Types of Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
Because there are so many different types of warehouses and the definition of warehouse operations is different for every warehouse, there are many types of warehouse management systems (WMS). Trying to determine which WMS is best for which warehouse can be a daunting and expensive task, even for the best warehouse operations specialists.
Let's break down warehouse management systems into the different types of software modules available on the market today. By looking at the types of software packages available, we might find a clue as to which system is best for which warehouse. The three basic types of warehouse management software are as follows: 1. package or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS); 2. hosted systems and 3. proprietary systems.
A package, otherwise known as a commercial off-the-shelf solution, is a warehouse management template that can be easily configured to work against a variety of database systems depending upon the infrastructure of the firm implementing the solution. Most warehousing functionality has been included such as asset tracking and definition, material-handling supervision, scheduling modules for trips and docks, stockyard management, shelflife supervision and much more. Once a package has been selected, consultants typically schedule workshops to flush out functional requirements and specifications, which then convert to configuration requirements for ultimate implementation and migration from your current system to the new system. As with any software implementation, if the requirements are well-defined at the inception of the project, using a COTS system can go very smoothly. Drawbacks with packaged solutions are generally related to performance with the occasional problem of desired functionality not being available.
Hosted WMS solutions are relatively new to the scene. These use the Internet for access to WMS software. Organizations no longer need to purchase software to operate their warehouses. The core software for a hosted WMS is owned and operated by the hosting company. All the functionality required to run your warehouse is available through your browser. Typically, these solutions are best for smaller warehouse operations, but new functionality is being added every day.
Proprietary systems are really the benchmark by which many of today's packages and hosted systems are measured. Aberdeen recently reported that nearly 60% of all warehouse management software is still proprietary in nature. Apparently custom software providing the specific functionality, responsiveness and flexibility required, is still a viable solution for many organizations. One drawback to proprietary systems, however, is the high cost of ownership relating to custom service and maintenance. In general, the resource expertise required to maintain a custom software package comes with a high training price tag. Yet, when cost is sufficiently reduced, and accuracy and productivity is increased, proprietary systems can be quite attractive as they have been for companies like Wal-Mart.
Filed under WMS Basics