Did you buy something with a credit card today? Are you working from a location other than your company’s headquarters? Did you check your bank account online this morning or download a file housed in an online data storage service? These are all examples of how we live our daily personal and professional lives in the cloud, often without even realizing it. Our data is stored in a secure location not physically near us, and the appropriate systems exchange our data seamlessly so that we can move through the day smoothly and efficiently.
The supply chain and logistics worlds are no different. An increasing number of companies are embracing the move to cloud-based versions of software and systems – and the adoption rate is accelerating. Warehouse management systems (WMS) in the cloud are an important part of this shift, and several analysts firms agree that growth in the cloud-based WMS market will continue to accelerate in the next several years. With a cloud-based WMS, the customer gains the functional benefits of a new WMS without the up-front costs or IT drain, plus implementation times are much shorter because there is no lengthy installation process. If the cloud-based WMS’ functionality and R&D investment are focused on the same code base as the vendor’s on-premise tier 1 solution (which they should be), you benefit from the same product enhancements and new features regardless of which deployment model you select.
In addition to the functional benefits, more companies will be moving their WMS to the cloud for three major reasons: Recent leaps in WMS innovation, the ability of a cloud-based system to scale to the needs for a business, and our society’s comfort with communicating sensitive information via remote systems. Let’s look at these reasons in more detail:
WMS innovation: Maybe you don’t need all of the bells and whistles of a full-scale WMS. No problem. The WMS market is more accessible than ever for small and mid-sized businesses (SMB), thanks to versions that provide the key features needed to quickly deliver ROI, including the tracking and visibility of inbound orders, directed put-away, variety of picking methods, shipping, directed replenishment and inventory control. And with a cloud-based service, a company can add more complex capabilities as demands warrant without implementing a new platform or searching for a new WMS.
Scaling the cloud: You may need certain functionality today, but you’ll likely have different needs down the road. Many of today’s cloud-based WMS systems come with adaptability tools, from architecture that allows you to customize the WMS to fit your business to app stores that provide a collection of new workflows that can be easily downloaded and installed, eliminating the time and cost associated with going through a vendor for changes. You can also scale up or down a cloud-based system, allowing you to access more power or less to adjust for seasonal spikes and changes in demand.
Everyone else is doing it: As I noted above, we’ve already moved significant and sensitive areas of our lives to the cloud. Market-leading, certified vendors provide extremely high levels of data security, often surpassing your own internal IT department’s standards. Not to mention being able to forgo the up-front cost and security investment in new servers, storage, and additional software that comes with managing your own deployment. So if your money and your employees don’t have to physically be in the same room with you in order to be successful, why does your WMS?
Today’s WMS is adaptable, scalable and secure. I have no doubt that the speed at which we are seeing our customers adopt a cloud-based WMS will only accelerate and reflect analysts’ predictions that more of our lives will be moving to the cloud.
Chuck Fuerst is the director of product strategy at HighJump Software. He has more than 15 years of experience in the technology market, working for supply chain and ERP software companies to deliver innovative solutions. Chuck is responsible for monitoring supply chain industry and technology trends and identifying ways to enhance the value of products for HighJump’s customers. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing management and innovation from Concordia University.