Basic warehousing and inventory management systems have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. However, in the late 19th and early 20th Century, developments in warehouse management began to accelerate rapidly.
1925 saw a real shift in warehouse management as pallet racks emerged, allowing for the vertical storage of goods. This meant that warehouse management had more of a focus on optimising the square footage of a warehouse to build upwards. Warehouse storage increased massively.
In 1926, the forklift appeared on the scene, which helped to move pallets. This meant that large volumes of goods could be moved quickly and easily, serving to improve warehouse efficiency.
Enter the computerised Warehouse Management System
In 1967, IBM developed the first computerised Warehouse Management System (WMS). This was first used by NASA to manage complex, high-volume transactions including:
Other transaction-oriented applications
By 1971, Walmart had opened its first distribution centre, which widened the thinking of the whole supply chain, and further accelerated the rise of the WMS.
Fast-forward to 1975, and J.C. Penney built the first real-time WMS. This proved to be a game-changer. J.C. Penney was able to increase warehouse efficiency by reducing the time spent looking for products and enabling them to focus on other areas of their business.
Now, in the 21st Century, WMS use is experiencing a golden age as more warehouses become super-efficient thanks to cloud-based and on-site WMS systems.
However, even now, the world of Warehouse Management Systems is set for another revolution.
10 things the future holds for WMS systems
The history and rise of Warehouse Management Systems has been ground breaking, and they are set to play a part in warehouses of the future. Here's how:
Integration with emerging technologies
More WMS software will integrate with various emerging technologies to enhance efficiency and productivity. These technologies may include Internet of Things (IoT) devices, drones for inventory management, augmented reality (AR) for order picking guidance, and autonomous mobile robots for material handling.
In fact, according to the Logistics Management report, 85% of warehouses use a WMS because of their ability to integrate with new technologies.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
AI and ML capabilities will play a crucial role in WMS, enabling predictive analytics, demand forecasting, and process optimisation. These technologies can analyse large datasets to identify patterns, optimise inventory levels, and streamline warehouse operations.
According to Deskera, machine learning is being used to increase forecast accuracy by 19% of companies investing in a WMS.
Cloud-based WMS will continue to gain popularity due to their scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. Cloud solutions allow easy access to real-time data, seamless updates, and integration with other cloud-based business systems.
A survey by Software Path reveals that when choosing a WMS, 53% of businesses search specifically for a cloud-based WMS solution.
As robotic technology becomes more sophisticated, you can expect to see further integration of advanced robotics within warehouses. This could include collaborative robots (cobots) working alongside human workers and performing repetitive tasks with precision and speed.
A Wall Street Journal article claims that, as of 2022, approximately 20% of warehouses now use some form of robotics. This is up from 15% in 2018, according to research firm, Interact Analysis.
Blockchain for traceability
Blockchain technology will increasingly be used to ensure complete traceability and transparency across the supply chain. It can help with tracking products, verifying authenticity, and maintaining accurate records for compliance and audit purposes.
Voice and natural language interfaces
WMS may incorporate voice recognition and natural language interfaces to improve order picking and navigation within the warehouse. Workers can interact with the system more intuitively, leading to increased productivity and reduced training time.
Beyond drones, autonomous vehicles like self-driving forklifts and transport robots may become more prevalent in warehouse operations. They can streamline material movement, reduce the risk of accidents, and improve overall efficiency.
Sustainability and green warehousing
In response to growing environmental concerns, WMS may incorporate sustainability practices to optimise energy consumption, reduce waste, and adopt eco-friendly packaging solutions.
Cross-border and global warehousing solutions
With the continued growth of e-commerce and globalisation, WMS will likely focus on providing solutions to manage cross-border logistics and fulfilment centres in various regions, meeting the demands of a global market.
Enhanced security and cybersecurity
As warehouses become more digitised, security will be a priority. WMS systems will continue to invest in robust security measures to protect sensitive data and prevent cyber threats.
Technology a key factor in the future of WMS
These trends show that the future of WMS will focus on leveraging technology to drive efficiency, productivity, and adaptability in warehouse operations. As supply chains continue to evolve, WMS will play a crucial role in optimising processes and meeting the demands of an increasingly competitive and fast-paced market.
For more insights on the future of WMS, check out this LinkedIn article from Prime Horizon Group's very own Haz Kazmi.
Futureproof your warehouse with Prime Horizon Group
Selecting and implementing a WMS that's fit for the future can be daunting without support. Prime Horizon Group is an official Blue Yonder WMS implementation specialist. With consultants based in the UK, Europe and APAC, we can support you through the entire WMS implementation project cycle and beyond.
With 24-hour support, testing services, project management and WMS training, we provide everything you need to make your WMS implementation a success. To tap into the power of a Blue Yonder WMS, call +44 (0)330 043 6407 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to start your WMS implementation journey, today.