Ecommerce has always been a time-sensitive world, and time to market is one of the most important metrics to the success of any ecommerce merchant. As the pressure for speed mounts, the performance and flow-through of your storage and distribution centre also increases. Many see the adoption of a WMS (Warehouse Management System) as a requirement even of small to medium sized storage and distribution operations, but is that necessarily the case?
What does a WMS add to a storage and distribution centre?
If all works well, a properly implemented WMS makes nearly all of your storage and distribution functions more efficient. Even including those recent high-profile failures of WMS adoption in the numbers, storage and distribution operations that have taken on warehouse management systems clock in on avearge 30% more efficient today than they were before implementation.
Be on your guard, though. Most WMS, whether cloud-based or on-site, come with a standard five year subscription or support contract. Some researchers note that so far, less than half of those contracts ended with both parties satisfied with the arrangements. Making the wrong choice, in selection or implementation, can be costly for some time to come.
Can I gain the benefits of a WMS in storing and distributing operations without making the investment?
No WMS stands on its own. It should be integrated with handheld and stationary scanning equipment, and paperless picking systems for full effect. The prices of all these systems, and the stress of the changeover add up quickly. Many businesses that could profit from adopting a WMS in the long run have held off for fear of the upfront costs.
Of course, there is a way to avoid this minefield completely, and it is one that many SMEs and even larger firms are using. The worst part is the changeover to a new system that you have no experience with. That can be almost entirely negated by instead moving to a third party logistics provider, essentially a full storage and distribution partner, who already has an efficient WMS implemented and is already able to take advantage of the increased efficiency that comes from mastering its use.