Warehouse Management Systems as a Service – The Case of PULPO

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Columbia is a long way from Europe, and this is where Philipp Thyben, Thomas Kircheis, and their team are developing the next generation warehouse management system (WMS). The Software as a Service is called PULPO WMS. They are up against large corporations like SAP, Oracle, and JDA Software and in this interview, Philipp and Thomas share with us, where PULPO’s niche lies and why the time for an agile WMS has come.

So why are integrated WMS needed?

Thomas: “A growing number of trade companies are leveraging multiple sales channels simultaneously today. This means a single firm who sells goods for example through a brick and mortar as well as an online store in addition to using e-commerce platforms like Alibaba, and Amazon. At the same time, the operations of the warehouse are often outsourced to third party logistic providers. This setting requires a well-orchestrated and harmonized software solution. Our software solution enables companies to manage the operations of a warehouse or distribution center efficiently and across multiple sites.”

Philipp: “WMS applications like PULPO WMS offer capabilities such as receiving, stock locating, order picking, inventory management, cycle counting, packing, shipping, and much more. Often these systems incorporate handheld devices in conjunction with bar code scanners and possibly RFID readers to form the foundation of a WMS. This enables efficiencies of directed work activity and the delivery of accurate information in near real time.”

The most burning questions can then be answered for instance: How many products have sold across all the channels and can we satisfy demand? Is new stock ordered just-in- time? At which operational productivity are we delivering our goods? What are the error and return rates in our shipment process that we need to reduce?

What is the status with existing WMS? 

One of the most important trends in logistics management is a concept that Gartner calls “supply chain execution (SCE) convergence,” which refers to the need for supply chain organizations to better orchestrate and synchronize execution processes across functions and sites. Today the leading market players are Oracle, JDA Software, SAP and Manhatten Associates who offer rather monolithic and expensive software solutions. While this approach has worked in rather linear supply chains of the past, a monolithic structure makes it difficult for a system to be integrated with other software programs. However, as supply chains and technology change ever more frequently in our globalized world, the need to build agile systems that allow multiple interfaces is increasing. And this is the main challenge for established players – as their business model is depending on consulting for and implementing large scale, on-premises solutions.

Now Gartner breaks downs the WMS market into five types of vendors:

  1.  Application mega-suite vendors: These vendors offer broad portfolios of applications across most application categories (for example, back­office financials, supply chain management [SCM], logistics, CRM and product life cycle management [PLM]). Infor, Oracle, and SAP are considered mega-suite vendors with WMS offerings.
  2.  SCM suite vendors: These vendors offer a portfolio of applications focused primarily on SCM, including aspects of logistics, but not other functional areas such as financials or human capital management. While these vendors might offer a variety of SCM solutions, they do not necessarily offer an integrated platform (although some do). Vendors in this category include HighJump, JDA Software and Manhattan Associates.
  3.  Specialist WMS vendors: These vendors are independent software vendors (ISVs) that focus primarily or exclusively on holistic WMS, although they might offer some additional capabilities. Vendors in this category include LogFire, Softeon, Tecsys, Made4net, Reply and Synergy Logistics.
  4. Independent WMS component vendors: These vendors are specialized ISVs that focus exclusively on offering ISV components that can be used to supplement a WMS — for example, workforce/labor management, slotting optimization, yard management or dock/appointment scheduling.
  5. Materials­handling automation vendors: These vendors primarily focus on providing large­scale automated warehouses, but many of these vendors also offer a WMS as part of their portfolios of products. Examples of vendors in this space are Swisslog, Dematic, Intelligrated and others

What is the price tag of traditional WMS?

Thomas: Historically, WMSs required heavy consulting and implementation budgets, starting in the neighborhood of USD 100.000 anywhere to many millions for a multi-site application. In addition, while justifying changes based on internal business process optimization was easy, the extent of modifications required made WMSs among the least upgraded, often inhibiting the ability to adapt to future process needs. Consequently, users are increasingly focused on the painful costs of previous modifications to their WMS systems. According to Gartner, users can spend up to 50% of the post-implementation total cost of ownership (TCO) to support these modifications, and many are looking for ways out of this situation.”

What is PULPO WMS doing differently?

Philipp:  “Primarily, we see two emerging growth markets for PULPO WMS. First of all, we are based out of South America and specifically target emerging economies like Brazil, Mexico, and Chile. Second, we see growing demand in smaller organizations with less ­complex warehouse management needs. We believe there will be a bifurcation of solutions, with one offering targeted and best­ suited for complex, sophisticated warehouse operations, and another oriented to less­ complex and resource ­constrained operations. To address the needs of small and midsize businesses (SMBs), it’s not just about price or “dumbing down” high-­end systems, but about designing for the needs of SMB users. PULPO WMS is achieving this with individualized micro services, for example, Incoming goods, picking, packing, etc. These micro services are running independently of each other, can be customized and updated efficiently while integrating smoothly into the entire system architecture.”

Which are the key benefits for customers?

Philipp: Driven by the cost-efficient infrastructure, it is possible today to offer a professional WMS at a low cost with very short implementation time and reduce technological risk to due proven micro services that are reused and continuously updated.

Thomas: Furthermore PULPO WMS offers our clients four main advantages: Affordability, flexibility, intuitive-ty, and modularization. We integrate inexpensive Android devices, so that warehouse workers have all relevant information at their fingertips while having their hands free to work. Summing up, PULPO WMS was developed with the functionality of a traditional WMS in mind, while being lean, scalable and most of all a great value for money.”

Image: Unique Selling Points of PULPO WMS, Courtesy of PTK S.A.S.

What differentiates PULPO and what has the future in store?

Thomas: “PULPO WMS mainly helps clients to increase staff productivity and improve the accuracy of their shipments. In addition, the software helps to reduce warehousing cost and improves overall customer satisfaction of our clients. Another benefit is that it helps to increase the accuracy of your inventory across multiple sites.”

Philipp: “If you run a mid sized warehouse with medium to highly complex operations a WMS is important to improve the usage of space and eliminate manual tasks. PULPO helps to achieve that. For example, the time to convert an order to delivery was reduced from 45 minutes to 15 minutes at one of our client’s sites, which was a solid improvement.”

Thomas: “PULPO WMS is continuously being developed in alignment with our client’s needs. Next, we will introduce a business intelligence solution, that will enable users to generate reports on all of their activities and optimize their warehouse management processes accordingly.”

 

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