Once you’ve decided you need a WMS (the key criteria for which we have discussed here), you need to decide on which WMS and implementation provider best suits your business needs. This is no small task as there are literally dozens of WMS package vendors, custom development houses, implementation providers and system integrators that could potentially be right for your requirement.
Before you proceed, please be aware that choosing your WMS implementation provider is of equal and more often than not more importance than the software you choose, because purchasing great software, but not implementing it successfully will obviously result in high levels of dissatisfaction.
There are four main variants when it comes to companies that you can partner with for your WMS journey:
There are many companies out there that can “build” you a WMS, whether from the ground up, or using a base shell of WMS features and then adding to those based on your requirements.
System integrators will work with you to ensure the core software, hardware and even the physical design and layout of your facility are managed under a single banner during the implementation process.
In many instances, it might be obvious as to which type of WMS provider suits your business, but there are always aspects that are not known. It's important to call out some of the important differences between what each partner type typically offers and explain the detail behind the core offerings they provide:
Packaged software vendors such as Manhattan Associates develop warehouse management software as their core business. This software is designed to be used across their entire customer base. This has several benefits and considerations:
Explore how we helped Kolok identify and implement key processes to optimise their warehousing and distribution operations.
Functionality is key when choosing any software as the reason you are investing in a WMS is that the functionality will help you execute actions in your warehouse that you either can't do today or do in a manual and labour intensive manner.
When considering the various features and functions provided by WMS providers, the most important thing is to understand, define and document what is important for your organisation not only today, but also for the future. Remember, once you’ve chosen a WMS you’ll typically have it in place for 10-15 years.
One of the worst mistakes that can be made when you are building out your functionality requirements is to download one of the many free functional checklists that are available on the internet and using that as the basis for your company’s requirements – these lists are too generic and don’t take into consideration what the important considerations for your organisation are.
Where possible, adopt best practices, thus avoiding lengthy development timelines and costs.
Looking to achieve industry benchmarks and follow best practice? Use this helpful checklist to ensure you have all the right steps in place.
Domain expertise can be defined as a person with special knowledge or skills in a particular area of endeavor. There is a common perception that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything, but this differs vastly according to what you are trying to master. When is comes to WMS, we would suggest that once a company has achieved the following they will have built a high level of domain expertise:
It is more common that packaged software vendors have a greater level of domain expertise as their software is sold into specific industries based in its capability, whereas custom development houses are built to specific customer requirements and will be experts in your business and the software language they use, but not necessarily in your specific industry vertical.
Looking for a warehouse management system vendor that has industry experience with the very best WMS, Manhattan Associates? Supply Chain Junction is here to help or answer any questions on the Manhattan WMS. You can also try our ROI calculator to determine the financial benefits of a new WMS.
Whether you are considering an ERP, best of breed or custom development WMS provider, the question that will need to be answered is: “which is right for my business ERP or best of breed?”. This is because ERP WMS are sold as a module to the ERP and very few ERP vendors offer standalone WMS, whereas a best of breed WMS has been built with the specific aim of focusing on the warehouse. Custom development companies often act as a hybrid of these options as in many cases they have also developed the ERP or are engaged to specifically build the warehouse software.
The below two core strategy considerations often drive whether a company chooses to go with an ERP or a best of breed WMS:
IT departments typically want to deal with as few vendors as possible and as such advocate for a single solution regardless of the operational functional requirement.
Supply chain and warehouse executives typically want to ensure they have as much flexibility, functionality and expertise as possible and as such seek a WMS that will meet these requirements regardless of the technical landscape.
Once you are able to clearly articulate your WMS provider selection strategy around the two core fundamental strategy decisions, you will be able to start narrowing your list of potential providers.
Almost every WMS implementation will require integration to one or many existing host systems. The most common integrations are to ERP, TMS and/ or Order Management systems. When implementing a WMS from an ERP vendor, there is typically an integration effort as most ERP WMS modules have either been purchased and integrated over time and as such are interfaced to the core ERP rather than being part of the standard package.
There are two broad definitions of integration to consider:
The most common forms of integration to a WMS are:
There is direct integration for the required files from one system to another, typically ERP to WMS.
Middleware is typically used in companies that have several business systems that need to share data to communicate and function effectively. The core function of Middleware is to act as “glue” between all of these systems and ensure that interface messages are sent and received, and where required, formatted and enriched to ensure that the sending and receiving systems can operate at their optimal.
Some solutions that have WMS modules will be built as a single application that you can license various modules and then “turn them on”. In these scenarios, data is typically shared between the modules and the integration effort is minimal if not required at all.
When integrating an ERP or other solution to a WMS, the most important consideration is the role that each solution will play within the business. Once this is defined and agreed, the actual technical integration is a minor task. The below diagram provides a generic overview of the most common typical WMS and ERP integration touch points and the core roles and responsibilities of a WMS and ERP.
The request for proposal process (RFP) has been in place for many years as the standard method that most companies use when choosing a WMS provider. In our guide to a successful WMS RFP, we outline the core steps that should be considered as part of the process. However, before you embark on a RFP there are certain considerations and benefits that should be taken into account as the process is typically cumbersome, time consuming, divisive and in many cases there are trends where vendors are refusing to participate in RFPs.
Once you have reached a shortlist of two to three potential providers, one of the most important processes in the selection journey is the reference visit as this will give you the opportunity to meet your potential peers and understand their views on dealing with the specific WMS and implementation provider.
There are plenty of software reference visit checklists such as this one to help you ensure you cover off the core governance questions, but perhaps the most important aspects of the reference visits are the learnings that existing customers will share. These will typically include:
Once you have gone live with a WMS, the support you receive from your WMS provider is critical to your ongoing success. Support is typically delivered in the following forms:
Depending on your operational requirements, this can be extensive as 24-7-365 support and should be available based on a priority basis ranging from immediate support when you have critical issue that stops operations to basic “how do I” questions. One of the great things about technical support is that it can be offered remotely as it usually requires that a support consultant can access your WMS to diagnose and rectify any issues.
Dependent on the internal skill set and desire of a company, they may choose to insource all configuration activities or work with their WMS provider to develop a blend of insourced and outsourced configuration activities. At a minimum, every company should be able to manage the basics of WMS configuration such as user set up, roles, responsibilities and location or zone management, but when it comes to more complex business process rule changes, it may be advisable to work with your WMS provider to ensure they are optimal.
As your business becomes familiar with a WMS and its ability to improve operational efficiency, there should be requirements to leverage more of the features and functions to continue to improve efficiency. This is where a provider with deep domain and product experience and a deep understanding of your business and its requirements will be a key differentiator to your success.
Once you've worked through the core decision elements to determine the right WMS you need to ensure you confirm the most important reasons to partner with your WMS provider.
A Manhattan Associates GeoPartner is an extension of Manhattan itself and, by achieving this partnership, Supply Chain Junction is accredited to sell, implement and support Manhattan’s industry leading solutions.
With offices in Dubai and Cape Town and a team of professionals based in those offices, Supply Chain Junction is able to offer our and Manhattan’s customers the highest level of support in the regions we represent, in local currency and at local rates whilst being right on our customer’s door steps when they need us.
Gartner – WMS Magic Quadrant Leader 2009 till today
Forrester – Forrester Wave Leader 2018 - Omni Channel Order Management leader
ARC Advisory – WMS market share leader 2009 till today
Locally – interact and exchange ideas, challenges and solutions with our customers in the Middle East and Southern Africa.
Globally – with more than 1200 customers across the world, our WMS community is the largest in the industry.
Local conferences – region specific customer events to ensure we connect and engage our customer community annually.
Global Conferences – Manhattan’s Momentum event’s annual gathering of the Manhattan community
Product councils – did you know that roughly 30% of all R&D annual budget is allocated to customers to improve our product set?
Leading R&D Investment – Since 2007 Manhattan has invested over US $461 million.
- Get warehouse managers on the floor interacting with employees.
- Track and manage warehouse labour.
- Harness the power of selling against available inventory.
- Save the sale by bringing eCommerce into the store.
- Engage customers in the store with personalised shopping and virtual showrooms.
- Deliver training materials and floor sets in real-time.