The software industry has always been a melting pot of jargon and acronyms with the ability to wrong foot even the self proclaimed tech savvy among us. This article aims to explain some commonly used terms relating to cloud warehouse management software providers to assist businesses better compare WMS providers and assist them in asking the right questions to see through popular buzz words in shiny brochures with no substance.
WMS – Warehouse Management System
Warehouse management software or WMS for us acronym lovers, refers to a software application used to support stock integrity and influence staff activity within a warehouse.
The term warehouse management or WMS is regularly paired with ‘module’ to incorrectly describe an inventory management function which is a far simpler element of stock control in system terms. Inventory management functionality tends to reside in all packaged ERP and MRP solutions including Sage, SAP, Netsuite, Microsoft AX, NAV and GP to name some of the well known players.
A standalone inventory management system would tend to be very low cost but equally offers very basic functionality suitable for small stock holding operations with minimal complexity where a greater level of manual input, manual decisions and key person dependency can be tolerated.
tool to drive efficiency, accuracy, productivity and growth
Warehouse management should be viewed as a tool to drive efficiency, accuracy, productivity and growth with the larger investment justified through labour savings, compliance and big improvements around customer service. On average, moving from inventory control systems to true warehouse management should result in 25-35% efficiency gains across the operation including office based warehouse administrators.
A true WMS becomes an absolute must in many operations including BRC accredited warehouse management operations needing to control batch, sell by date and retain full tractability for recall purposes.
SaaS – software as a service
SaaS or Software As A Service is a commercial model between software providers and their clients. True SaaS providers will offer a simple software subscription service to its users and an equally simple divorce settlement if they no longer wish to use the application for any reason.
Really flexible SaaS providers also permit the scaling up and down
Most people associate SaaS software providers with a low upfront cost (or no upfront cost) and the ability to pay monthly or quarterly with a short term commitment.
Really flexible SaaS providers also permit the scaling up and down of system usage with an associated flexible cost to reflect business demand.
The software as a service commercial model can be offered by both modern cloud technology companies and also on-premise legacy system providers however the older technology platforms tend to shy away from this commercial model as locally installed software introduces a range of additional challenges to support, upgrade and service effectively meaning that if users had the option to move away easily, recent data has suggested 75% of businesses would! Legacy system providers will occasionally look to mimic a SaaS model by offering monthly payments but in most cases this is nothing more than a finance arrangement over a fixed period of years and doesn’t offer any flexibility against changing business demands.
Cloud, web, online and browser based systems all refer to terms used to describe new technology applications which have been developed on modern cloud platforms truly making use of internet technologies which have far superior methods of access, deployment, interfacing and automated testing Vs legacy, locally installed software.
Legacy software was designed to be in silos whereas cloud systems and cloud warehouse management systems are designed to communicate openly and in real time.
superior methods of access, deployment, interfacing and automated testing
Cloud warehouse management and cloud systems can make full use of web API’s for a range of information. If your business demand is impacted by e.g. outside temperature and weather, it is perfectly feasible that a cloud WMS could call a web API service to understand the temperature and plan accordingly. Likewise, the need to offer real time stock information to other systems or partners can happen instantly.
A key factor to understand regards cloud warehouse management and cloud technology is that almost all system providers are moving toward cloud development and software. Investing in a non-cloud system in 2016 is a short term project because your supplier will soon be asking you to move to a cloud based version of their software which will be totally new system with all the associated headache, time, cost and business risk of changing systems again. In the meantime, you’re missing out of the benefits of cloud technology.
True cloud systems will also receive updates rather than the dreaded upgrade. Updates work in a similar way to updating an app on your smartphone. They are pushed out as routine to the user base so you always benefit from the latest innovation and never fall behind on an unsupported version known only to a handful of people.
Investing in a non-cloud system in 2016 is a short term project
Modern systems and modern businesses need to open up their systems to collaborate with partners, suppliers and clients to really thrive and drive down cost which is why almost all major software providers are frantically rewriting their legacy systems, designed to be installed locally on servers and local desktop or laptops to cloud based technology platforms.
All software applications, regardless of technology or age, need to be hosted. Historically, most software applications have been hosted physically on a server within the same location as the users accessing the software.
hosting your system with a reputable hosting provider is significantly more secure
Having your system hosted by a 3rd party, physically away from your location is often a nervous transition for businesses who are used to legacy technology systems residing on a local server.
The reality is, in the vast majority of cases, hosting your system with a reputable hosting provider is significantly more secure than self hosting. With mirrored servers typically running within a data centre setup, even losing the entire building in a natural disaster would result in no more than 10-15 min downtime while everything automatically shifts to a new operating system. These environments are built in such a way that even if there is a minor hardware failure, there is no impact to users due to load balancing shifting to other areas of the hardware. A locally hosted server would normally result in major downtime in a similar instance.
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