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Order ExecutionWMS, ERP, E-commerce, Manifesting

A wide variety of software exists that can support your distribution center operations. At the DC, the systems that have the greatest impact are the ones that focus on processing orders and measuring performance. You may consider other software to support business functions or inventory management.

BEWARE: Software selection is one of the most challenging and risk prone projects you can take on in your distribution center. If you would like help understanding the myriad of options and selecting the one that is best suited for your particular situation, click here.

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Order Execution

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Order execution software is the single most important piece of software you should consider for improving the performance of our order selection or picking operation. There are two reasons: order execution software has the highest labor payback, and it is generally less risky to deploy than more general business systems. The term "Order Execution" is a generic term given to any type of software that supports order selection functions. In many cases, order execution software is provided as part of an entire system. Examples of systems that contain order execution software are "Pick to Light", "Voice Directed Picking", and "RF Batch Picking". WMS and ERP systems often contain order execution software as part of their offering, or they interface to stand-alone order execution systems. Several low-end WMS systems have been included in this group, because the systems are economical enough to use just as a picking system (even if you choose not to perform inventory management).

If you would like help evaluating Order Execution options, click here.

See Also: Pick to Light, Voice Directed Picking, AS-RS Systems

Low End WMS Systems:

Note "Low end" does not mean low quality - it just means the system focuses primarily on the order picking functions and other things that can be deployed quickly.

WMS Systems (Warehouse Management Systems) cover a very wide range of business functionality - but they basic definition is that a WMS "manages what is within the 4 walls of the warehouse". Some WMSs are quite rudimentary and can deploy relatively quickly (shown in Order Execution section). Others require more integration with your existing business processes and inventory. You should look carefully at the WMS functionality and make sure that you don't have a lot of unique business requirements. Also, be prepared for a significant implementation effort, starting with your IT and operations staff. You need to carefully define requirements, and then see how to map those requirements to a particular vendor's system. The more expensive the system, generally speaking, the longer the implementation effort. Tier 1 vendors routinely customize their products to meet exact needs, but this takes both time and money.

You will see more and more consolidation of WMS with ERP systems. ERP vendors are realizing that they really don't understand distribution as well, and are acquiring or establishing partnerships with WMS companies.

If you would like help determining if WMS is right for you, click here.

Vendor Links:

Tier 3 (low end / simple / deploy and go):

Tier 2 (mid range / moderate customization possible):

Tier 1 (high end / high degree of customizatino possible):


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For those in the multichannel and direct to consumer marketplace, vendors have created offerings specific to you needs. Understanding that customer service is crucial and that the Internet is a significant factor in many business, these companies have combined the front end order acquisition functions with back end fulfillment. Like other systems that cover a wide range of business functions, these systems are sometimes not as adept in the warehouse as WMS or Order Execution Systems, but they represent a compromise in that they integrate all of the business functions together.

If you would like help determining if and E-Commerce system might work for you, click here.

Vendor Links:

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems start at the highest level. They control the entire business, including order acquisition, storefronts, invoicing, purchasing, supply chain, invoicing, and accounts receivable/payable. Because ERP systems cover so much of your business, it is more important than ever to map your business requirements and determine which vendors have the best fit. Expect a significant and sometimes painful implementation time frames when deploying an ERP system. You are often better focusing on an Order Execution System or WMS for your distribution center, and separating the ERP system from this function. If you are planning to use your ERP system to control your distribution function, understand that distribution is only a small part of what the entire system will do, and that often ERP vendors are not focused on creating efficiency in the distribution center.

If you would like help defining distribution requirements for your ERP system, click here.

Vendor Links:


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Manifesting and shipping systems help you print shipping labels and manage your shippers. In addition to providing rate shopping, these systems can help choose the shipper with the best service, monitor surcharges, and provide real-time information on shipments to your customers and your customer service people. Very often systems provided by 3rd parties print labels faster than carrier provided systems, and often 3rd party systems are the only systems that can interface to print and apply automation. In addition to manifest systems, there are also TMS (Transportation Management Systems) that can help to select the best LTL and Full Truckload service providers. Finally there are International Compliance systems that help create the proper paperwork for international shipments.

If you would like help choosing a manifesting system, click here.

Vendor Links:

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