Five reasons why your business needs a best of breed WMS

Gains or losses in the warehouse can dictate the success or failure of your business. With such significance, picking the right tool to manage its demands that you learn the core differences between ERP warehouse add-ons and the advantages of a best of breed WMS.

If you’re facing a choice between the two, which is occurring more often as technology changes and margins feel tighter, consider how these options were developed and what each decision means on its own. Think about your integrations and interactions with customers, vendors, partners, and carriers.

To put these in the right perspective, let’s start by laying out the core difference between our options and some questions to ask to see where your business needs lie.

What is the difference between ERP warehouse module and WMS?

ERP programs are developed to manage as much of an enterprise’s assets as possible, often incorporating tools to track your warehouse locations and the inventory inside each. At their beginning, these WMS modules could keep up with many different WMS options available.

However, growth and specialization have led to best of breed WMS platforms quickly outpacing many ERP WMS modules.

Today, ERP WMS modules are mixed. Some will treat your warehouse the same as a store stockroom and give decent support for inventory management, generating order slips, and allowing for barcode scanning. Some integrate with suppliers to make it easy for you to resupply too.

What they tend to lack are the advanced features that make a best of breed WMS a significant time- and cost-savings tool. These WMS options include tools to optimize the layout of your warehouse, help you generate kits and other package combinations, track picking and putaway with scanning, and breakdown performance metrics in a variety of ways. Cold storage, manufacturing lines, hazard material tracking, and other sophisticated elements are often not available in ERP WMS modules.

Check out our WMS selection checklist when considering which software solution is right for your warehouse

Your decision will likely come down to the other elements of the ERP you’re considering. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Does it have all the functions your warehouse requires? What about specific capabilities?
  • Can it expand without custom development on your part?
  • Do you want to be locked into that ERP?
  • Does the ERP integrate with your sales and supplier channels?
  • If your business changes, can this system change?

For smaller operations, a WMS might be more expensive than adding a WMS module to your existing ERP. However, if it doesn’t meet the size or complexity of your operations, then the software could become limiting. Software shouldn’t get in the way of your growth.

Why are best of breed WMS beneficial to warehouses?

Let’s tackle this from the other side of things and see why a best of breed WMS solution might be right for your operations. There are a few core functionality elements that we’ve discussed, but it’s time to dive a bit deeper and understand what this software can offer.

Here are X core areas where the best of breed solution makes sense and provides an additional value outside of a specific list of advanced features:

  • Flexibility: When trends change, businesses do too. A WMS is built to adapt, allowing you to change and scale SKUs, track inventory as you break down or combine pallets and packages, and shift to incorporate new tools. You’ll find that almost every best of breed WMS is ahead of the curve for supporting the latest warehouse technology, from robotics and voice picking to generating system updates that can cancel and re-shelve products mid-pick when an order changes.
  • Composition: WMS tools are usually designed and built (their composition) around growth. This goes beyond flexibility and looks at a capability to expand functionality as you need it as well as scaling with your daily transaction growth. An ERP that prioritizes sales scaling over can easily overlook the physical requirements that need to be supported at the same time. You want a WMS tool that can add in forklifts and hundreds of additional orders without a hiccup or a need to code your own updates.
  • Maturity: Few best of breed WMS solutions are from new players. They have a long history in warehouse operations, and their e-commerce solutions usually have years of experience already. They’ve seen the issues your warehouse is going to face, from recalls to challenges in new markets. Industry-specific solutions can also simplify your more serious or complex concerns, such as expediting a PO needed to keep your manufacturing on schedule or selecting the best combinations of truck, air, rail, and ocean to meet time goals in multiple countries.
  • Supply chain understanding: Customers are becoming more demanding. Partners are too. Best of breed solutions are keenly aware of partner needs and provide supply chain visibility that requires expertise across where goods are, how they move, and the timing needed to keep everyone satisfied. Complex cross-docking is more likely to work correctly when you’ve got a smart WMS that can track shipment status updates. Getting accurate visibility is exceedingly complex, but a core requirement for any sophisticated warehouse.
  • Implementation experts: An ERP with a WMS module seems like a cheaper option, but it may be much more costly if you have a complicated business. Best of breed WMS platforms are supported by teams who are experts in installing and implementing their solutions. They’re not worried about your sales, marketing, or other departments. So, your team will have training and support focused specifically on using a WMS, which is precisely what your change management team needs to ensure proper WMS adoption. At the same time, these solutions have experts who can integrate and launch your new solution with minimal disruption, proper backups so that orders aren’t lost and a clear demonstration of how to use your new tool to track efficiency gains.

Generally, a best of breed WMS gives you more opportunities to see cost reductions and efficiency gains across your entire warehouse.

How do I find what’s right for me?

In almost all cases, a WMS will provide a superior warehouse toolbox than an ERP add-on because of their nature. For ERP providers, warehouse management is an afterthought — something added on to capture a little more revenue. A WMS is designed for your warehouse from the very beginning. It’ll have goals around accuracy, inventory, speed, and efficiency baked in and relevant for how you run your business.

What you and your business will need to decide is if you need an advanced solution and what level of gains you would like to see. Then, speak to ERP and WMS vendors to see what they think you could achieve in the near term as well as five years down the road. 

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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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