Middle East Report: Warehouse Management Systems

An overview of regional market for warehouse management systems (WMS).
ANALYSIS

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When seeking to lower costs and streamline operations, the implementation of a WMS solution can pay dividends in the long run, explains Integral’s Margareta AbuRas.

As the supply chain remains as dynamic as the industries in which it serves, it remains vitally important that service providers are continually progressing forward with their technology.

“Companies cannot afford to remain idle,” says Margareta AbuRas, managing director of the supply chain consultancy firm Integral. “They will soon find that the competition has left them behind. This includes WMS technologies as well as techniques, including the adoption of voice picking, pick by light, RFID and automation. In addition to technological advancements, providers must incessantly keep pace with numerous changes in commercial requirements, customs and other authorities’ rules and regulations.”

According to AbuRas, the economic and financial challenges to global commerce over the past two years have heightened awareness as to the necessity of reviewing one’s supply chain strategies. “Quite simply, most existing processes have largely become obsolete, as they were designed for a far more stable business environment. Re-engineering supply chain business processes therefore becomes a must. After all, if you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results, you are setting yourself up for failure,” she says.

“One of the major challenges that must be overcome in the Middle East is the sub-standard educational programmes provided to those in the industry. The market needs educational fundamentals to be established, prior to investing in WMS-based solutions.”

AbuRas believes that this essential base of knowledge will provide the industry with a better grasp of developed techniques and terminologies, so often found to successfully increase efficiency and lower operating costs.

One major educational aspect that AbuRas would like to bring clarification to is the differentiation of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). “While ERP is nevertheless the backbone of a business infrastructure within the supply chain, they are not designed to support the complexity and flexibility of a supply chain. For more complex supply chains, ERP and WMS complement each other by building structural flexibility in the business environment,” says AbuRas.

Although some might disagree, in terms of the big players within the WMS market, AbuRas says there is only a handful globally, which include SPAN with Infor SCM and LogCubes with Manhattan Associates in the Middle East. Others, such as Exactus, ATMS and Ehrhardt + Partner Solutions also have a sizeable share of the market.

“However, being a big player in the WMS field should not just involve the revenue figures. I believe that local and regional support in terms of  understanding customer requirements, while customisation and implementation of the system, remains equally as important.”

Consequently, she says, the continuous support provided by competent WMS service providers should remain of paramount importance. “Logistics is a real time operation, and cannot wait for month end to close like a balance sheet. A functionality issue that is not tackled on time could prove disastrous for operations. These factors should be heavily considered when selecting a WMS provider.”

In terms of the future of the Middle East WMS market, AbuRas thinks it’s increasingly bright. “It’s often a case of starting at ground-zero. Being introduced to the WMS market right now presents a wealth of opportunity to clients that are seeking improved supply chain solutions. I believe the regional market will continue to grow as more and more WMS vendors will be coming into play,” says the consultant.

“However, in the longer term, I would like to see more relevant supply chain education initiatives. Not just one day supply chain conferences, where the networking is great and speakers are witty, but rather an education in efficient market practices and procedural safety, taking precedent to everything else. This will make our industry stronger in the Middle East, as the progressive growth of warehouse management systems continues well into the 21st century,” she concludes.

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