• Jim Southern

Cloud WMS?



Are Cloud based systems the answer for warehouse management solutions? In this article we will explore some of the jargon and myths traditionally associated with the subject.

Let’s start with some of the terms used in the WMS software industry:

“The Cloud: means you’re running you’re WMS over the internet” “SaaS: means you’re renting your WMS” “Multi-tenant: means you’re running the same application as everyone else”

When you are evaluating the options available for a WMS system for your business, its important to know what you're getting from Cloud solutions. For Cloud systems to work it means that all users are effectively running the same version of the software with the same features and options.

It’s a "One Size Fits All" situation which does not fit all warehouse operations.

I've seen hundreds of warehouse operations over some 20 years working in the industry and they all seem the same for about the first 10 minutes I'm there. They all have racking, fork trucks, order pickers etc. However, after the first 10 minutes it’s pretty obvious that no two warehouses operate in the same way, they all have slightly different modes of operation. They may have different storage strategies, pick orders in different ways, batch or no batch recording, industry regulations to adhere to, warehouse layouts vary, and so on. The key for a successful WMS implementation is having the flexibility to meet these unique requirements.

Warehouse processes are highly integrated between the physical handling and movement of products and the WMS software guiding the operatives and the tasks involved. Warehouse processes are not a “one size fits all” situation. Because a WMS solution cannot be a “one size fits all” application, deploying a Cloud based WMS could prove to be problematic. The Cloud / Multi-Tenant SaaS system is just not flexible enough to meet the unique processes required by modern distribution businesses.

"Rapid Deployment" is another term that’s used in our industry – The Cloud WMS vendors say that because the software can be installed quickly over the web you can be up and running within days. This isn't the case in my experience. The warehouse processes need to be understood, the software configured to suit, the staff fully trained, any integration with your ERP or financial software needs to be engineered and setup and tested. These things take planning, time, and effort before you can contemplate being "live" with any system. So view these "Rapid Deployment" claims with a pinch of salt.

"No Upfront Costs and Rapid ROI" is another attractive tag line associated with the Cloud. There will be upfront setup costs, equipment to buy, services to pay for, and you will pay a monthly or annual fee for the use of the software, you will also be paying this forever making the Cloud more expensive over time. You will also have to sign up for a minimum of 12 months by which time you could have purchased and own the software. Makes you think! Maybe SaaS isn't as cost effective as it seems. A lease/purchase agreement may be a better option for you to spread the payments of an "on premise" WMS solution.

"Always running the latest version" may seem great until you fire up the WMS in the morning and find that the screens and processes behave differently. Now I have to explain and train my staff on the new application before we can get to work. You may not have control over when these updates occur.

"Highly Configurable" they say. All software is configurable within the boundaries of its parameters, make sure you understand these boundaries before you start. If you need particular feature modifications or enhancements for your operation you probably will struggle to get them with a Cloud based WMS solution.

"Resilient" A cloud based solution will be as resilient in the cloud as your internet connection and service provider can make it, Cloud software is generally hosted on server farms across the world, if your service goes down so does your warehouse operation.

Don’t confuse how you pay for your WMS with how it is hosted, SaaS and Cloud are not the same thing. If you are you happy to be one of the crowd running the same application with its limitations, then the Cloud will probably be fine for you. If you want to be in control of your own destiny with a solution that meets all your needs then you probably need to look elsewhere.

We have a wealth of experience in implementing our specialist Dexterity WMS Systems to help clients realise the benefits of a smart Warehouse Management System. Please get in touch for a no obligation and no pressure discussion on how Dexterity WMS could help your business.

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