WMS...We'll Master This Sooner...Or Later

Six key points for getting the most out of your warehouse management system.


  1. Pieces of the puzzle: Even the best WMS implementation can always be enhanced. Also, many operations choose not to fully automate or support a process with WMS functionality. They elect to do this for schedule, initial investment costs and risk management reasons. They may fail to support or automate a process because it fell through the cracks during the design phase. Furthermore, business and operational requirements are constantly changing.

Organizations should continually evaluate how they can do things better with their WMS solutions.

  1. Expand your horizons: WMS solutions do not function within a vacuum. They generally fulfill orders supplied by external systems. But organizations that merely focus on order and shipment confirmation interfaces are missing the boat. Extended WMS integration to other internal and external touch points can substantially increase visibility and support process automation across the supply chain.
  2. A diamond in the rough: WMS packages capture large volumes of transactional data by order, item, user, and function. Savvy organizations constantly seek ways to mine this information to their benefit. Unfortunately, few operations take full advantage of the information locked within their WMS databases.

Investments in report writing, business intelligence, and performance management tools can be “diamonds in the rough” and pay huge returns.

  1. Who's manning the boat? Many operations do not adequately account for their WMS ownership costs. They fail to fully factor internal administrative and management costs into the equation. This support can be either internal or external to the organization.

External support costs for equipment and third-party software, like databases, are occasionally left out of the mix. Internal costs may be a bit more difficult to determine.

Decisions to enhance or replace WMS solutions cannot be made on a sound basis unless current internal and external support costs can be accurately expressed.

Take It To The Next Level

Implementing a WMS is typically a major investment that is justified and approved through appropriate due diligence. But many organizations do not take their investment to the next level by continually evaluating how well they employ their WMS and seeking improvement opportunities. These efforts should be done in a structured manner that measures benefits against associated costs.

Furthermore, too many organizations under-utilize their WMS investment or do not make sound upgrade and replacement decisions. This is not only wasteful; it also endangers the overall health of supply chain operations.

The key to avoiding these pitfalls is to adopt a constant improvement program that regularly assesses WMS performance and associated costs again current and future needs.

To ensure you are getting the most out of your WMS or purchasing the right solution, take time to continually review your options. Understanding the potential of your WMS can prove extremely beneficial in the long term.

Singer is a Principal with Tompkins Associates, Raleigh, NC, whose areas of expertise include the design, development and implementation of supply chain execution and enterprise asset management systems. For more information, contact Tompkins Associates at info@tompkinsinc.com.

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