There are a lot of questions and some confusion about making the switch from a homegrown warehouse management system (WMS) to a best-of-breed model. From maintenance to cost to proprietary technology and market advantages, companies with a homegrown WMS may be wary of implementing a new system. But here’s the bottom line: a highly configurable, best-of-breed WMS will save you money, time and give you a greater competitive edge. Below are the top three myths surrounding the homegrown WMS versus best-of-breed debate.
1. I know my WMS requires a lot of IT time to maintain and it may not always be up-to date, but it’s configured for our business and gives us a competitive advantage.
A 21st century WMS is highly configurable to specific customer needs, market demands and regulatory requirements. Its foundation provides best practices built on decades of experience and hundreds of implementations in receiving, put-away / flow-through, inventory management, order processing, replenishment, pick/pack, and loading and shipping. At the same time, it can manage some of the most highly regulated and complex distribution environments in the world. A process-based approach allows you to easily configure the WMS to meet current demands, yet is flexible enough to adapt to future requirements. Users can also create and layer their own personalized workflows, effectively shaping the WMS to meet a company’s particular needs, thereby creating a true business advantage on top of the WMS core best practices and institutional knowledge. Many companies have spent years developing and tweaking their business processes to give them a competitive advantage, so it is important not to give this up just because you are implementing new ERP software.
2. Our ERP system already has a WMS that can support our business needs.
Many vendors tack on a WMS to their ERP system. This type of WMS may be fine for a warehouse with basic and static processes, but it is not a best-of-breed model that can integrate with many other systems, be highly configured to your company’s changing needs or scale up along with your growth.
You can’t afford to compromise multiple platforms for functionality. By not employing a best-of-breed WMS, you are ignoring the millions of dollars and decades of experience that vendors have dedicated to making sure customers have the best product possible. Thanks to this expertise, a best-of-breed model should easily integrate with your ERP system and have the option of add-ons, such as labour management systems, slotting and the ability to integrate with a transportation management system.
A WMS that is built off an ERP platform simply does not have this ability, nor can it be configured to the level of detail needed to grow with your business. Big ERP companies do a great job of trying to convince the market that a comprehensive ERP system is an absolute must for companies of all sizes and industries to run all enterprise processes. However, that’s just not the case. People and machines must move as quickly as possible in a warehouse: You need a system that is fast and execution-oriented, not just an accounting system. An ERP system is simply not made for sub-second response times. A best-of-breed WMS is extremely high speed and delivers information to your workers and machines with an urgency that matches your industry’s pace.
3. I already have a team and system built around maintaining and upgrading our WMS. It will be too costly to implement a best-of-breed model and retrain everyone.
The ease of using a best-of-breed model will reduce your IT staff time, including the time spent on upgrades. While a homegrown WMS may require hours of additional coding when an upgrade is installed, a best-of-breed model will have the underlying adaptability tools that allow you to enhance your system how you want, when you want and as often as you want. Additionally, the inner workings of homegrown systems are often tied up in a few, critical resources in IT, leaving many companies very vulnerable should these resources ever leave the company. With a best-of-breed WMS, you not only get a solid foundation of best practices designed into the base product, but you also receive the backing from a software provider that is dedicated to making the best product in the market.
For example, the right system will be architected specifically to allow customers to install their own upgrades, such as those from app stores, without assistance from the vendor. The customer can select and download these specific upgrades much like a smart phone user does with his or her device. Many upgrades to the WMS can be completed over a weekend without source code changes or interruptions to workflow because previous changes automatically carry forward. This allows your IT staff to concentrate on customer-facing services, rather than on maintaining the WMS or working with an interfering vendor.
It may also be costing you more to keep an obsolete WMS that requires you to maintain older versions of related infrastructure, like databases and operating systems. With a best-of-breed WMS that can integrate with these other systems, the entire warehouse or DC operations can become faster, more accurate and more efficient – almost overnight.
You should also consider whether your homegrown WMS can scale up smoothly as the company expands. Could it be rolled out internationally? Or scaled up to 5,000 users? Could it talk to and integrate with different systems, or will you have to maintain multiple pieces of disparate software? The impact of a highly inefficient system has a far, far greater cost on your IT resources than implementing a best-of-breed model that provides flexibility and deeper levels of configuration, as well as the ability to be localized to reflect the language, rules and regulations of a particular location.
It is true that homegrown WMS systems can often serve the needs of your company today. But flexibility, efficiency, scalability and adaptability are not luxuries – they are business requirements in our new economy. Make sure that your WMS is the foundation from which your operations can grow and ultimately drive your company to success.
Contributed by: HighJump Software Inc & iWMS Supply Chain Software (the SA channel partner for HighJump).