Identifying the right ERP Integration Strategy
Once a detailed analysis of your current systems and processes has been completed, and your business decides to invest in a warehouse management system (WMS), the next step is deciding which one to buy, who to buy it from and the best integration strategy to use.
Choosing a more sophisticated warehouse system – beyond the capabilities featured in a standard ERP – will often prove to be the right choice for the majority of businesses. In particular, this is suitable for facilities that are highly automated and high volume.
Key areas of consideration
Identifying the best-fit WMS software is the hardest part of the process. Not only because you have to find the right features that suit the needs of business, but there is the even bigger challenge of ensuring WMS integration works with all the existing system, especially the existing ERP software.
It will vary from business to business, but most companies will require integrated product information, inventory detail, customer order data, shipment tracking and visibility of incoming products. Without these being integrated it will require a large amount of manual processing to keep data in-sync, a job which in reality is almost impossible to perform to the desired level.
When it comes to purchasing a WMS, the two primary factors to consider should be the cost of the package and the functionality of the software. While these are the two main areas of focus, the time, feasibility and cost to integrate a WMS system should also be considered during the evaluation stage. WMS integration takes time to get it done right and it is never a seamless procedure. There are always unexpected issues to overcome and these need to be accounted for before anything can start.
Purchasing your WMS
When looking around for a WMS and reviewing the level of integration available with ERP, you’ll see that the majority of packages are in one of three categories. These will have to be reviewed along with the functionality of the software and overall cost effectiveness as we have mentioned above.
- Buying a native WMS from your current ERP suppler: When exploring this option, the WMS has been designed and developed based on its compatibility with the rest of their ERP system. This will mean it will be more integrated as it will use software used in in both systems and features fewer previous designs that could prevent the best possible integration. Even if this does not ensure all of the required functionality, it may be possible that modification can resolve this, which would be a better option than buying an alternative WMS that requires significant interface re-writing.
- Purchasing a bolt on WMS solution from your current ERP supplier: This will mean buying a WMS package that is offered as an optional bolt-on to your current ERP system, using software they originally acquired from a third party supplier. This is more normal than you may think, as in order to make the WMS a more attractive purchase, the supplier probably spent a considerable amount of time integrating it into their own ERP offering. This usually results in the need for less middleware or interface programs when the WMS is being implemented.
- Invest in a WMS from a third-party supplier: This category is more likely to feature best-of-breed WMS systems. These tend to be more specialised and focused on niche functions. As there is a need for higher-end software capabilities in many cases it may be the only viable option for many organisations. The downside of this is the software will cost a lot more to purchase as well as incurring additional expense for custom interfacing.