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Supply Chain News: Gartner's Dwight Klappich on WMS Trends

 

What Do Buyers See as Most Important WMS Selection Criteria?

Nov. 17, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Dwight Klappich and colleague Simon Turnstall from the UK keep tabs on the Warehouse Management Systems market as analysts for research firm Gartner.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

Not surprisingly, Gartner research shows core WMS functionality is the number 1 criteria for WMS vendor selection


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Klappich gave an excellent overview of the WMS space two weeks ago during Gartner's Supply Chain Executive Symposium, delayed from May and held as virtual event due to the virus pandemic.

The WMS market is very mature, Klappich noted, being first introduced more than 40 years ago. But WMS providers continue to innovate. Klappich cited the move towards technical architectures based on "micro-services," increasing deployment of Cloud-based WMS, growing use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and prescriptive analytics as among the new capabilities WMS vendors are bringing to market.

"We are seeing the rise of the smart warehouse," Klappich said.

He noted that until recently, "There wasn't a lot of management in Warehouse Management Systems," with the systems focused on execution – but he says that is changing.

WMS vendors are increasingly providing decision-support tools for managers and supervisors to better manage their facilities, Klappich said, including more granular visibility to real-time activity in the DC.

He said those decision-support tools include a recent focus on labor, which is an increasing concern for distribution center managers and "an increasingly important operating constraint." That includes not only traditional Labor Management Systems (LMS) but also a new generation of labor planning and allocation tools.

Klappich also noted that materials handling automation was previously often only for large companies with big investment budgets. But now, technologies such as mobile robots and Put Walls, which are much lower cost and can be deployed incrementally, open these technologies to mid-sized and even small companies, Klappich said.


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WMS vendors need to provide support for these material handling technologies, Klappich said.

Klappich said he sees three major WMS industry trends:

1. Workforce Optimization: Klappich as noted above sees a new generation of DC labor forecasting and planning tools being delivered vendors.

2. Use of AI and Machine Learning: Used especially to find patteerns that traditional WMS is not really designed to find, such as the calculating the real impact of fatigue in labor productively during the course of a shift.

3. WMS Vendors Offering Warehouse Execution Systems (WES): Klappich said WES rose out of material handling system providers adding more smarts to the Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) that control material handling equipment. But now, a few WMS providers have entered the WES space as well.

Not surprisingly, Gartner research shows core WMS functionality is the number 1 criteria for WMS vendor selection (see graphic below). But Klappich says "adaptability" has been rising steadily in the survey in recent years, due to the increasingly dynamic distribution and fulfillment environment.

 


Klappich also said there is a clear interest in highly automated distribution centers, which though still a small percentage of total DCs represent a growing share of designs and investments.

Any reaction to these WMS market trends? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


 
 

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