Companies looking to drive more efficiency and throughput in their warehouses typically rely on technology to help them do that. As supply chains become more global, customers become more demanding, and technology changes rapidly, distribution companies often find themselves under enormous pressure to automate and optimize their warehouse operations.
There is an overabundance of warehouse management system (WMS) options to choose from in the market. This is both good news and bad news for companies combing the market for the best WMS technology. As outlined in our 2021 Digital Transformation Report, there are a plethora of technology options depending on your needs, focus, and priorities.
With this in mind, we decided to rank the top 10 warehouse management systems in the market. Whether you are a retailer, omnichannel distributor, or any sort of distribution-focused company, these are the top WMS systems that you should be considering for your digital transformation.
Our independent comparison of the leading WMS systems considers a number of factors. We evaluated our experience in helping clients select and implement the systems, product innovation, flexibility, and overall product roadmap.
In addition, we evaluated a number of functional criteria that are critical to warehouse management, such as:
The evaluation also considers average cost, risk, and benefits, along with both quantitative and qualitative factors.
Note that this ranking was completed without influence or compensation from any outside software vendors or systems integrators, so this is 100% objective based on our experience and research with various WMS software.
Oracle NetSuite is one of the most common WMS systems in the market, especially for small- and mid-size companies. It is used by over 10,000 organizations throughout the world. It is also one of the few cloud and SaaS systems that were built from the ground up in the cloud, which gives the product a certain amount of maturity and scalability for growth that is not found in other systems.
NetSuite is not just a WMS system – it is also a more complete ERP, financial, CRM, and HCM system. This means that customers can handle all of their core functions in the system, including visibility into supply chain management, eCommerce, order fulfillment, and other critical distribution functions.
The biggest downsides of NetSuite are that its warehouse management capabilities do not handle more complex warehouses when compared to others in our ranking. Implementations can also be difficult, and we find that NetSuite customers are often underwhelmed by the level of implementation support offered by NetSuite and its resellers. These are risks that should be considered when evaluating the product.
Softeon is a WMS solution that has been around for over 20 years. It has some large global customers, including Sears and others with complex distribution supply chains. The product integrates well to material handling automation systems and can offer a lower total cost of ownership compared to some of its competition. Being more of a niche WMS provider, it also provides more personalized service to its customers.
The primary downside is that it doesn’t have a huge install base or a high number of resellers and technical consultants, which can limit the number of options when implementing the solution. In addition, it does not offer some of the broader ERP-like capabilities that many others in our top 10 provide (such as billing management), which can be a downside for some companies.
3PL is a solution targeted for those looking for robust warehouse management capabilities. Its functional focus allows it to address more complex warehouse and distribution processes, including small parcels, scanning, multiple warehouses, and dock scheduling. It also integrates well with carriers and other transportation management needs.
The primary downside of 3PL is that is does not extend to other related business processes outside of fulfillment. Other systems in our top 10 list, on the other hand, will also address other processes related to eCommerce, order management, CRM, and other business processes. But if your priority is to find a best of breed warehouse management technology, 3PL can be a good cost-effective option.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) is one of the most commonly used enterprise technologies in the market. In addition to addressing finance and other operational needs, D365 addresses warehouse and supply chain needs of distribution companies. It also enables eCommerce, order management, and other functions that integrate with warehouse operations.
Flexibility is one of the biggest benefits of D365. It is easier to configure to specific needs when compared to some other systems in our ranking, which can be both a good and bad thing. It also has a familiar Microsoft look and feel, which can make user adoption and training a bit easier. It struggles to meet more complex supply chain needs and its network of resellers and implementation partners is a mess, but it can be a good fit for many organizations.
SAP S/4HANA is often considered a gold standard for larger organizations looking for broad and robust enterprise capabilities. Its warehouse management function is fairly strong, having been built for larger manufacturing and distribution companies. It is capable of handling high transaction volumes and integrating with other core business processes, which makes it appealing to larger companies.
On the other hand, SAP is expensive and complex – often too much so for smaller or mid-size companies. It can be overkill for some, while its S/4HANA platform is not nearly as mature as SAP’s legacy products such as ECC. SAP has a ways to go to improve S/4HANA’s WMS capabilities to match the functionality of its legacy products, but it can still be a good option for larger distribution companies.
Manhattan Associates is hyper-focused on providing deep wareshouse and supply chain management capabilities. Manhattan Associates tends to fit particularly well with grocery, food, beverage, retail, and omnichannel companies. It is also strong in logistics and transportation, making it a good option for retail and distribution companies.
It is built on the .NET platform, making it easier to integrate with SAP S/4HANA, Microsoft D365, and other back-office ERP systems. The product’s biggest downside is that virtually all implementations run through Manhattan’s professional services arm, which can limit implementation options and resource availability for its customers. It can also be overkill for companies simply looking for more basic warehouse management functionality without addressing other supply chain or ERP needs.
Fishbowl is one of the more popular WMS systems used by small and mid-size distribution companies and has a relatively large install base. It is relatively simple to use but can also handle more complex needs for growing companies such as multi-currency and multiple warehouses. It is also commonly used by companies using ERP systems that are weak in their WMS capabilities.
On the flip side, the product is not necessarily scalable for the more complex needs of larger organizations and supply chains. Reporting is a commonly cited deficiency of the product, which can hinder transparency into warehouse analytics commonly offered by other solutions. It also doesn’t address many areas outside of warehouse management, which may necessitate the need for bolt-on systems.
HighJump, which was recently acquired by the software giant Korber, is another viable warehouse system in the small business to mid-market space. It is particularly strong in warehouse management for retail distribution, while sister solutions within the Korber network can handle more complex shipping, vessel, and port scheduling needs as well.
The biggest downside is that we have found it to be relatively expensive and less robust than some of its competitors. It is also not as commonly used for larger organizations or for those looking for broader, enterprise-wide capabilities, but can be a great fit for smaller to mid-size distribution companies.
Of the “big” ERP and WMS systems, Oracle ERP / WMS Cloud is the more flexible of the bunch. Its strengths within WMS are stronger than ERP competitors such as SAP S/4HANA and Microsoft D365, while its cloud WMS offering is a big more mature than S/4HANA, D365, and some of the others in the top 10. Oracle is particularly strong in analytics and business intelligence, which many CFOs tend to gravitate toward.
On the flip side, Oracle is still working on its transition to the cloud from eBusiness Suite and other legacy products. This means that there are still gaps in the ERP and SCM cloud solutions, which often result in capability gaps or bolt-ons of legacy on-premise solutions. But Oracle is committed to its application migration to the cloud, so this deficiency should be mitigated over time.
Infor CloudSuite and SCM– along with its Nexus counterpart – can be a great warehouse management, supply chain and enterprise-wide offering for those looking for a more complete manufacturing, distribution, or back-office solution. The product suite allows for multi-party collaboration, along with innovative functionality such as its control center, predictive analytics, and working capital management. It can also be a good fit for those seeking industry-specific solutions, 3D visualization, and multi-site / multi-owner operations.
Despite its top ranking, Infor SCM does not enable facility or document management as well as others in our ranking. In addition, inventory management is lacking in some areas, such as material requirements planning and stockout reporting. Despite these relative shortcomings, it is still a strong product for a variety of companies ranging from smaller organizations to large multi-national distribution companies.
Choosing the best WMS system can be overwhelming. While this top 10 list is meant to be a useful data point, it is a starting point that needs to be aligned with your business needs and requirements.
When choosing the best WMS system, it can also be helpful to evaluate broader enterprise technologies. When assembling your WMS shortlist, be sure to also see our ranking of top ERP systems and top supply chain management systems. This can help ensure that you consider all of your options as part of your overall digital transformation strategy.
Feel free to contact me if you would like to brainstorm ideas related to your WMS, supply chain, or ERP initiative. My team and I are happy to be a sounding board as you continue your digital transformation journey!