In recent years, it has become increasingly clear to executives in charge of warehouse management that keeping up with technological advances is crucial to ongoing success. To that end, it's vital for those decision-makers to consider all the options available to them and determine which will provide the biggest benefits to their companies in the shortest time frames. Making the most informed choices will allow their firms to increase efficiency and streamline costs.

Perhaps the biggest change in warehouse management systems over the past several years has been a slow but steady transition from physically hosting WMS platforms in-house to keeping them in the cloud, according to the Arc Advisory Group. These software as a service options give logistics businesses of all sizes an opportunity to engage with the data their operations churns out in an entirely different way, allowing them to access information from anywhere, both within and from outside their facilities.

Assisting on multiple fronts
Perhaps the biggest benefit of cloud-based WMS is that it allows for real-time updates related to everything from inventory to shipping and handling to labor, Arc noted. By creating more of a top-down view of all these issues, executives and other workers are empowered to make the best possible decisions about how to proceed with multiple aspects of the business. That may be especially helpful as warehouses continue to spit out more actionable data than ever before.

The ability to reap as much data as possible from every action within a warehouse is made possible through the ever-expanding internet of things, according to Steve Banker, head of the supply chain and logistics team at Arc. While scanning has been around for decades, being able to automatically upload that data to the cloud is relatively new and gives everyone involved a holistic view of warehouse operations. Modern WMS not only collects that data but also automatically organizes it into actionable visualizations for quick and easy analysis.

IoT brings plenty of benefits
It's not just inventory and worker issues that can be addressed through the IoT, Banker noted. Users can incorporate everything from climate control and power consumption to security systems into IoT data collection and transform it all into information that helps executives make more decisions with an eye toward cost efficiency. In general, the number of connected devices in a warehouse is likely to keep growing, and should provide companies with a significant return on investment in short order.

Moreover, industry experts say proliferation of these technologies is only speeding up. Many innovations were pie-in-the-sky ideas just a few years ago, but now they're being put to use, according to Logistics Management. That change underscores the need for executives to make good decisions about these investments as soon as possible, lest they be left behind by the rapid evolution of the logistics industry as a whole.

"More and more, people see these technologies playing a critical role in their supply chains," Scott Sopher, a principal with Deloitte Consulting, said at a recent industry conference, according to Logistics Management.

The sooner the right WMS investments are made and implemented, the quicker logistics companies will streamline their operations virtually across the board and bring greater clarity to their processes.