Executive Briefings

The Quest for Cost Efficiencies in Warehouse Management Continues in 2012

Analyst Insight: Warehouse management system vendors have used the slower market demand of 2009 and 2010 to invest in improved architecture and functionality. Today, the WMS market has seen a robust return in upgrades and new solution selections. Leading WMS application providers - from integrated ERP solutions to best-of-breed suite applications - all tout upgrades in architecture, new user interfaces and robust operational support. - Kevin Hume, principal, Tompkins International

Since 2009, the leading WMS application providers have made significant investments in their WMS and associated supply chain applications. Much of the rise in WMS activity in 2011 can be attributed to both the significant upgrades to the applications, as well as users looking to new solutions for more cost-efficient distribution operations.

This all comes at a time when the pressures for supply chain efficiency have never been higher. Supply chain management is continually faced with the challenges of limited IT support, demand for cost efficiency, and demand for greater operational flexibility.

The upcoming year offers a great opportunity to explore the latest offerings in WMS technology and develop a business case to transition to more cost-effective WMS support.

Key improvements in the WMS market for 2012 will include:

Architectural Upgrades - Since virtually any software architecture solution is exposed to technical obsolescence risks, WMS technical architecture continues to be one of the most important considerations during a WMS selection. Leading WMS applications continue to deploy service-oriented architecture, allowing customers to leverage real-time WMS information across the entire supply chain system landscape.

The importance continues to drive for the lowest total cost of ownership, while providing functional adaptability through low-level code modifications.

Wider range of operational flexibility - The architectural upgrades are enabling a wider range of user-defined configuration support that does not touch core code elements, resulting in lower license costs and more streamlined future upgrades.

User Interfaces (UIs) - Several vendors are in the midst of deploying next-generation user interfaces. The upgrades reflect the needs of a more tech-savvy workforce. Look for WMS user interfaces to provide more real-time visibility and business activity monitoring within traditional WMS screens. Next-generation UIs will support the ability to integrate with mobile devices and provide real-time data feeds for key operational and service metrics.

Increased Leverage of Warehouse Control System (WCS) technology -Such systems have traditionally been responsible for the communication between a WMS and downstream automation systems, synchronizing the movements of order components across the distribution center. Look for WCS applications to take on more traditional WMS functions such as allocation and order release. This trend is pushing real-time systems to make decisions on where to allocate and when to release.

Hosted & Software as a Service (SaaS) Deployments - It is now more common to evaluate hosted deployment options against the traditional, internally supported applications. This trend reflects the high demand of internal IT support to focus on core competencies and the need to evaluate alternative opportunities for application support.

                                           The Outlook

A continued increase in WMS application upgrades and new competitive selection efforts are expected in 2012. WCS application providers will also challenge WMS vendors with a wider footprint of pick management execution software. However, WMS vendors have made significant improvements in technical and functional support, and they will leverage more than 20 years of experience to meet the challenge. Overall, 2012 is shaping up to be a great year to be in the quest for a new WMS application.

Since 2009, the leading WMS application providers have made significant investments in their WMS and associated supply chain applications. Much of the rise in WMS activity in 2011 can be attributed to both the significant upgrades to the applications, as well as users looking to new solutions for more cost-efficient distribution operations.

This all comes at a time when the pressures for supply chain efficiency have never been higher. Supply chain management is continually faced with the challenges of limited IT support, demand for cost efficiency, and demand for greater operational flexibility.

The upcoming year offers a great opportunity to explore the latest offerings in WMS technology and develop a business case to transition to more cost-effective WMS support.

Key improvements in the WMS market for 2012 will include:

Architectural Upgrades - Since virtually any software architecture solution is exposed to technical obsolescence risks, WMS technical architecture continues to be one of the most important considerations during a WMS selection. Leading WMS applications continue to deploy service-oriented architecture, allowing customers to leverage real-time WMS information across the entire supply chain system landscape.

The importance continues to drive for the lowest total cost of ownership, while providing functional adaptability through low-level code modifications.

Wider range of operational flexibility - The architectural upgrades are enabling a wider range of user-defined configuration support that does not touch core code elements, resulting in lower license costs and more streamlined future upgrades.

User Interfaces (UIs) - Several vendors are in the midst of deploying next-generation user interfaces. The upgrades reflect the needs of a more tech-savvy workforce. Look for WMS user interfaces to provide more real-time visibility and business activity monitoring within traditional WMS screens. Next-generation UIs will support the ability to integrate with mobile devices and provide real-time data feeds for key operational and service metrics.

Increased Leverage of Warehouse Control System (WCS) technology -Such systems have traditionally been responsible for the communication between a WMS and downstream automation systems, synchronizing the movements of order components across the distribution center. Look for WCS applications to take on more traditional WMS functions such as allocation and order release. This trend is pushing real-time systems to make decisions on where to allocate and when to release.

Hosted & Software as a Service (SaaS) Deployments - It is now more common to evaluate hosted deployment options against the traditional, internally supported applications. This trend reflects the high demand of internal IT support to focus on core competencies and the need to evaluate alternative opportunities for application support.

                                           The Outlook

A continued increase in WMS application upgrades and new competitive selection efforts are expected in 2012. WCS application providers will also challenge WMS vendors with a wider footprint of pick management execution software. However, WMS vendors have made significant improvements in technical and functional support, and they will leverage more than 20 years of experience to meet the challenge. Overall, 2012 is shaping up to be a great year to be in the quest for a new WMS application.