Choosing your WMS: tool-related criteria
Features tailored to your logistics requirements
Every warehouse has its own specific requirements. The first criterion to consider, therefore, is the WMS features, because it goes without saying that your future warehouse management system will need to meet your unique logistics needs:
Incoming goods, storage, picking, and shipping:
Support for your requirements in terms of incoming goods management methods, order picking methods, stock, location, and inventory management methods, and shipping methods.
Ability to adapt to the demands of your business:
- Ability to manage BtoB and BtoC (e-commerce) flows simultaneously
- Support for a wide variety of product types and/or strong seasonal variations
- Ability to process a large number of order lines
- Guarantee of full traceability (ability to manage serial numbers, batches, expiration dates, etc.)
- Ability to orchestrate mechanized or automated systems (storage, picking, sorting, packaging, etc.)
- Support for transportation management
- Effective returns management
- Ability to manage multiple sites and coordinate stock moves between sites
- Ability to provide a comprehensive overview of your stock (possibly including stock at physical retail outlets), etc.
In any event, it’s essential to choose an WMS that can meet your current and future needs.
Flexibility and customization of the WMS
Deploying a WMS may lead you to review and optimize your organization, your processes, and your flows. However, it’s important to choose a warehouse management system that’s flexible enough to be configured as your specific business needs evolve. For instance, some companies—such as logistics providers—need a highly customizable system that can support the varying requirements of different customers and can adapt to future needs and changes.
Scalability of the WMS
The WMS needs to be scalable enough to support your future business requirements. Down the line, for example, you might choose to diversify your product portfolio or logistics flows, receive higher order volumes, expand into new geographies, or experience other changes to your business.
Cloud-based WMS: scalability and regular updates
Logistics requirements are constantly evolving, so it’s essential that the WMS can keep pace with these changes. Cloud-based applications are a solution to this challenge: as well as relieving your employees of the responsibility of ongoing infrastructure maintenance, cloud-based systems allow additional resources to be allocated automatically during workload peaks, which isn’t the case with on-premise architectures. What’s more, with a cloud-based warehouse management system, you also get new features and updates much more frequently.
Performance and robustness of the WMS
If your business manages exceptionally high order volumes or experiences major workload peaks, it’s important to check that the WMS meets your robustness and performance needs—in other words, that the transaction response times, and processing and database update speeds, are up to the mark.
Integration of the WMS with other tools
Integrating the WMS with other tools is vital to optimizing logistics operations and ensuring you maintain real-time visibility of stock and logistics flows. The system should seamlessly interface with other applications such as your ERP system, your Transport Management System (TMS), your Order Management System (OMS), and your e-commerce platform. On a more technical note, it’s important to check which integration and data exchange protocols the WMS supports (APIs, EDI, data exposure in publish-subscribe mode, etc.).
Intuitive and user-friendly interface
The user interface is another key factor: the simpler and more intuitive it is, the shorter the learning curve will be for your operators, especially seasonal and temporary workers. A user-friendly interface also boosts team productivity and can even play a key role in attracting staff at a time when talent is in short supply.
And that’s not all: it’s also important to make sure the interfaces can be adapted for different types of sites in your logistics network, such as production facilities, warehouses, and retail outlets.
Your logistics sites (factories, warehouses, retail outlets, and more) are connected both to each other and to your wider ecosystem of suppliers (upstream), and carriers and customers (downstream). When choosing a WMS, it’s therefore vital to make sure that the system is open enough to support exchanges and collaboration all along your supply chain.
Support for mechanized or automated systems
If you already have mechanized or automated systems in your warehouse, or if you plan to install them, then the WMS will need to be able to interface with technologies of varying complexity (such as sorting machines, order-picking robots, conveyors, and marshaling yard systems), as well as orchestrate the associated processes, either directly or via the warehouse control system(s) (WCS).
Real-time dashboards and analytics
A modern WMS should be capable of generating customizable reports and dashboards to support management, real-time decision-making, performance measurement, and continuous improvement. Some companies even need a dashboard that gives a comprehensive overview of supply chain performance across all their logistics sites (see supply chain control tower).
Multi-country operations: multilingual WMS
For companies with operations in several countries, the WMS needs to be multilingual in order to support uptake of the application across all sites. And looking beyond the tool itself, getting appropriate vendor (or integrator) support for multi-country deployment is key to success.
WMS selection criteria linked to the vendor
Reputation and stability of the WMS vendor
When choosing a WMS, it’s also important to look carefully at the vendor’s financial stability, to check references from customers in a similar industry, and to scrutinize the product road map.
Project team and technical support
The success of your WMS implementation will depend in large part on the project approach. So it’s essential to make sure that the project will be managed by a seasoned team of logistics and IT experts, and that the vendor (or integrator) gives a clear indication of the project duration, milestones, and deliverables from the outset.
It’s also important to check what level of technical support the provider offers. How quickly do they promise to process tickets at different levels of priority? Do they offer multilingual support for multi-country deployments? How far up the chain can complex problems be escalated? And so on…
Price of the WMS and application hosting arrangements
Last but not least, the price of the application and the associated implementation costs are other key factors to consider when choosing a WMS. What is the pricing model (license, SaaS subscription)? Do you require hosting and ongoing maintenance services from the provider? What are the provider’s commitments in terms of availability and service levels (SLA)? If your business experiences workload peaks, what guarantees do you have that the system will be able to absorb them?