If you think that today’s warehouses are gleamingly modern facilities utilizing the latest technologies, think again. While many warehouses and distribution centers certainly fit that description and have already realized the efficiencies and cost savings that technology can bring to the table, a new survey conducted by the Warehousing Education and Research Council illustrates how slowly progress is being made. The truth is surprising: one-third of the companies participating in the survey have not yet implemented a WMS.
A Global Trade article featuring the survey results points out that this flies in the face of other industries, where digital technology adoption is thriving. Clearly, this is not the case with warehousing.
I suppose one could say that it’s good news for companies such as PathGuide and our Latitude WMS platform. There is still a large pool of potential new customers out there. But if you look at the bigger picture, the lagging WMS adoption rate is bad for industries that are part of, or dependent on, a supply chain.
Today’s supply chains are rapidly completing digital transformations to become more efficient and cost-effective, and to play a part in this process, warehouses and distribution centers must get on board the technology train. A WMS is usually considered the first step toward introducing technology to the warehouse, and without it, the adoption of other technologies such as those related to robotics, the internet of things (IoT) and smart shipping are in the distant future.
Our internal data supports the findings of the WERC’s survey. We offer several educational tools on our website, including a library of client success stories. One of the most popular is Going Paperless, the WMS implementation story of Devil Mountain Wholesale Nursery. Another story featuring Fisheries Supply, Swapping Antiquated and Paper-based Processes, also has a healthy readership. Presumably, the people who are downloading and reading these stories are looking to make a change from paper to digital.
It’s hard to understand why a warehouse would continue to put up with manual processes that result in bad picks, shipping delays and customer complaints. The answer is complicated and varies from site to site. For some, it’s an overwhelming task to evaluate the number of available systems on the market. A poorly chosen WMS can end up costing you more than you save through required integration or customization work. For other companies, the lack of progress with a WMS may be due to a fear of change and the perceived large, up-front investment. From where we stand, paper-based systems are extremely costly endeavors because they are prone to errors, require more labor and they don’t scale well for company growth – so it’s a short-sighted viewpoint.
Heading Down the Tracks
It will be interesting to see a future survey that measures the market penetration for WMS offerings. Grandview Research’s latest report predicts a healthy 16.3 percent growth in the WMS market to $5.72 billion by 2025. By default, this means we should see significant progress in the digital transformation of the warehouse.
Eric Allais – President & CEO