In recent years, many logistics and manufacturing executives took the leap to next-generation warehouse management systems and reaped significant rewards for doing so. As these platforms and the data they collect move to the cloud, allowing for far fewer concerns among both developers and everyday users, attentions turn to different aspects of how WMS can help companies get ahead. Decision-makers should consider their current options for upgrading, as well as what those choices might present for them in the future.

One of the biggest changes over the past several years in this regard has been an increasing focus on developers to make sure WMS platforms actually help businesses get a better handle on their processes. In this way, companies know what to streamline and how best to do it, according to a report from Logistics Management. Companies are adding new features to long-standing WMS standards to ensure the best possible functionality to keep up with modern needs.

"WMS was basically a transactional processing engine… there wasn't a lot of 'management' in it at all," Dwight Klappich, vice president of research at Gartner, told the publication. "The software application basically focused on picking a box and then putting it away, and there wasn't a lot of intelligence embedded in the platforms."

The next big things
When it comes to what developers aim to build in their new WMS offerings, among them is the ability to not only see what's happening within a facility at any given time, but also what is likely to happen in the future. The more companies can use their current data to plan their next week, month, or year, the better off their efforts are likely to be. These programs are also now designed to be used in conjunction with other crucial software. This way, all aspects of a company's operations can be assessed and made more efficient from within the WMS.

As companies begin to store more data thanks to their next-gen WMS software, they cultivate knowledge and better decisions about their business, according to the Asset Servicing Times. A recent poll of data managers at an industry forum in London found that 43 percent of respondents said the biggest benefit of centralized data is it ensures high quality and low repetition. Another 29 percent said it allowed their companies to better utilize the data, and 18 percent said it gave them greater flexibility in dealing with data-related challenges they might encounter. Finally, 11 percent said they believe collecting data in this manner gives them better governance over it all.

The role of e-commerce
Today the biggest driver of change for how logistics or manufacturing businesses operate is likely e-commerce and the ever-shifting demands that come with order fulfillment, according to a separate Logistics Management report. At this point, the need for companies to constantly evaluate their requirements when it comes to handling the supply chain is massive, and choosing the right WMS platform is a vital part of achieving all future goals.

With all this in mind, the more logistics or manufacturing executives can do to carefully assess what their current WMS provides, and what it doesn't, will help inform the best possible decisions about where a company can go next. That can also help them understand how best to get there.