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Distribution Software Technologies
Historically, a warehouse's role in the supply chain has been execution of orders. In the past, this execution was done with paper and pencil, with an occasional PC seen in larger operations. As warehouses have matured from mere storage centers to continuous flow distribution operations, so too has the technology platform changed. Paper and pencil dont' cut it anymore. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) technology has become the key to a successful distribution operation

Previously, warehouses just stored and shipped material. Now, much more is required. The demands of e-commerce affect the distribution center at least as much as they do any other operation in the supply chain. Cross docking, vendor managed inventory, and custom labeling are now in use at more than 50% of all warehouses. Postponement programs are in place at one-third of those. Clearly, today's warehouse has outgrown the concept of being a mere storehouse.

Now, the explosion in e-commerce has forced warehouses to become much more efficient to keep pace with the massive onslaught of Internet generated orders. E-commerce is creating a global marketplace capable of reaching any customer anywhere. And these customers expect levels of customization that will provide them with uniquely tailored products and services. Collaborative relationships between supply chain partners are evolving, and as they do they demand new capabilities to fulfill cross-enterprise plans. At the heart of it, warehouse operations must tackle many problems as they align to meet new requirements.
This is where WMS comes in. Many of today's warehousing operations are not capable of delivering on e-commerce business requirements. Real time information that is 100% accurate and accessible and integrated to other business systems is required to provide the distribution capabilities that will satisfy the business needs of eMarketplaces. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) software enables warehouses to meet these needs.

When consumers go to a retail outlet, they don't know if the manufacturer filled the last order to the retailer. When they order online and the order is not fulfilled, they do know, and they will then go somewhere else. Collaborative planning efforts are based on two trading partners meeting all of their business obligations. If a warehouse can't find the merchandise that must be shipped, collaborative planning falls apart on the spot.

Warehouses are no longer the old men of a business--now they're taking center stage. And WMS technology is the systems solution that allows warehousing operations to keep pace with the voracious demands of e-commerce. WMS software will change the way distribution works by enabling same-day shipments of online orders. WMS does this by using real-time, highly integrated information systems capabilities. Increasingly, distribution center must be able to execute smaller and smaller order sizes in larger volumes. WMS does this and more, since it was designed to facilitate instant collaboration between trading partners, thus reducing cycle time and increasing flexibility and overall service levels.

The mission of the warehouse is changing fast, thanks to the demands of e-commerce and the capabilities of WMS. Value-added services (VAS), previously thought of as the icing on the cake, have now become requirements for many customers and a way of life for distribution centers. In fact, many refer to the evolution in the functionality of WMS software as Logistics Execution Systems, software that manages the many logistics activities.

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