Selecting the right Warehouse Management System (WMS) for a supply chain logistics operation is difficult enough to do under the best of circumstances. Whether you’re looking for a WMS, Warehouse Control System (WCS), Transportation Management System (TMS), or an e-commerce focused Order Management System (OMS), there are seemingly limitless options. Finding the right one can be an extreme challenge. What’s worse, the ground beneath the enterprise supply chain software market is shifting in real time so, even what you think you know about making this important selection may no longer be accurate.
Let’s try and clarify the current state of this rapidly evolving software ecosystem so you can make the right choice. The following three warehousing-related software platforms perfectly illustrate the dynamics at play in today’s “fuzzy” software industry environment.
Well-known, Warehouse Management Systems are designed to control the flow of inventory in and out of distribution centers, improving visibility and automating fulfillment processes. They integrate with various mobile technologies as well as cobots (collaborative robots).
WCS or Warehouse Control Systems focus predominantly on driving material handling equipment and conveyor systems; they perform optimally when integrated with a WMS or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
The more recently developed WES or Warehouse Execution Systems are a hybrid solution, integrating the functions of both a WMS and a WCS. This is a clear example of the shifting ground beneath the warehouse technology and automation market.
There are three powerful dynamics at work that are distorting the lens through which an organization views purchasing decisions when it comes to selecting and deploying the right software.
- Technological Innovation
- Supply Chain Convergence, and good, old fashioned
- Free Market Economics
Working together and driven by one another, these dynamics make selecting the right WMS a moving target. Here’s how the vicious cycle plays out.
Technological innovation continues to advance exponentially, rendering yesterday’s solutions obsolete. Consider cloud computing which was seen as a radical idea in the early 2000s when on-premise systems were the standard. Today, cloud computing is the paradigm and a move to open integration, Application Program Interfaces (API), is currently driving the next dynamic – convergence of data.
Enabled by the “common language” of APIs and the ease of integrating disparate systems into one, end-to-end solution for supply chain management, data convergence is now occurring in real time. You can see it in the mushrooming numbers of new startups, built upon API connections between different but highly related software. New vendor hybrids offer WMS capabilities combined with some/all of the following: TMS, OMS, accounting and shipping functionality.
Over the last 2 years we have witnessed record-breaking numbers of mergers and acquisitions across the supply chain industry – horizontal mergers increasing market share; vertical mergers exploiting existing synergies; and concentric mergers expanding the product offerings of the melded companies and their respective offerings. This has occurred at a global level with software companies not only buying their competitors but logistics companies buying software companies and vice versa.
In today’s world, making the wrong decision may not just be costly, it can be catastrophic. Before deciding, supply chain executives need to expand their due diligence, “Will this provider still be around 3 years from now? Will they merge with another company and be able to fulfill their promises? Will the team that you trust and purchase from be there for the long haul?”
While no one has a crystal ball, especially in these volatile times, decision-makers can find guidance from supply chain technology experts like those at ATS, with decades of experience and success. We help our clients modernize operations by selecting and implementing technology and automation which improves profitability, operational efficiency and the ability to satisfy customer demands. If you want to save time, money and significantly reducing your risk, schedule a free consultation today to learn more how ATS can help you.