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First there are the ERP providers, who supply software for all areas of business. This has three consequences.
To begin with, the breadth of applications almost always comes at the cost of functional depth. Can you imagine that a provider that delivers human resources or controlling software is also an expert in all the facets of warehouse operations? The strength of such a company lies in its generalization.
Second, many of these systems are not flexible enough in adapting to the special processes in your company. Or if so, then only with unbelievable difficulty or expense.
Here, too, we see the flip side to the standardization that an ERP system brings to the processes – because logistics is simply different than writing bids or administering payroll accounts.
Third: Although ERP system providers always tout the integration of their systems as their main argument, this integration is by no means always a given. The WMS modules are often acquired third-party products that can only be integrated through interfaces. So is the solution to your WMS needs found in the exact opposite of ERP generalization – in extreme specialization?
The second main group is made up of precisely these highly specialized niche providers. Such companies often have a background in automation and, to complement their automated storage and retrieval systems and forklift trucks, have been compelled to add warehouse management software to their portfolio. If ERP systems take a bird’s-eye view of companies, these software providers scrutinize the individual warehouse under a magnifying glass. There are benefits to this approach: when you are planning and constructing a new warehouse, you have a single contact person for all storage questions (but then only for the warehouse). Here, too, there is a flip side to this strength: Such a warehouse management system is a classic “silo” – relying on interfaces to connect to other systems and often unable to support logistics processes closely linked to the storage process.
Such warehouses are very powerful on their own – but their isolated “operating system” is more of an obstacle when it comes to integration into the supply chain. A change in delivery strategy – to vendor managed inventory (VMI), for example, or decentralized storage at multiple sites – is possible only at great expense.
But these are precisely the flexible and adaptive processes that have since become competitive factor number one for all companies closely integrated into a collaborative supply network.
And this is right where the third approach lies: The focus is not on the overall company and not on the individual warehouse but on the entire logistical process chain.
The WMS is often compared to the heart of an organism. If you take this image seriously, then you must look at the entire logistical process chain as a kind of “cardiovascular system.” Translation: Regardless of how efficiently the slotting is optimized, it’s all in vain if the upstream and downstream processes are not similarly optimized or if concomitant processes must still be performed manually or accessed through rigid and complex interfaces. Goods receipt, customs clearance, transport planning, transport ordering, freight cost calculation: these are just a few examples of processes that must function as “arteries” – to stick to our analogy – for the WMS heart to beat. Another example is the view of “stock.” A provider that offers only WMS can give you an overview of “its” warehouse, but to achieve true transparency, you need visibility of stock in transit as well. A standalone WMS cannot deliver this.
But that is exactly what you get from software providers from the third category: that’s what you get from AEB. AEB is more specialized than the ERP providers but much more diversified than the niche WMS providers. AEB goes along the logistical process, picks up the “thread” at one end (for example, at the order in the ERP system), and follows it across all steps to the other end (delivery to the customer). That is why a logistics suite such as ASSIST4 meets the requirements of supply chains in the twenty-first century: adaptivity, collaborative ability, transparency and speed in all processes. The dual success concept of ASSIST4 Warehouse Management: Turn your processes into true warehouse management and integrate this management seamlessly into the overall logistical process.