Few supply chain decisions will have as big an impact on your day-to-day operations as the decision about how to manage your warehouse operation.

And it is far too important a decision not to get it right first time.

But with so many offerings available, from enterprise resource planning (ERP) warehouse modules to specialist best of breed WMS vendors, which route is best for you?

As ERP software automates activities across all company departments it acts as an all-in-one integrated solution and this has obvious benefits.

But for many businesses, particularly those with complex supply chains and growth ambitions, the more sophisticated functionality offered by specialist WMS applications is the right choice for them.

Indeed, the last decade has seen significant transformation in the retail sector with the phenomenal growth in Internet usage in particular expanding consumer choice.

And with more choice at their fingertips, consumers are becoming more demanding and sophisticated in the way they purchase and receive their goods, using a variety of channels including online, in-store, mobile, smartphone and more.

Warehouses and distribution centres, that have historically focused on replenishing ‘bricks and mortar’ inventory, are being expanded to support e-commerce operations, including click and collect, and must be able to handle returns in an efficient manner.

So operating in this more complex omni-channel trading environment, businesses must carefully consider how they manage their warehouse operations as these new channels need to be managed effectively if the bottom line is not to be negatively impacted.

And this is where the more standard warehouse modules from ERP vendors struggle to cope as demands to handle more complex operations increase. So surely it’s a no-brainer to opt for the specialist WMS?

One of the chief reasons cited by companies for selecting products from their ERP, and often incumbent, supplier is the difficulty of interfacing specialist WMS applications with their other business systems. And this is a key consideration as the degree to which integration is necessary is dependent on individual business needs, but without it significant manual processing will be required to keep data in-sync.

To the experienced WMS specialist, this is a bread and butter issue, something done so frequently and with such a wide variety of solutions as to become almost routine. Indeed, most good quality WMS solutions now have purpose designed interface modules to aide seamless integration with POS, order management and ERP systems.

So as the retail landscape continues to develop at a phenomenal rate, what is clear is that the best of breed WMS is a core enabler of omni-channel fulfillment and therefore the clear choice in today’s new trading environment.