Many Interested but Few Investing Yet

Anumber of direct marketing executives are expressing interest in comprehensive warehouse management systems (WMSs), but that doesn’t mean they’re investing in them. The expense — installations can hit seven figures — as well as the complexity of most installations has made executives wary.

Then too, warehouse management systems, having been designed for distributors and retailers, historically lacked the robust picking and packing capabilities that multichannel merchants need. Most WMSs are “not written for direct commerce companies with a high volume of piece/pick multiline orders,” says Bill Kuipers, partner with Bala Cynwyd, PA-based operations consultancy Spaide, Kuipers & Co. So many multichannel merchants have made do with software packages that include some WMS capabilities as well as order managment and inventory control functions.

One WMS that is robust enough, say a number of industry analysts, is the application offered by Atlanta-based Manhattan Associates. Its Warehouse Management solution is particularly adept at determining how to most efficiently pick, pack, and ship items, says Doug Bushong, president of Jay Group, a third-party logistics management company based in Ronks, PA.

Once a product enters the distribution center, the Manhattan Associates system scans and records its physical dimensions. Then, when the item is needed to fill an order, the system can tell the packer which box to use and what other packaging materials should go with it. Other features include modules for workforce planning, demand forecasting, and replenishment. The cost of licensing Manhattan Associates’ WMS, including hardware, software, and support services, starts at $100,000.

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