If It Ain’t Broke: WMS Trends in 2005

Experts consulted for the Distribution Group’s annual future trends in WMS feature (Chris Barnes of MercerBarnes Associates; John Hill of ESYNC; Jeff Mueller of Sedlak; and Susan Rider of Rider & Associates) all indicate that one trend to watch in 2005 is vendors’ response to user demands for inclusion of more applications and functionality in their offerings. It isn’t just about warehouse management systems any more; users want integrated systems. They may not require new applications, but they do want the convenience of applications from a single source. Another user concern in 2005—when is it not, you might ask—will be ROI.

The killer app will not be an issue this year; there isn’t one, the experts agree. New features right now take the form of enhancements. Particularly valuable areas that vendors should focus on include problem management, improved reporting, and Web-based capabilities. Sedlak’s Mueller foresees a return to popularity of application service providers; Hill says that WMS vendors should put some real effort into making their offerings more flexible.

John Hill reports disappointment at the currently flat WMS market in spite of his estimate that only 20% of the potential market is active. Current WMS activity tends to focus on upgrades to existing programs, possibly because WMS salespeople are no longer as technically knowledgeable and experienced as they have been. WMS vendors could tap significant new markets by going abroad, suggests Barnes.

ERP systems have been seen as competition for WMS providers, though none has made serious inroads into the market yet. None of the experts consulted foresees major changes in the situation for 2005, though Rider warns of their “threat to the Manhattans and the RedPrairies,” and Hill conjectures that Microsoft will enter the WMS arena in the future

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