Well Run Warehouses Rely on WMS Solutions
I’ve just finished some market research on the system integration (SI) market for warehouse management systems (WMS).
Here are 20 takeaways from that research:
- In general, it will be less expensive to have SI’s implement a WMS then to use consultants from WMS suppliers. This is particularly true if the system integrator has a large number of consultants working in India or other lower priced regions and implementations involve a combination of onsite and offsite personnel.
- In any engagement, having a good cultural fit between SI and client matters. For engagements conducted in the onshore/offshore model, cultural issues need to be more carefully managed.
- SIs report that when COVID hit they had little problem doing a much higher percentage of the work remotely. They know that once the pandemic is over, more work will again be done on site. But some hope to continue to do a higher percentage of work remotely as a way of improving work/life balance for their employees. Turnover can be high among system integrators because so much time is spent on the road. Turnover is also high in India for several of the large global consulting firms.
- For the most part, system integrators report that implementations of WMS in complex warehousing environments are not getting faster despite SaaS and cloud-based solutions. These implementations still generally take 9 months or more.
- SI’s who work with Oracle’s Cloud WMS are the exception. They report significantly faster implementations than for the other major WMS solutions in the market. Several SIs, however, say that while Oracle Cloud is a good solution for many warehouses, it would not be functionally rich enough for a complex distribution center.
- Several WMS SIs have developed methodologies for faster implementations. Agile, rather than the traditional waterfall approach, is often key to this approach. The goal is to get clients to implement the WMS without customizing it. Workshops are held showing how a process can be completed using the out-of-the-box functionality. The consultant gets approval to explore the best practice in the WMS for that process. They then quickly configure that process, show it to the client within a few days, let the client play with it, and either get confirmation that the out-of-the box configuration will work or go back to the drawing board and see if configuring the system slightly differently will meet the client’s needs.
- Alternatively, some SIs have a vendor selection offering. They gather requirements and then select the WMS solution that meets most of the requirements their client has asked for. This approach virtually assures customization.
- While Agile does not always seem to result in significantly faster implementations in complex environments, it clearly does reduce customization. That improves the ROI of the WMS.
- The productivity of a warehouse often falls for a period after the implementation as users struggle to get use to new ways of doing things. Many SIs have a hypercare program where their consultants remain on site during the transition and are available to give hands on help to workers in the warehouse trying to get use to new ways of doing things. Hypercare reduces improves time to value by shortening the amount of time the productivity of the warehouse is below what it had been.
- More system integration work is done surrounding SAP’s Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) than any other WMS solution. SAP and Oracle’s preference is to have much of the work around implementations be done by consulting partners. Blue Yonder is transitioning to this philosophy.
- When suppliers list Gold or Platinum partners, those lists do not necessarily reflect which SIs have done the most work implementing their solution. A higher level partnership can reflect a willingness of the SI to engage in joint marketing campaigns with the WMS vendor.
- SIs give SAP high marks for their warehouse control system, called Warehouse Flow Control. This solution is used in highly automated warehouses. They also praise the functionality of EWM in terms of functionality for warehouses attached factories.
- SAP also has a less functional WMS, known as WM, that is part of their ERP solution rather than a standalone solution like EWM. WM consultants often lack the requisite skills to implement EWM.
- One practice that can lead to problem implementations is for a system integrator to subcontract out some of the work to another SI firm.
- Boutique SIs make the point that when a company selects them, they know who will work on the project. Global SIs may send in a suave and polished consultant who will sell the project but then not participate, or barely participate, in the implementation.
- The WMS SI is a highly fragmented marketplace with many, many SI firms and many different business models.
- Some boutique consulting firms only implement solutions from one WMS supplier. They argue that this specialization makes them better partners. These firms often employ consultants that used to do product development or implementations for the WMS supplier.
- Several SIs are also software companies. In implementing WMS, they have learned of functional gaps and built solutions that bolt-on to the WMS and improve its capabilities.
- Never skimp on testing. Look for consultants that have developed testing tools and methodologies.
- Look for consultants who have developed integration tools and defined methodologies for integration.
The conclusions expressed in this article are my own. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the executives from system integration firms with a WMS practice that took the time to speak to me.
- Frank Camean, CEO, 4Sight Supply Chain Group
- Seth Patin, CEO, Accelogix
- Michael Wohlwend, Managing Principal, Alpine Supply Chain
- Nirav Patel, CEO, Bristlecone
- Cal Petty, VP Consulting, Commonwealth Supply Chain Group
- Christain Nixel, Director Supply Chain Solutions, enVista
- Kevin Creel, President, Inspirage
- Shan Muthuvelu, CEO, ITOrizon
- Michael Fiore, Director, My Supply Chain Group
- Lewis Marston, CEO, Rocket Consulting
- Randeep Nambiar, CEO, Stellium
- Mark Newberry, Supply Chain Consulting Partner, Tata Consultancy Services