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Supply Chain News: Thoughts on WMS Trends from Gartner


Workforce Optimization, Artificial Intelligence, and Warehouse Execution Systems Key Areas of Focus

May 20, 2019
SCDigest Editorial Staff

At the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference in Scottsdale, AZ, Gartner analysts Dwight Klappich and Simon Turnstall led a session on the so-called “Magic Quadrant” report for 2019 on Warehouse Management Systems (WMS).

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But WES means different things to different people, so there remains some market confusion.

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The Magic Quadrant is a technique Garnter uses across many technologies and even some service areas to rate vendors along two primary axes: Completeness of Vision and Ability to Execute.

Each of those dimensions in turn is calculated based on a large number of more granular criteria.

The Magic Quadrant report itself is limited to Garner clients – though if you work through vendors frankly it is not that hard to obtain a copy.

But at the conference, Klappich and Turnstall provided some interesting observations on the WMS market , a very mature one now at some 45 years old.

The two analysts see two key WMS trends:

1. Focus on workforce optimization: WMS has always been in large part about optimizing use of distribution center labor, and that focus becomes even more intense if Labor Management Systems (LMS) are brought into the equation. LMS is offered as an add-on module from most leading WMS vendors (as well as stand alone specialists), and provides a variety of labor planning and reporting capabilities that go beyond what a traditional WMS typically comes with.

But Klappich said the new approach to DC labor is going even beyond what WMS/LMS typically delivers. He noted the driver of this interest and functional advances by the vendors is the growing labor crisis in distribution, with workers increasingly difficult to recruit and retain.

Klappich said leading WMS vendors are adding capbilities relative to real-time labor monitoring and assignment, based on the specific work across areas hitting the DC floor. These capabilities are very forward looking in terms of what human resources are needed where, in some cases suggesting new workforce assignments, in others automatically directing workers to their next jobs.

2. Use of artificial intelligence and machine learning with WMS: AI and ML are being leveraged in many areas of supply chain software, notably in planning applications, but Klappich said AI and ML are coming to WMS too.

The key catalyst: the amount of transactional data thrown off by WMS. The reality is today very little of that WMS data is really analyzed and leveraged, in large part because of the effort to do so.
But perhaps AI can find patterns and opportunities for operational improvement in this mountain of data that managers just can’t see or have the time to analyze, though we are still early in this journey.

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3. Continued action on the Warehouse Execution System (WES) front: the WES category of software was created a number of years back primarily by vendors coming out of the materials handling system market, with a perspective that WMS systems did not do enough to optimize equipment resources.

But WES means different things to different people, so there remains some market confusion.
Regardless, a few WMS vendors, jumping in with their own WES solutions, with the promise, Klappich said, of having some real advantages because they have access to all the date, not the subsect a WES vendor typically has visibility to.

The WES battle is really heating up.

“While a very mature market, WMS offerings continue to differ in areas like usability, adaptability, intelligence, scalability up and down market, and life cycle costs,” Klappich and Turnstall write in the just released WMS Magic Quadrant report for 2019.


What do you think of these key WMS trends? What would you add? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.




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