A large and growing number of warehousing firms decided to invest in warehouse management systems and other vital equipment in recent years, all part of an effort to increase efficiency and stay competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. Those companies that took even initial steps in this direction are already beginning to reap serious rewards, and that trend is likely to continue as time goes on.

Thanks to the improving economy, the continuing shift to e-commerce and the industry-wide need for faster shipping and handling, more businesses in the field now say they plan to make similar investments in the months ahead, according to Roberto Michel, Logistics Management contributor and editor-at-large for Modern Materials. Michel cited a recent poll from Peerless Research Group that found 54 percent of warehouses and distribution centers plan to spend more money on technology to help facilitate efficiency in the near future. In the previous year's poll, only 41 percent said they would make those investments.

"To see that kind of bump up in technology information systems plans is an important trend line that bears watching," Judd Aschenbrand, director of research of Peerless Media's PRG, which conducted the survey, told Michel.

A shift to the cloud
One of the big trends pushing warehouse management systems adoption in recent years is driven by the need to store all critical data in the cloud rather than on physical systems that take up necessary floor space, according to DC Velocity. While many adopted cloud WMS early, there was trepidation about the security of cloud-based data and potentially even latency if internet connections or the devices connecting to the cloud experience problems.

In these situations, the bigger the system, the greater the problems that would arise if there were any hiccups with operations. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that smaller companies seem to be the ones driving cloud-based WMS adoption these days, and are reaping significant rewards as a result. However, it's also worth noting that as those companies prove their success with the latest cloud-based systems, more have moved to adopt WMS platforms because that real-world evidence has allayed lingering concerns.

Assessing individual needs
As companies move to investigate how new warehouse management systems can improve the legacy software they've been using for years, it's important to remember that there's no one-size-fits-all solution. For instance, some companies may need to find ways to free up floor space to maximize efficiency, while others need to invest more heavily in the latest mobile warehouse technology to ensure they get a bird's eye view of every step of their operations.

As a result of these emerging realities, a warehouse manager's time is best spent carefully examining the issues that drive the clear need for adoption and seeing which solutions will best address them. Companies that look before they leap – and find the best possible solutions currently available – will be better off when it comes to making the best possible decision for their current and future needs.