Ask the Experts
Below is a list of frequently asked questions with responses from our team of supply chain experts. Do you have a question for our team of experts? Send it in through our contact us form, or give us a call at 800-646-1041.
The first thing to consider is that not every WMS is made equally, which means you want to find the solution that fits your needs best. If you choose something too robust, you’ll likely be paying a premium for a well-known name that offers way more functionality than you need. A solution that’s too small may give you excellent customer service and meet your needs today, but it may not be able to scale with you as you grow. Generally speaking, a WMS will help:
- Improve space utilization and decrease operating expenses
- Provide superior inventory visibility and tracking
- Improve labor efficiency
- Streamline the warehouse process from inbound receipts to outbound deliveries
- Orchestrate automation within the operation
- Improve service levels to customers, with on time deliveries, accurate inventory and reliable data
- Provide better customer service for customer retention
Selecting the WMS is a big job that requires extensive research and planning. Before choosing a WMS:
List out in detail exactly what you need the WMS to accomplish. Make it a comprehensive list of both must-haves and nice-to-haves. Determine why you need a WMS and the business case. Some reasons include addressing existing warehouse problems, inventory visibility, or changing distribution models within the business.
When looking at vendors, gather details like:
- Do they provide the functionality you need?
- What are their licensing costs?
- What are their deployment costs?
- What services are included?
- What timeline can you expect from this kind of project?
- How complicated is it to get features important to me working in the system?
- How dependent am I going to be on the vendor?
One way to see if a new WMS is right for you is to let the numbers do the talking. Take a look at our High-Level ROI Calculator, it can help you objectively determine if a WMS is what your operation needs to thrive.
First and foremost, you need commitment from the leadership team, including agreement on the business case and expectations, an understanding of dedicated resources, and an agreed upon budget.
WMS selection requires time, research, and diligent planning, it is not an easy task. Make the right choice and you are the company’s hero, but choose the wrong solution and you may be out of a job. The thing to remember is that WMS selection is not a fast process, you want to take your time to ensure no stone is left unturned.
Our White Paper, Ask The Experts: Tips to Getting the WMS Selection Right has all the answers you need to guide you in the selection process, and here are a few key takeaways:
1. Create an internal resource plan so that the monumental task of implementing a new WMS is staffed accordingly. An internal resource plan means you’ll have valuable insight from all concerned parties, the warehouse team, the IT group, and executive leadership.
2. Build a business case for the WMS project as it will allow you to establish key metrics for measuring results, determine the requisite budget, and provide you with a cost/benefit ratio for the entire project.
3. Define specific requirements by creating an RFX that outlines and matches both your short and long-term goals. This means defining all functional requirements, including all traditional WMS functions from inside the warehouse, plus activities related to yard management, dock scheduling, labor reporting, different picking activities, shipment processing activities, etc.
4. What are expected results? Define the KPIs and measurable goals that determine success for the project.
For more details, download our White Paper, Tips to Getting the WMS Selection Right.
WMS systems are complex systems and they are mission critical to your business. You can’t afford for it to not work. The good WMS systems can do a lot, and vendors with modern solutions have good tools to configure the solution to get you what you need in a simple matter without programming. This reduces complexity and deployment time.
While it’s true that most WMS implementations have the tendency to be complicated, that’s not a requirement of the process. Made4net was founded by industry veterans who understood the WMS space: what worked, what didn’t, and how all of it could work better. They built a system from the ground up that delivered unmatched flexibility and configurability.
Made4net equips customers to pivot quickly, affordably, and seamlessly, with maximum user configurability, and minimal need for additional professional services. All of which help mitigate the risks that too often come with major software initiatives. How? With its flexible, rules-based platform, which was built on Microsoft technology and based on Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). A host of specific product features and best practices accelerate every phase of implementation. Proven, industry-specific templates ensure customers don’t have to start from scratch, and workflow-based applications allow implementation teams to configure rather than code, shortening the path to supporting core processes like picking or putaway. All of these features work together to ensure implementation is as painless and efficient as possible.
There are many ways one can go about a choosing which WMS to invest in, but we recommend looking to industry vanguards for guidance. Every year, GartnerⓇ releases their Magic QuadrantTM for Warehouse Management Systems, a one-of-a-kind report that uses a uniform set of evaluation criteria to help you quickly determine how well technology providers are performing against Gartner’s market view.
The report provides insight into the different types of vendors available, challengers, leaders, visionaries, and niche players. It also outlines the wide array of WMS market considerations, like a vendor’s track record, the lifespan of a WMS, how the WMS integrates with other solutions, and much more. More importantly, the report profiles specific WMS providers with a detailed analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. If you’re looking to invest in a WMS, we recommend you start there – download a complimentary copy of the report today.
And take a look at the WMS vendor’s customer base. Do they have customers that look like you? Who are your competitors using? Are there standout options in your industry?
And look at scalability. While there are hundreds of WMS solutions out there, not all are scalable and configurable. A lot of WMS systems do very basic warehouse functions. Be aware of your current and future needs to ensure the system will meet your needs long term.
Companies of all sizes, with warehouses at all complexity levels all agree, “WMS shouldn’t be this hard. It shouldn’t take this long. It shouldn’t cost this much.” We couldn’t agree more. This is why Made4net offers a proven, robust, scalable WMS that drives significant throughput in some of the most complex warehouse environments imaginable, with faster deployments, less complexity and often a lower total cost of ownership.
Take a look at our High-Level ROI Calculator and enter data from your operations to see what kind of ROI you can gain from a new warehouse management system. And keep in mind that some of the gains are hard to calculate. The savings can reach far and wide across your business. If you have better inventory accuracy, you have better buying and purchasing strategy. If you are more efficient and accurate in picking within the warehouse, you can optimize shipments and save on shipping costs and fleets.
If you need a more detailed ROI analysis, we recommend talking to a supply chain industry consultant. We can recommend several experts who can do an analysis of your operation. Contact us for a list of reputable providers.
Made4net systems scale in part because they’re built on an advanced, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) that leverages modular components and is highly scalable, both vertically and horizontally. Where other WMS players offer solutions in the form of disparate systems cobbled together over time, Made4net delivers an integrated suite of products built on a common technology stack. The net? Made4net makes it considerably easier to turn on incremental warehouses, add solutions like route optimization, yard management, or labor management, or modify our core business rules and workflows to suit new requirements that emerge as your business grows. Look at solutions that give you the ability to self manage the application and not be so dependent on the vendor.
Larger vendors will likely avoid going into a fixed price engagement, but some vendors that have a strong methodology and a robust technology, can walk that path.
The best way to ensure you’re not hit with surprise charges during your WMS implementation is to do an extensive amount of research before signing any contracts. Our White Paper, Tips to Getting the WMS Selection Right, is an excellent guide for the entire process, check it out!
Once you’ve found a list of vendors you’re considering moving forward with, it’s time to gauge the fit. You’ll want to determine if there’s a cultural fit and if their size is appropriate in relation to your needs. A must-do strategy includes hosting a site visit so that vendors can see exactly what your needs are, to avoid the ever-dreaded “I didn’t know that” statement when a problem arises down the line. You’ll also want to:
a. Request a demonstration
b. Visit the vendor’s current customers to get insight into their experience
Invite the vendor to a conference room pilot
c. Be sure to define your needs and requirements and document these. Have the scope of these requirement as part of your contract with the vendor and get a clear commitment to the scope of the services included in the engagement to support these requirements.
Download our White Paper for all the tips you need to get started.
Over the past few years, rapid growth and constant change have repeatedly tested the mettle of supply chains and supply chain software. Adaptability and resilience are key for supply chain success, and you need the ability to modify core business rules and workflows to suit new requirements that emerge as your business grows. Made4net features functionality using workflows and parameter-driven business rules. Even project customizations with changes that need to be done for a specific functional needs, are done using configuration tools that are part of the platform. This includes a screen generator/editor which enables building new screens and editing existing screens without writing any code and without the need for a developer. Configuring analytics, reports, labels and alerts are all part of the platform.
If your WMS has run its course, this is an excellent opportunity to look at all the available options to see what is best for your needs today, as well as your growth plans down the line. With all the technological improvements made to warehouse management systems in the last decade alone, it’s worthwhile to look at everything available, not only the upgrade to your current system.
Legacy WMS systems typically have heavy customizations since they are older, less flexible and historically were based on heavy customizations that are becoming more of a challenge to maintain and upgrade. This means that an upgrade project ultimately becomes a whole new project which requires massive investment.
If you are using an on-premise solution, it might be time to consider whether a cloud-based WMS is right for you. According to Gartner research, migrating to the cloud can lead to:
- 31% savings in capital and cash
- 26% savings from replacing perpetual licenses with perpetual cloud subscription costs
- 15% savings from staff reduction
- 31% savings from elasticity (ability to turn services on and off)
According to Modern Materials Handling, their 2022 survey on Warehouse Software and Automation, 68% of respondents are either using or planning to use Cloud-based WMS, up from 60% in 2021. This suggests cloud-based solutions are becoming more commonplace, which may be a good reason to reassess your entire system should your WMS be aging out anyway.
Here are some factors to consider when making this decision:
- The cost of upgrading: Upgrading to a new version of your current WMS may be less expensive than buying a new WMS. However, you should also consider the cost of maintenance and support for the new version.
- The features and functionality of the new WMS: Make sure that the new WMS has the features and functionality that you need. If the new WMS does not have the features and functionality that you need, you may be better off buying a new WMS.
- The ease of migration: If you decide to buy a new WMS, you will need to migrate your data from your old WMS to the new WMS. Make sure that the new WMS has a migration tool that will make this process easy.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to buy a new WMS or upgrade to a new version of your current WMS is a business decision. You should weigh the costs and benefits of each option and make the decision that is best for your business.
Also, consider the following:
- The security of the new WMS vs. the older upgraded WMS
- The technology and scalability of the new WMS vs. what you currently have.
Managing the multi-client requirements of a 3PL business are the most important elements of a 3PL WMS. Having robust multi-client capabilities allow the WMS to manage all client inventories in one instance of the software. Additionally, the WMS allows for distinct and separate configuration and rules by client, product group and product – not just by facility and product. This creates the ability for the 3PL to use one instance of the WMS to manage all clients and all facilities without having to log in or log out of a given session. Further, security profiles allow for the ability to manage access to client’s inventories and operations by user or user group.
3PLs have many needs to run smoothly and effectively. And while most WMSs are designed to support those requirements, they are not all built equally. Another one of the important needs for a 3PL WMS is multi-client, automated billing. Timely billing is a huge component of profit and loss, so a 3PL needs a solution that excels in this department.
A WMS with activity-based automated billing built-in means you have a system that allows you to capture all the work you do for a client outside of storage and handling. The right WMS should prompt your associates to capture all their activities, such as shrink-wrapping product or performing other value-added services, like kitting, repackaging, or relabeling – and then tie that directly to a client invoice. Invoices should be auto-generated and auto-sent. Avoid generating reports in the warehouse and transferring those to accounting for billing as that just adds an unnecessary step and potential errors to the billing process.
Finding a WMS partner with a team of 3PL experts who understand the nuances of 3PL and the fast-paced dynamics of onboarding new clients, specialized reporting and labeling needs, and integrations with multiple client ERPS and OMS’s is vital to the success of 3PL WMS. With Made4net Synapse and SCExpert solutions, our 3PL experts will configure, implement and support your solution to meet your unique needs.
Every 3PL will have different needs specific to their operation, but there are a handful of features we believe all 3PLs need from their WMS to thrive. It’s all about using the right technology to service your needs.
- Ease of use: Of course, you want something that is easy to use, but you also want it to be able to adapt to your unique needs. A system with a high level of flexibility with few source code changes required is an excellent choice.
- Billing granularity: With rising operating costs, 3PLs need to be sure they capture every revenue opportunity. You need to be able to audit your operational processes to ensure you capture every step taken for a customer, including any value-added services provided, and align this data to the customer contract and service commitments.
- Automated billing: You want a system that will prompt associates to track all their activities and automatically tie those tasks directly to a client invoice. Invoices should be auto-generated and auto-sent.
- Analytics and reporting: You need a WMS with deep, flexible reporting capabilities that can get the right information, to the right people, at the right time. Reporting tools need to look at real-time data as well as information from complete jobs.
- Flexible integrations: You want a WMS that will easily integrate with your carriers and suppliers, including any portals your suppliers use. And of course, it must also integrate with any other software you’re running, like CRMs and ERPs. You also want your WMS to easily communicate with any automation you’re using, like a pick-to-light system. Note that cloud-based solutions tend to offer easier integration.
- Robust inventory and License Plate tracking: As 3PLs support a wide variety of industries and products, it is important to have the ability to have a deep history of and visibility to all inventory movements. This is particularly important in dealing with recalls and the ability to view snapshots of inventory during any time period for billing purposes.
- Web-based Client Portal: 3PLs need to allow their own customers the ability to view inventory and orders. Additionally, the ability for customers to create and run their own reports takes a great burden off the 3PL operations teams.
- Dynamic User Interfaces: Having the capability to configure how the user interfaces look to the warehouse users based on customer and item requirements means that the system is easier to learn and manage for the 3PL teams. Interfaces that only show and prompt for the specific information that is required for a given customer or item limits training time and human error related to users unfamiliar with customer/item specific processes.
- Non-Production Instance of the WMS: The ability to have a non-production instance of the software that can be used for testing, training and onboarding new customers/items/processes without additional licensing costs or impact to production environments is a valuable feature. Additionally, features which allow easy migration or “cloning” of those same data elements are essential to an operation that is constantly dealing with new customers and item requirements that need to be handled quickly and efficiently.
Every 3PL will have a different set of needs and requirements. This is why doing rigorous research with an eye for every single detail is essential to finding the one that’s right for your operation. Finding the right WMS for your 3PL isn’t just shopping, it’s more of an investigation. You need to look into every facet of the operation and evaluate which is best based on your specific needs.
Moreover, it is important to look at other 3PL customers of the vendor you are considering to see the set of users and operations that they use and how they might apply to your operation. The variety of products and processes that are currently being managed by the WMS will not only demonstrate the capabilities of that WMS but also put you in a place to benefit from Best Practices that have been developed by the partner and the user base for managing those specific types of operations.
With a configurable and adaptable platform, many Made4net customers find they can rollout sites with their own staff and minimal support from our services team. We equip customers to pivot quickly, affordably, and seamlessly, with maximum user configurability, and minimal need for additional professional services. It’s proven, industry-specific templates ensure customers don’t have to start from scratch, allowing implementation teams to configure rather than code, shortening the path to supporting core processes. Made4Net delivers a suite of supply chain capabilities, designed make it considerably easier to turn on incremental warehouses, add solutions like route optimization, yard management, or labor management, or modify our core business rules and workflows to suit new requirements that emerge as your business grows.
Built in capabilities such as “cloning” and pre-configured rules allow for the 3PL to take advantage of configurations that were created previously for configurations and processes enabling a much more rapid way to deploy the software for additional facilities, customers and products and their associated workflows.
Most importantly, Made4net understands the dynamics of running a 3PL operation. Our implementation teams are comprised of experienced professionals who have worked in the 3PL industry and understand all of the challenges of not only implementing new software, but also the environment in which the software will be used. This eliminates any learning curves for Made4net team members and shortens implementation times for a quicker ROI. Additionally, our approach is to “Train the Trainer” so that reliance on Made4net for professional services support is minimalized. Typical implementation projects involve the support of the first 1-3 customers actively to put the 3PL in a position to handle subsequent rollouts on their own.