The Infosys global supply chain management blog enables leaner supply chains through process and IT related interventions. Discuss the latest trends and solutions across the supply chain management landscape.

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Has Best of Breed WMS Won the Race?

It is the time of the year when you look back at the predications that were made and how they turned out. I am just going to look at a prediction that was made a while back. In 2006 the analyst community predicted that gap between the Best of Breed (BOB) WMS and ERP WMS has narrowed significantly and it was just matter of time before the ERP vendors caught up with the BOB vendors (1). Today after 5 years the gap still exists (if not widened) and BOB WMS vendors continue to lead the race.

It is no more a WMS race. It is more of a logistics suite race as the vendors have moved from being pure play WMS players to end to end supply chain execution software providers. RedPrairie which was once synonymous with WMS today offers packages for Warehouse, Store, Transportation, Workforce, Visibility, Performance and multi-channel commerce. BOB WMS continue to provide rich functionality and tighter integration to other logistics suites as well as to leading ERP packages. The integration which was once questionable and was one of the reasons for high implementation cost has become stronger over the period thus driving down the cost of implementation.
As SCDigest noted in its editorial the battle has cooled off a bit (2). In the meantime few of the large customers that I have worked with in the last few years have a clear strategy in place. Identify the top 10 or so complex warehouses in the distribution network that needs superior WMS functionality along with complementary products like Slotting, TMS, WFM and choose the Best of Breed WMS that is aligned to their complex requirements. The simpler warehouses go with the ERP WMS. I think for now this is a great strategy to follow.  Gartner's supply chain systems guru Dwight Klappich calls this as a hybrid application environment and says more than 50 percent of the companies that are defined as supply chain leaders favor this strategy (3).
The one thing that continues to haunt the best of breed WMS providers is the cost of implementation. Most of the implementations are done by the vendor's in-house service teams and their lack of partnership with leading system integrators means they can demand premium billing which drives up the cost of implementation (I may be slightly biased here as I work for a system integrator).
As I conclude, this race may be too early to call even after five years but I can make a bold prediction for the New Year that BOB WMS will continue to lead the way for atleast next 5 years.

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