Many companies adopt a warehouse management software package in an attempt to simplify their fulfillment activities. In addition to handling fulfillment activities of the shipping department, many packages include support for customer support departments, allowing self-service access to shipping history to support customers. From an IT perspective, there are several main considerations that any company looking to adopt a consolidated solution should consider:

Established Carrier Options
Many solutions offer support for FedEx, UPS, USPS and generic carriers such as LTL carriers. As many multi-carrier systems have development cycles that do not coincide with carrier product offerings, support for new offerings from established carriers often reflect a delay awaiting a new version or product offering to support additional features and offerings that the carriers implement in their independent solutions.

Shipping Carrier Selection
Ensure that your solutions allow flexibility in carrier selection to meet your business needs. Most solutions offer at least basic support for the large consolidators, but the support for multiple carriers will vary between solutions and providers. 
If smaller or regional carriers are a part of your small package strategy or you have complex routing plans due to customer or business requirements, make sure the chosen solution offers extensibility to support non-standard carriers. Often these modules are referred to as “Generic Carriers” and the majority of the main providers offer this functionality, but your mileage may vary. Some “Generic Carriers” are fairly adept and flexible, easily allowing non-standard or LTL carriers to be added to your mix. Other options will require extensive coding and modification of your solution to support custom carriers.

Customization Costs
Be prepared for very high customization costs to adapt the solutions in the Multi-carrier product to your specific business. As one of the primary advantages of warehouse management solutions is to bring internal processes into line with industry standard practices, many of the “costs” for the solution will not be simply monetary in nature, but will require significant changes to processes and business practices. 

Practical Tip
Updating the inventory may not be as easy as it was under a legacy solution, and this may result in a slower “To Market” speed in the future. Individual contributors may not be able to make major updates to product or procedural tables, causing increased workload of IT resources. To plan for these changes ensure that your IT project planning can handle, prioritize and resolve issues as they crop up.

Warehouse Management Systems add many important features to a business looking to gain control over Shipping and Receiving. Just make sure that your solution balances stability with flexibility to help meet your business needs.

Hiram Knickerbocker is Implementation Engineer, Pitt Ohio. Contact him or 412-232-3015 x6493.