An ever-increasing number of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and others have implemented warehouse management systems (WMS) to drive fast, measurable cost reduction and improve operational efficiency. The benefits of a WMS are numerous, including up to 99.9% inventory accuracy, reduced inventory levels, maximized use of your warehouse space, optimized picking efficiency and accuracy, improved customer order fulfillment rates, and increased labor productivity.

While definitions of a WMS run the gamut from manually spreadsheets to well known best-of-breed applications. An inflexible or legacy WMS may be dragging down your productivity and putting your business at risk.

You rely on a WMS to maintain ongoing operations, support changing customer requirements, keep up with new industry regulations and simply get product out the door on a daily basis. A faltering system may also be constraining your global potential.

Businesses decide to replace their existing WMS for a variety of reasons. But at the most elemental level, the question is whether your current system strengthens or hinders your ability to execute business strategies that will help you build competitive advantage, respond to constant change, and grow your business.

This report will identify nine telltale signs you should consider replacing your WMS. As a result, you will be better able to analyze the operational factors influenced by your own WMS and gauge how an inflexible or legacy system could be constraining your company's growth and global reach.

Warning Signs Cover:

Your current WMS has a short-sighted technology architecture:

In today's distribution centers, which are under constant pressure to meet increasing internal performance standards and external customer demands, technology becomes outdated far more quickly than it used to.

You should also consider your use of operational workarounds. If you find yourself creating workarounds for new business requirements that the system cannot support, such as compliance, kitting, visibility, or value-added services, you should consider replacing it. The more processes you rely on which the WMS cannot control, the more difficult it will be to track them and maintain the accuracy of your data.

A technology-related indicator may be a slowdown in response times with your radio frequency (RF) network. Do you find yourself sitting around waiting for a 'hanging' system, especially when confirming an outbound truckload shipment? If your WMS takes an inordinately long time to respond, it could be because the program can no longer handle the demands on it. This can lead to considerable declines in productivity, efficiency, and order processing time.

Your current WMS offers a limited functional footprint:

Does your WMS have the sophistication to allow your business to pursue continuous improvement initiatives? This often involves the addition of related functions such as slotting, labor management, voice picking, and yard management. It might also include compliance-related functionality such as RFID. These types of add-on WMS functionality can help improve order and shipment consolidation, value-added service handling, and quality assurance procedures. A WMS that provides built-in pathways for adjacent business
process improvements will benefit your business most widely.

You rely on your WMS provider to closely monitor the market and its customer base as part of its product development process. Many smaller providers also lack a defined road map for improving and expanding product functionality. Your WMS provider could have a shaky or nonexistent development plan due to lack of domain expertise, funding, or other problems. If so, you may be trapped with a functionally stagnant system while market requirements continue to evolve around you.

Support for your current WMS is becoming increasingly expensive (and hard to come by):

If your WMS happens to have been developed in-house, mind-share of the application is limited to in-house staff that will ultimately leave the company for a new position or retirement, taking with them irreplaceable technical know-how. Losing key employees who possess all the knowledge required to operate your system-critical WMS presents – at best – substantial setbacks to your business.

Delaying a potentially complex upgrade to your WMS can require you to maintain older versions of related infrastructure such as databases, operating systems, and other software. This means that the support personnel trained to deal with these components are focused on providing assistance for the newest versions and not those that are several years old. In some cases, support for older infrastructure is transferred from the original provider to a third-party vendor, who can then charge a premium to support organizations that elect to maintain older software and infrastructure components.

In addition, if your WMS is running on old databases, you are required to employ staff with specific technical expertise just to run these components. This is a potentially huge drain on expenses and hurts your ability to add new functionality or modules. Ideally, you should be able to standardize employee
skill sets and databases across your operation for the greatest staff optimization and interoperability potential

Ultimately, running on an outdated WMS presents an additional level of risk that may not only hinder efficient operations, but could also decrease the level and quality of support you receive from your vendors.

External factors are rendering your current WMS obsolete.

The increasing cacophony of external requirements and compliance issues affecting your business may have become too forceful for you to ignore. This is especially true if your business is undergoing changes due to increased globalization of your supplier network, customer base, and/or your own facilities.

Many in-house and legacy WMS may be proven incompetent when faced with unforeseen mandates. Larger suppliers, government agencies, and even your most important customers may impose regulations that require technology and interoperability your WMS cannot support. These may range from labeling and parcel shipping compliance to unexpected requirements for distributing and transporting goods in a particular market or geography. If you are unable to comply, you may be subjected to significant charge-backs and penalty fees, raising your supply chain costs.

If your WMS does not allow you to observe the latest industry policies – often legally required to do business – you may be compelled to either replace your business systems or close your doors.

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