As a former supply chain consultant, I have seen many different Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). Some have been very old, some newer; some have been very easy to work with and some have been a complete nightmare.
In fact, some of the most popular solutions out there still use Terminal Emulation (or telnet)-based “green screen” interfaces. This may be the prime reason why companies look to change solutions. So why aren’t more companies actually making the change?
Many legacy WMS solutions are still used by supply chain organizations because:
- The solution has been designed or customized for users’ specific business needs
- They have invested a great deal of time and money in their solutions and cannot rationalize the huge cost to change
- The return on investment (ROI) doesn’t justify the cost to invest in a new solution, not to mention the disruption in operations, accounting and other business functions.
In other words: many Fortune 500 supply chain companies have crunched the numbers and determined that writing a homegrown solution is just plain cost-prohibitive, especially when they consider the ongoing cost of supporting these solutions.
At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that developing a WMS is no easy feat. Unless you have the necessary resources to research, design, develop, support and continue to improve your solution, you probably shouldn’t do it.
Now, you may be wondering why the headline of this post is telling you to “get into the WMS business.” I did just cite several challenges to developing a WMS solution. It must seem a little contrary, right?
To be clear: I didn’t say that you had to build a homegrown system in order to get into the WMS business.
There is another (and, in my opinion, better) option: improve an existing WMS solution, without making changes to the back-end system.
Start by modernizing the telnet user interface.
Telnet is a character-based technology that has existed for over 50 years. The interface was originally designed to run on a “dumb terminal” connecting to mainframes and minicomputers. When both wired and wireless ethernet were invented, dumb terminals became obsolete, but the applications these terminals ran continued to be useful on both PC workstations and mobile devices.
The various telnet protocols (IBM 5250/3270, VT100, etc.) correspond to models of the dumb terminal models, hence the name “Terminal Emulation”.
Emulation “green screen” applications have had a great deal of success, but the interface has become tired and doesn’t reflect a modern look. It doesn’t allow for much in the way of design, color or ease of use.