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Top 8 warehouse management systems to research

Efficient warehouses are key to customer satisfaction. Learn about some of the top warehouse management systems, including some of their benefits and drawbacks.

Supply chains have become key differentiators, and that means organizations need to get strategic about their warehouse technology choices and understand which vendors offer the best-matched warehouse management system.

A warehouse management system (WMS) is an important technology for any organization that needs to move away from paper processes, get visibility into inventory and better manage warehouse operations. The particular WMS that is best for a given organization depends on a number of factors, but getting a sense of some of the options should be part of the initial research.

Although a number of important WMSes are sold as part of a larger ERP system -- and those can be the right choice for many organizations -- researching some of the top warehouse management systems that focus more specifically on the warehouse or as part of the supply chain system can be helpful. WMS vendors that specialize in warehouse environments typically offer a breadth and depth of functionality that can be difficult for an ERP vendor to match.

Here are eight systems to kick off the research.

Blue Yonder Warehouse Management

The Warehouse Management product by Blue Yonder (formerly JDA Software) offers a range of functionality meant for complex warehouses, including a focus on omnichannel capabilities and visibility across different suppliers and locations. The system features include real-time inbound and outbound processing, unified yard management, and integrated labor management and parcel operations. Deployed on premises or in the cloud, the system is best suited for midsize and large organizations.

Customers cite the comprehensive functionality of Blue Yonder's Warehouse Management as "best-in-class," according to Gartner. In addition, it has a long track record of delivering WMSes for some of the most complex warehouse operations. On the other hand, only 9% of customers have deployed Blue Yonder's WMS in the cloud, and those considering the cloud options should do due diligence on service-level agreements.

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Fishbowl Warehouse

Fishbowl Warehouse is a hybrid manufacturing and warehouse management system that is a common choice for companies using ERP systems without strong WMS capabilities. Its features include integration with QuickBooks, inventory tracking across multiple locations, serial and lot tracking, e-commerce, and CRM and electronic data interchange integrations. Best suited for small and midsize organizations, the software targets distribution, manufacturing and e-commerce companies. Fishbowl Warehouse is available on premises and in the cloud.

Fishbowl Warehouse offers simplicity and scalability for growing organizations, such as its multiple location management, according to Third Stage Consulting. On the other hand, the system is unlikely to handle the complexity of larger organizations and supply chains or areas outside warehouse management.

Infor CloudSuite WMS

Infor CloudSuite WMS module is part of the vendor's latest ERP suite but is also available as a standalone WMS. It offers core warehouse fulfillment, along with embedded labor management and 3D visual analysis. Features include wave and task management, third-party logistics (3PL) billing, 3D visual warehouse and returns management. Deployed on premises or in the cloud, Infor CloudSuite WMS is best for midsize and large organizations and targets 3PL, retail and grocery, healthcare, and wholesale distribution markets.

CloudSuite WMS is an option to explore as both a standalone system and for Infor ERP customers, according to a report by Gartner. Moreover, its cloud vision is among the strongest in the WMS market, particularly with its enablement of customization. On the downside, it may not meet complex functional needs, as it lacks some comparable complexity of competitors.

Manhattan Scale

Scale from Manhattan Associates is a supply chain system that covers warehouses, deliveries and distribution channels. Best suited to small and midsize organizations and available on premises and in the cloud, it provides a warehouse system that is meant to minimize reliance on IT. Scale includes a range of core warehouse management features, along with advanced capabilities such as supply chain analytics and inventory forecasting.

In terms of benefits, the software is built on the .NET platform and can be easier to integrate with back-office ERP systems, according to Third Stage Consulting. As for drawbacks, customers' implementation choices are limited because organizations are required to use Manhattan's professional services. In addition, the software may be too complex for organizations looking to satisfy only basic warehouse management needs.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management -- formerly part of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations -- targets manufacturing, distribution and retail companies. Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management offers a warehouse management module that integrates with other modules, including manufacturing, purchasing, sales and returns. Available both on premises and cloud, it includes a range of features, such as barcode label generation, cross docking, and order picking, packing and shipping.

In terms of benefits, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management offers the familiar Microsoft look and feel, which can make user adoption and training easier, according to Third Stage Consulting. On the other hand, it is unlikely to satisfy more complex supply chain needs. In addition, the reseller and implementation networks are rife with problems.

Oracle Warehouse Management

Oracle WMS is a cloud-based system with core and extended warehouse management features and flexible configuration that is a viable option for a wide range of warehouse scenarios. The system integrates with other Oracle offerings, third-party ERP systems, and merchandising and supply chain management systems, as well as integrated data from trading partners throughout an extended enterprise network.

Among its benefits, Oracle has shown a commitment to constant system improvements of the WMS, which continues to create a case for trusting warehouse operations to a SaaS system, according to Gartner. In addition, it offers one of the strongest and fastest-growing partner ecosystems. Among its weaknesses, Oracle's array of warehouse products can make choosing the right option difficult.

SAP Extended Warehouse Management

SAP Extended Warehouse Management is meant to work for companies of all sizes and in any industry. Available in both on-premises and cloud versions, the software integrates with SAP ERP Central Component and S/4HANA ERP, as well as other SAP components, such as transportation management; trade compliance; quality; and environmental, health and safety. Extended Warehouse Management offers a comprehensive range of core warehouse management features and advanced features such as augmented reality and voice picking, cross-functional analytics, and support for compliance and traceability.

SAP Extended Warehouse Management is a reasonable shortlist candidate for many SAP ERP customers, according to Gartner. On the downside, implementations can be lengthy and untrained users will find it complex to set up and use.

Softeon WMS

Softeon WMS is a mature warehouse system meant to work for a range of organizations, both in terms of industries and sizes, including those with complex warehouses. It has a particularly strong 3PL customer base and is growing in other industries, including retail and consumer electronics. Deployed on premises and in the cloud, it offers traditional warehouse management features, as well as an array of advanced features such as task optimization, wave-based or waveless picking and e-fulfillment.

Softeon WMS integrates well with material handling automation systems and offers more personalized customer service, according to Third Stage Consulting. On the other hand, it lacks a large install base and large number of resellers and technical consultants.

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