WMS at Mars, Inc: M&Ms from the DC to You and Me

Mars ChocolateIn September I published a Logistics Viewpoint article titled The Evolution of WMS Customer Requirements. The article discusses how commercial WMS functionality has improved substantially over the years and is now sufficient to meet the needs of most practitioners. As a result, today’s customers are making WMS purchasing decisions based on an expanded set of criteria. For example, very often practitioners are looking for the ability to standardize and replicate business processes across their organization, and to minimize implementation and upgrade costs. At the JDA Software conference, Mars, Inc. executives Carlos Miranda and Russ Dostal described the Mars implementation of JDA WMS across the organization. The Mars case is a great example of a WMS project that provided the kind of holistic scope, business process standardization, and low total cost of ownership (TCO) that today’s practitioners strive to obtain from their WMS implementations.

Finished Goods Distribution at Mars
Prior to 2012, Mars utilized a legacy WMS system at many of its sites. This system was manual in the sense that orders were printed out and distributed to pickers and pallet building was not system directed.  Also, the paper-based system placed practical limitations on assigning more than one picker to each order.

Mars chose JDA WMS as the solution for its legacy WMS replacement project. The chosen system architecture included multiple hosts and instances, as well as multi-client sites.  Multiple warehouses are supported with one instance of the WMS application. This reduced the TCO and streamlined implementations, since they only had to build one set of integrations and were able to consolidate infrastructure. In addition, Mars leveraged JDA WMS multi-client functionality that was originally developed for 3PLs. Mars used this functionality to house operations for several business segments in one warehouse entity to obtain data segregation capabilities, better inventory visibility, and efficient host system utilization.

Mars WMS Project Business Benefits
Mars’ first go-live of this JDA WMS project was in 2012. Currently, at least 17 sites have gone live in the US, across 4 business segments. The new system provides the expected operations benefits such as system directed work, RF for real-time task execution, automated task assignments, and efficient task grouping. Also, the system can now assign multiple pickers per order if desired, and pallets building is now automated and system directed. Perhaps most impressive, training time to get new pickers up to speed has gone from 26 weeks on the legacy system down to 1 week on the current set up.

In addition, the broad scope, standardization efforts, and system architecture have provided the low TCO and scalability that many practitioners are looking to obtain from today’s WMS projects. For example, the system’s modularity simplifies roll-outs and allows the available functionality to become widely available across the organization. Mars can easily copy existing sites for use in new site deployment. Furthermore, there is a consistent look and feel to application features such as dashboards and reports. Finally, consistent business processes and methods are deployed across sites, allowing for consistent training, support and the sharing of best practices.

Today’s WMS customers are looking for more than just a comprehensive set of features and functionality. They are looking to scale up their use of technology and expand the project’s return on investment through the desired standardization, centralization, and flexibility. Mars, Inc. implemented JDA WMS across numerous sites and business segments. The company utilized a scalable architecture and creatively leveraged the software’s multi-site functionality to obtain scalability, flexibility, low costs, and enhanced WMS project ROI.


  1. It’s insane to think that only 3 years ago, MARS was still using a paper based WMS that’s much more inefficient compared to the new WMS systems today. From a student’s perspective, I always assume that big companies implemented the latest and greatest supply chains because they generally have the capability of having superb supply chain systems. I guess that just goes to show that every company, no matter how big or small, can always improve their operations in one way or another.

    Do you happen to know what prompted MARS to implement the new WMS?

  2. “Paper Based System” is not a very accurate statement; system directed picking, receiving, cycle counting etc. existed in the previous WMS…however, paper based processes were often in place for one reason or another.