-specific functionality across various sectors, and strong global presence and experience in international operations. In case you become a fan, this provider also has a comprehensive suite of supply chain solutions beyond WMS. Be warned, though, that while Infor does not have a setup fee, it also doesn’t offer a free trial period and has no free or freemium version.
SAP is perfect for getting the basic WMS package. Its industry-specific scalable solutions are suitable for small, medium, and large enterprises. This product offers powerful analytics and reporting capabilities for data-driven decision-making, as well as real-time visibility and tracking of inventory across the supply chain. The reviewers have also noted SAP’s speed and the good response rate from the support desk, pre– and post-integration.
Oracle is a great choice for the companies that consider integrating robotics. Its capabilities also extend to advanced warehouse automation, in case you want to maximize your digitalization. Oracle’s comprehensive suite of supply chain solutions, including WMS, transportation management, and order management make it a good choice for the businesses that want to go beyond WMS and tap into other areas of supply chain management. This WMS has a robust and scalable architecture for high-volume operations and strong emphasis on real-time visibility and collaboration, and the provider has a lot of experience in managing complex supply chain networks.
CUSTOM SOLUTION VS OUT-OF-THE-BOX WMS
In addition to what popular providers have to offer, you may consider building your WMS from scratch for maximum control over its details and functionality. A custom-built solution is a valid option that has its advantages as well as drawbacks. Here’s what Eamonn McLarnon, Vice President of Global Supply Chain at Innovecs, has to say about it:
Another prominent difference is the cost. Buying an out-of-the box solution is still an investment, but it is cheaper in terms of development and maintenance. You will save money and time on the development team, as well as on the process itself. In the long run, however, there will be the regular vendor expenses that could pile up, when compared to the once-an-for-all payment on your own private solution.
Before settling on a ready-made or custom solution, consider your confidence in your own expertise. Would your warehouse benefit from the access to the provider’s toolkit, or do you know what your WMS needs perfectly as it is? Having to do all of the future updates and modifications by yourself can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on where you stand.
WES – A POSSIBLE NEXT STEP IN THE WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT EVOLUTION
Warehouse Management System is an incredible tool of supply chain optimization, but it will not be the endpoint of all warehouse-oriented logistics technology. As the progress moves forward, we will see newer and newer versions of the classic setup. Today, Warehouse Execution System (WES) is seen as the next turning point of the industry. According to Supply Chain Quarterly, the main feature that distinguishes a WES from a WMS is its real-time awareness: “a WES is “always on”—aware in real time of activity and constraints that can impact decision-making”, as opposed to the reactive nature of WMS, “processing the work as it sequentially arrives (physically or logically) at each next step in the fulfillment process”. Supply chain companies will want to keep an eye on this new IoT-driven solution that promises to bring about the smart automated warehouse of the future.
The choice of WMS provider is a nuanced process that should be informed by a host of internal and external factors. You have to thoroughly analyze what your own business needs right now and will need in the future, but remember that no company exists in a vacuum. It is equally, if not more important to keep your eyes on where the industry is headed, and align your direction with the current trends. The five WMS providers we discussed today are all great options, but the market of warehouse management systems is incredibly vast, so we will always encourage additional research.
Innovecs offers a wide spectrum of supply chain solutions, including warehouse management. We can optimize your current system, or help you with implementation of the solutions we discussed today. Feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation. We’ll gladly answer all of your questions.