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How SAP has evolved its flagship EWM product to be one of the leader in magic quadrant of WMS market

Once again in May 2019, SAP has made it to the top-tier quadrant of leaders offering WMS product in Gartner's 2019 Magic Quadrant of Warehouse Management Systems. This endeavor to become top-tier supplier of WMS product by SAP has long evolution story of about 2.5 decades.

Circa 1993, SAP R/2 had first introduced the warehouse logistics functions in its ERP and since then there is no look-back for SAP in the warehouse management solution space. While establishing today itself as one of the top contender in WMS market, SAP's journey is looking ever exciting and promising towards achieving the ultimate objective to become number one product in this space.

Even though a little late entrant in WMS product market arena, SAP has continuously kept ramping up its warehousing solutions. Be it SAP WMS which was evolved from ERP suite products of the nascent SAP R/3 versions 2.0 to 4.7 and now today offering the most advanced next gen warehousing solution SAP EWM 9.5.

In 1995 with the SAP R/3 release 3.0, its primal warehouse solution was mainly inward-looking when it had introduced the material supply to production via Production Supply Area (PSA) concept and thereby providing integration of raw material storage with production planning (PP). With such a lean version of production material supply concept in the beginning years, today SAP EWM can handle the most complex production shop floor integration with manual as well as automated storages.

First time when WM truly came out of the egg shell was with introduction of SAP Release 4.5, when separate module of Logistics Execution was born having three distinct components of warehouse management (WM), shipping (SHP) and transportation (TRA). Slowly SAP introduced the radio frequency functions in 2000 during release 4.6, integration of handheld scanner was now possible via SAP console.

In 4.7 release, more ammunition was added with addition of Task & Resource Management (TRM) in EE1 and ERP-EWM with cross-docking, yard management and value added services in release 4.7, EE2. This happened in year 2004. And by then, SAP has realized the potential of WMS market and gained full confidence to provide the best-in-class WMS product to the world. It was also the time to have a birth of new WMS solution altogether and break-away from the limited walls of traditional ERP system, EWM 5.0 was born on SAP SCM server at around 2006. The word "Extended" in EWM stood for the boundaries beyond four walls of physical warehouse premises. With this the intention of SAP was very clear that it wants to offer the independent best-in-class warehouse management product which will house the complete universe of warehousing business operations.

New innovative functionalities were added like internal routing, slotting & rearrangement and warehouse monitoring. EWM 5.1 came with the fully integrated new Material Flow System (MFS) and with this addition, SAP EWM stood class apart in comparison to its old LE-WMS system.

With the further expansion of cross-docking processes like merchandise and opportunistic ones as part of EWM 7.0, SAP brought-in more enhanced functions like production supply area in EWM integrated with ERP production planning, further improvements in MFS. In 7.01, new features now also covered the integration aspects related to controlling the conveyor equipment. SAP gave a boost to RDS (Rapid Deployment Solutions) for EWM implementation by bringing in migration tools which facilitated faster master data and process migration from legacy SAP WM to new EWM 7.02.

The huge leapfrog over other WMS players came after the introduction of EWM 9.0 in 2013 when SAP had built a common system platform of Supply Chain Execution (SCE) housing Extended Warehouse Management (EWM), Transportation Management (TM) and Event Management (EM), thereby offering holistic supply chain functions by covering the upstream and downstream processes in warehousing and transportation. In EWM 9.0, it has brought newer features like dock appointment scheduling and stock-specific units of measure that makes it possible to handle the product which is stored in different packaging units like in large distribution centers.

Today SAP EWM offers various flexible deployment options like the most recent being decentralized EWM on S/4HANA since SAP S/4HANA 1809 FPS02 in addition to the earlier options available since release 9.0, wherein EWM can be deployed as Add-On to SAP NetWeaver and as an Add-On to SAP SCM 7.0 EHP2 and higher. EWM is provided as being part of SAP S/4HANA since version 1610 as embedded EWM which can integrate to local ERP storage locations in the same system & client.

From EWM 9.0 the pace of innovation increased further, EWM 9.1 introduced the shipping cockpit, direct TM-EWM Integration and many retail industry specific enhancements in it. The whole new features of Advanced Production Integration came into being from version 9.2 wherein SAP further optimized the production integration and streamlined related warehouse processes.

While EWM 9.3 has brought in more functionalities in Supply Chain Execution Platform, EWM 9.4 ushered the true revolution in SAP's flagship WMS product when the direct integration with PLC layer of warehouse automated equipment like ASRS, AGVs and Automated conveyors etc. was possible using Material Flow System (MFS) without the involvement of middle layer.

The most recent version of EWM 9.5 continues bringing the strings of innovations like newer features in the labor management, new capabilities in the retail & e-commerce and also the package building as part of Cartonization planning process.

In all these newer versions of EWM since EWM 7.0, SAP kept on adding multitudes of warehousing innovations like for example Pick by Voice configurability in 9.4, various transactional Fiori apps with EWM as back-end for warehouse clerks and operators, direct integration with automated material handling equipment etc.

Thus SAP's penchant to continuously evolve EWM with promising innovation roadmap is going to catapult itself as a top leader in WMS space and I believe those years are not far away from now.

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