Nine Reasons Manufacturers Should Invest in (or Change) a WMS/WCS, Part 1

Manufacturing operations that store component parts—either made in-house or supplied by another facility or vendor—may or may not rely on a warehouse management system (WMS) and warehouse control system (WCS) to track and control inventory and its movement. Whether your manufacturing operation is considering investing in a new warehouse execution system (WES) that combines WMS/WCS software, or upgrading an existing system, there are a variety of reasons to do so. Generally, these reasons fall into one of three categories: technology limitations, strategic initiatives or process optimization.

We’ll tackle technology limitations and strategic initiatives in this post, and address process optimization in Part 2.

Three types of technology limitations might prompt the integration of a new WMS/WCS. They include:

  1. Old Age. Perhaps your current hardware has aged past the point of being supported by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Outdated hardware and operating system platforms are often a reason for considering a new WMS, because the vendor cannot provide a seamless and cost-effective software upgrade. Often, this results in a level of investment comparable to installing entirely new software. Likewise, if your operation relies on automated material handling equipment, the controls for those systems are either outdated, the person(s) who support these often custom solutions are retiring or no longer around, and the functional needs may have been surpassed by the capabilities of the latest WCS offerings. If your automation systems exist in silos and cannot communicate with other systems to facilitate better tracking of inventory and optimization of processes within your facility, it’s time to consider a software and/or controls upgrade.
  1. Business Changes. Change is inevitable, especially in business. Today’s consumers want specific products with customized options delivered as quickly as possible (and for free). If your current software lacks configurable options or modification support to accommodate changing customer demands, variable order profiles, process optimization, faster delivery times, as well as many other challenges, it’s time to change to one that will.
  2. Existing ERP Constraints. Many corporations have standardized on specific enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems—such as SAP, proALPHA, Infor, Oracle, NetSuite or Microsoft Dynamics—to improve synergies across their operations. While all of these ERPs offer a WMS component, the out-of-the-box offering may not precisely match your manufacturing facility’s ideal inventory management process. Likewise, it may not interface easily with current or planned automation systems. Seek out an experienced WMS/WCS integrator who can leverage your ERP system to ensure your process is optimized within corporate specifications.

Nearly every strategic initiative is undertaken to formulate a plan for growth. A new WMS/WCS may be called for to accommodate a variety of undertakings, including:

  • The addition of more product lines or SKUs,
  • Mergers or acquisitions of other companies or brands,
  • Location of a new production line or product in an older manufacturing plant, or
  • Retrofitting of an existing facility to support improved processes, updated technology and automation capabilities.

Stay tuned for the next post on this topic, covering why process optimization might call for new warehouse management and control systems.

Read how manufacturer Phoenix Contact—a maker of industrial electrical and electronic technology products—enhanced its U.S. operations with both automation technologies and an upgraded warehouse management system and warehouse control system or WMS/WCS. Call us at 616.977.3950 to discuss your manufacturing inventory management and control challenges with one of our software experts.

About Nancy Malone

Nancy is responsible for US software sales & IT consulting at the North American headquarters of viastore systems in Grand Rapids, MI. She has over 20 years of experience in specifying, designing, building, implementation, training, sales and marketing of technology solutions for the Supply Chain. Her focus is on helping customer’s apply technology to streamline their business processes, enabling value added solutions through listening, offering solutions and then delivering.

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