Three benefits of a best-of-breed WMS

As soon as warehouse management systems began being added to enterprise resource platforms, the debate about standalone vs. ERP module has raged; and nothing seems to suggest that it is done yet.

Today, there are many cases where an ERP platform might make more sense, especially as data moves to the cloud and fixes can be delivered as you need them. The advantages for a best-of-breed WMS now come down to advanced functionality such as transport logistics or machine tool nesting programs, but they should be weighed against future company growth and budgets.

What’s the difference?

Best-of-breed is a term that’s thrown around a lot in software circles but not always clearly defined. A best-of-breed WMS is simply a standalone WMS that is the best product of its type. For almost all best-of-breed software, you’re going to purchase one product directly from a single vendor while the best-of-breed applications for another department will be purchased from a different developer.

So, if you’re going best-of-breed WMS, you won’t get it from the same company who makes your HR program or your ERP system

A WMS that operates as an integrated ERP module is a warehouse control platform that’s already integrated as part of your resource management. This software natively works with your ERP and other systems immediately, but it might not have been designed by a company that specializes in warehouse management.

Here are a few reasons why you might want to choose a standalone WMS.

1. You need specific capabilities

Best-of-breed WMS platforms are typically designed to both meet standard warehouse requirements as well as address industry-specific functionality. You may have to put the finishing touches on a standalone WMS, but you typically will have to do less overall customization compared to an integrated ERP module.

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Selecting the standalone WMS will often mean you get the picking configurations plus asset and people management tools you need to run efficiently and adapt to changes.

The integrated module is starting to catch up in this area, but only in some aspects where the ERP vendor has purchased or licensed a WMS platform. You are often still working with a platform that was first and foremost designed for other business operations. Intricacies of the warehouse may be missed, or you may need to do more customization — the latter of which can get complicated on some systems that try to be all-encompassing.

2. You like what you already have

In previous years, ERP systems would be a clear winner when it comes to integrating and ensuring everything was properly communicating and working together. That’s become less of a case as large best-of-breed WMS developers spend more time developing integration capabilities with popular systems.

If you have some existing management systems, vendor portals, or an ERP that doesn’t offer a WMS module, then it could be more beneficial to focus your search on a standalone WMS that lists your current software in its ‘supported’ list.

The integrations that ERP platforms and standalone WMS prioritize also tend to be different. An ERP will look at other core functions of your business from payroll to purchase orders, giving a preference for the most vital functions specific to your company as a whole.

A standalone WMS developer will focus their integration on functions core to your warehouse, so it might have options for parcel shipping or looking to consolidate your LTL loads and incorporate sophisticated picking rules.

If you like your existing payroll and other platforms, the individual WMS also likely makes more sense.

3. You need the WMS first

A best-of-breed WMS often makes the most sense when controlling your warehouse is the most important and you don’t have the funding or hardware to use a full-scale ERP.

This situation can be tricky because you must consider the future to ensure that a standalone WMS is the smart investment. If it’s uncertain about your need for an ERP, then look for a WMS from an established company who is already working to integrate with ERP and other platforms.

Buy what you need and always keep the future in mind to be happy with the decision.

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Geoff Whiting

About the author…

Geoff is an experienced journalist, writer, and business development consultant with a focus on enterprise technology, e-commerce, and supply chain development. Outside of the office he can be found toying with the latest in IoT, searching for classic radio broadcast recordings, and playing the perpetual tourist in his home of Washington D.C.

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Geoff Whiting

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