Top 5 Things Customers Hate About Their WMS Software
(And How CognitOps Can Fill the Gaps)
When Warehouse Management Systems (WMS software) first took off in the last century, the competition was literally a file cabinet filled with paper. Since then, they’ve become mission-critical to warehouse operations but have not evolved from their original purpose of digitizing that file cabinet.
Today, the big 5 WMS software vendors—Manhattan (founded 1990), HighJump (founded in 1983, now part of Körber), Blue Yonder (founded in 1985, formerly JDA Software), Oracle WMS, and the most recently, SAP EWM (introduced in 2006)—can be found in the distribution centers of many of the largest companies across the world.
WMS software provide inventory workflow tools that allow warehouses to receive inventory, count it, position it, pick it, and send it. The goal is to get stuff into the warehouse and get it out.
Basically, they were built to focus on goods and supplies, not people. When some estimates put labor cost at 50-70% of warehouse operating expense, that’s a missed opportunity. But it’s only one of the WMS frustrations we hear from our customers. Here are the Top 5…
1) The 90s Called and Want Their Reports Back
WMS software claims to provide “reporting” as part of their solution, but the question is: what do they mean by “reporting,” and is it useful to actual users?
Generally, their reports return lines of data—not dashboards, charts, and graphs we’re used to seeing in modern analytics tools. Users then have to manually export that data, compile it in a meaningful way, and then share it. What they give users out of the box is a tabular representation of data—a singular view based on their data model. One of our customers showed us that when researching an issue, they had to look at a report, find the issue, copy a piece from that report, go to another report, paste that info in, search on that, look for another discrepancy. They have to do 3 to 5 different copy and pastes to get to the information that actually lets them make a decision.
It’s extraordinarily manual, tedious, time-consuming, and error prone. WMSs are still just workflow tools that don’t offer the visibility and real-time analytics possible today.
2) If You Want (Static) Graphs and Charts, That Will Cost You Extra
Even WMS software vendors know their reports are challenging to use. That’s why they very kindly offer to let you pay for an additional reporting plugin. Manhattan Associates offers its Supply Chain Intelligence (SCI), which you can also pay a third-party integrator to implement for you in “as little as three months” and an undefined additional cost. You’ll also need one or more SQL developers to go in and build the reports that can then be generated through SCI. You are then at the mercy of how good your IT team data analyst is.
And the truth is, even these reports are not as powerful as today’s machine-learning-based modern analytics. The charts and graphs may look pretty, but they are really just very poor historical, descriptive analytics. They tell you what happened but give you no insight into what will happen next, so they don’t help warehouse managers run a more efficient operation.
In fact, one of our customers turned Manhattan SCI off once they implemented CognitOps across all their warehouses.
3) Want to Optimize Warehouse Labor? Good Luck.
If you thought the old “Who’s on first” joke was confusing, just wait until you try to get a view into who’s working where and where work is ready across your warehouse with your WMS software.
WMSs will give you visibility into all of the work that needs to happen in the warehouse, but not what work is ready when it’s ready. You get a list of pre-planned picking tasks all at once, and hope that your team gets it done in the right order and right time. There’s no insight into labor dependencies and the flow of work through the lines.
If you decide to make an investment in a Labor Management System (LMS), it will be an INVESTMENT. A traditional LMS can cost between $250K – $1M per facility for software licensing, industrial engineering and implementations, ongoing licensing, and support fees, not to mention the hours required from the industrial engineering team to keep standards up-to-date.
4) Not Ready for Today’s Complex, Multi-Channel Distribution Operations
As mentioned above, old-school WMSs were built in the last century for an old-school distribution environment. There was not much dynamism in their order pool back in the eighties and nineties. Most companies shipped inventory from the warehouse to retail stores every week, and that was it. There wasn’t much flexibility required, so there wasn’t much built-in. And that hasn’t changed. The attitude is still “Trust us. This is how we do it.” This rigid, legacy architecture makes it difficult for warehouse managers to make them work for today’s multi-channel operations.
One of our customers, a performance lifestyle brand, has a gigantic 2 million square foot omni-channel operations distribution center. They’re shipping e-commerce, with one to 3 items shipped to a customer. They’re shipping wholesale to Amazon, and then they’re shipping retail to whichever stores carry the brand. They had to pay HighJump for a modification for how they release work for picking.
One of the main reasons that WMSs haven’t tackled more modern problems is that for every implementation they do, they’re still trying to get it to work correctly for how the customer needs to operate. WMSs are still solving the problem they created when they built these solutions for shipping.
Now, they’re typically dealing with multiple channels in warehouses they weren’t built to manage.
5) Exorbitant Costs and Disruption Create Prohibitive Barriers to WMS Software Change
Since the beginning of the WMS industry, buyers have been burned by installations that have taken literally years and still never worked correctly. The worst have ended up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, affected financial performance, and been responsible for quarterly earnings misses. Not only is replacing a WMS costly and disruptive, but since there’s no guarantee of cost savings or ROI, supply chain executives are reluctant to make the bet.
Cloud solutions, which should be faster, more flexible, and less costly, are now approximately half of the WMS market. But like one of the big on-prem WMSs, they can still take years to implement and cost hundreds of millions of dollars if expanding across multiple sites for something that is essentially viewed as a cost center.
Nothing changes after you choose a new WMS. It’s just new.
See how we can eliminate some of your WMS frustrations…
CognitOps Can Fill the WMS Software Gaps
To wrap up, WMS reporting is difficult to use; if you want visuals, you’re paying for a module that only reports on the past; if you want to see labor, guess what? You can’t. They’re not built to work with your complex multi-channel operations, or to provide real-time reporting on your simple warehouse operations.
And oh yeah, they’re exorbitantly expensive and arduous to replace. So, what’s the option?
CognitOps makes manual reporting, costly and static reporting modules, and complex LMSs a thing of the past, without any ripping and replacing.
As a WMS-agnostic SaaS solution, Align can easily plug into your existing systems, with no disruption or downtime, to add a powerful machine learning-driven intelligence layer. Our analysis of your data happens seamlessly behind the scenes to deliver user-centric insights. It’s not historical reporting—it’s real-time analytics, predictions, and prescriptions to help solve your real problems.
With CognitOps, Operations managers, floor supervisors, and supply chain executives can see real-time tracking against KPIs, proactively allocate labor, alleviate trouble spots, and facilitate faster order fulfillment—real results with real ROI.
Our customers have reported their results firsthand. One replaced manual matching of pending pick line and inbound receipts with a complete view across multiple functional areas with CognitOps.
Another company using Manhattan Associates was able to deactivate their expensive LMS because of the visibility CognitOps provides.
Another said they were considering hiring a throng of business analysts to run their warehouses but instead chose CognitOps.
Talk to us to see how we can fill the gaps and alleviate some of your WMS pain.