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ERP Versus Standalone WMS: Factors for Determining the Best Fit

by Bridget McCrea
Contributing Writer,

Few would argue the merits of automating a distribution facility's warehouse and shipping functions. An important part of the supply chain execution and order management process, a warehouse management system (WMS) is an obvious choice for most companies seeking out more accurate order filling, better inventory management, and speedier fulfillment.

Less obvious is whether that WMS should come packaged within an ERP or served up on its own. This age-old question remains unanswered as companies look to balance easy implementations and streamlined integrations with the need for full-blown WMS packages that can handle extremely high shipping volumes and advanced tasks like automated racking.

In many cases the answer lies in the level of sophistication within the warehouse itself. Dwight Klappich, vice president at Boston-based Gartner Inc., breaks warehouses down into five groups, with Level 1 being the least sophisticated and Level 5 being the most complex. Companies in the Level 1-3 category are typically seeking basic warehouse controls (receiving, put-away, kitting, picking, packing, and shipping) and usually don't need a standalone WMS.

Those companies in the Level 4-5 range that need all of the above plus labor management, space optimization, and management of processes like cross docking, should consider a standalone package with more robust functionalities, said Klappich. "Take a good look at your operations and figure out exactly what you require," he added, "then make sure the vendor or package that you select can address all of those needs."

A Smooth Transition

Integration is another concern when considering a new WMS. While Microsoft Dynamics and other solutions like SAP, Oracle, and JD Edwards ...

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About Bridget McCrea

Bridget McCrea covers business and technology topics for various publications. She can be reached at

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