Warehouse Management Software Buyer Trends – 2018 Report

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In order to stay ahead of the game during 2018 and beyond, businesses need to be aware of technology trends that could enhance their business productivity and efficiency. Some of these trends have been identified in the latest Warehouse Management Software Buyer Trends report.

As a warehouse management system (WMS) is key to optimising warehouse operations, companies such as distributors and manufacturers need to be mindful of these trends to make the right decisions towards selecting a WMS. This report examines several WMS buyers over the past two years, highlighting crucial areas that buyers are paying attention to in 2018.

Key findings from the report:

  • About threequarters of WMS buyers want barcoding. Barcodes are preferred over radio frequency identification (RFID) to track inventory, as real time inventory allocation depends on it.
  • Businesses are buying new warehouse management software because they need more or better features or need to replace outdated systems.
  • WMS budgets increase for companies with more than 100 employees. Often hitting above $300,000.
  • Over half of WMS buyers are looking for systems to manage multiple warehouses with the addition of mobile WMS capabilities that allows companies to manage off site bulk locations and perform all WMS functions in remote sites.
  • The market is near even split in looking for standalone WMS versus a full ERP+WMS system.
  • For better coordinated warehouse operations, distributors and manufacturers are making a serious investment in WMS software.

Why Do Businesses Buy WMS?

WMS software helps businesses optimise warehouse operations  — including inventory, picking processes, and auditing. Over one third of those surveyed want to buy new warehouse management software because they need more or better features. Another 20% are looking to replace an outdated system.

Barcoding vs. RFID

It wasn’t even close. Three quarters of buyers still want barcodes over radio frequency identification (RFID) to track inventory.

“The trend is becoming more like 90% of WMS buyers need barcode scanning. If they want real time inventory allocation, there is no other way. The benefits of having a real time locator outweigh the costs. ROI with barcode scanning vs. no barcodes is significant.”— Kim Gregory Emond, VP of Marketing/Logistics for Royal 4 Systems

Average WMS Budgets

Not surprisingly, WMS budgets increase with the size of the company. Investments in WMS were moderate with smaller businesses (between 1 and 99 employees). But budgets accelerated when company size exceeded 100 employees. On average, companies with 50-99 employees allocated budgets half the size of the next bracket (100-499).

Number of Warehouses

Over half of respondents were looking for software to help manage multiple warehouses. 13% were responsible for five or more locations.

“[Multi warehouse requirements] have increased with the addition of mobile WMS capabilities. Mobile doesn’t need a dedicated RF infrastructure. Companies can now manage off site bulk locations and perform all WMS functions in the remote site(s). Then they either use a store and forward functionality to sync back to the primary server once in range, or they use the web or cell network to facilitate a near real time process without the expense of setting up an RF network.”— Kim Gregory Emond

How Many SKUs Are You Managing?

The vast majority of WMS customers polled — 70% —  track 10,000 or fewer SKUs. Over half of that group has between 1,000 and 10,000 SKUs.

To put that in perspective, a North Carolina manufacturer housed 30,000-40,000 SKUs in one warehouse the size of one long city block. They were looking for a system to interface with Honeywell Vocollect (voice picking). Many of their employees are visually impaired, so they turned to a voice guided picking system.


Warehouse management systems can operate independently or integrate within an ERP package. Survey participants requirements split down the middle between standalone WMS ( 55%)  and ERP+WMS  (45%).

For reference, we qualified projects as ERP+WMS when they required significant features beyond warehousing, inventory, purchase order, and order management.

Third party logistics providers

Third party logistics providers (3PLs) often have particular WMS requirements. A 3PL specific WMS must be able to manage multiple clients (inventory owners). Additionally, 3PLs must provide concurrent support for each inventory owner’s business processes.

Each inventory owner often has unique labelling requirements or ERP systems/versions. 3PL WMS needs to accommodate different customer ERP systems. Multiple export methods are often necessary; via legacy EDI or more modern APIs. About 25% of our sample of WMS buyers had supplier owned inventory — 3PL requirements.

What Products Are WMS Buyers Replacing?

Buyers used a wide array of products. QuickBooks Enterprise was the most common system replaced. 8%, planned to get rid of Sage 300. And less than 5% targeted Dynamics GP, NetSuite, or SAP for replacement.

What products are WMS software buyers replacing?

Survey Demographics

Most WMS buyers focused only on supply chain distribution. Yet, the study included manufacturers who handled parts of their own distribution.

WMS Software buyer industry demographics

In Summary

WMS software has grown in importance as customers demand faster delivery times. Businesses need to better coordinate warehouse operations while supporting growth in product sales. Buyers often look for packages to catalogue thousands of bar coded SKUs across multiple warehouses.

A WMS must be able to process all the steps necessary to complete an order. Often buyers demand software integration with other ERP, distribution, and supply chain systems. All to better connect their warehouse, enterprise, and partner relations.

About us:

Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.


Data source: David Budiac is a Managing Partner at Software Connect. He’s been helping software buyers make informed investments in business software since 1996.
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