WMS Are 'Under-utilized'

Study finds that most companies are not using the solutions to the fullest potential.

A recent Supply Chain Consortium benchmarking and best practices survey of 100 top retail and related companies reveals that too many organizations under-utilize their Warehouse Management System (WMS) investment or do not make sound upgrade and replacement decisions.

The survey also finds that WMS solutions vary in cost and complexity, but there are three basic sources: (1) best-of-breed software vendors, such as Manhattan Associates, RedPrairie, and HighJump Software, which offer standalone WMS products or extended supply chain execution software suites; (2) Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) vendors, which offer integrated warehouse management modules; and (3) custom solutions developed by the end-user organization or a third-party contractor.

“Although companies are implementing these solutions to enhance operations, too many do not take their investment to the next level by continually evaluating how well they employ their WMS and seeking improvement opportunities,” says Tom Singer, Tompkins Associates Principal and author of the WMS survey report.

A few key findings from the WMS benchmarking and best practices survey include:

  • Forty-five percent of the reported WMS solutions are internally or custom developed.
  • Customization still plays a major role in many implementations.
  • Twelve percent of respondents use a third-party
  • Only 38 percent report using task interleaving functionality within their WMSs.
  • Only 60 percent of the respondents report that they perform a post-implementation audit of their supply chain technology investments.
  • Less than half of the respondents use their systems to schedule appointments for their receiving docks.
  • Eighty-eight percent of the respondents indicate that their WMSs are integrated to a customer or store order management system.

    Although the survey finds that the vast majority of respondents use their WMS solutions to support receiving, putaway, picking and shipping, other functions such as cycle counting, packing, slot management, labor management, dock management and yard management, are under-utilized.

    According to the survey, Radio Frequency (RF) picking using mobile hand-held or vehicle mount terminals remains the most popular picking technology. But surprisingly, respondents report low usage of RF pick carts and voice picking.

    “WMS functionality can help improve packing, order and shipment consolidation, value-added services, carrier selection, and quality assurance processes, “ notes Singer. “Best-of breed and ERP WMS solutions generally offer rich outbound functionality that can help operations dramatically improve their efficiency and customer service levels.”

    Unlike jumbled paper logs and complicated desktop spreadsheets, WMSs enable companies to streamline operations by executing real-time solutions that reflect the company’s way of doing business. Although WMS solutions are a critical component of many warehouse operations, acquisition is only the first step in achieving positive benefits for a WMS. Any solution must be properly implemented, managed, and utilized to achieve its full potential.