Supply Chain Trends

When supply chain software goes wrong: Fixing your WMS problem

Written by
Jonathan Porter
Oct 25, 2021
4:45 pm
minute read

Supply chain software is integral to your company’s operations. It ensures fulfillment data is tracked accurately, production needs are met in a timely and responsive manner, and much more. 

But what happens when your software fails, or worse yet, continues working sub-optimally? How do you get your supply chain software functioning as flawlessly as your company demands it? The truth is, you’re not alone in asking these questions. 

When 60 business executives were surveyed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 85 percent of them noted struggling with inefficient digital technologies in their supply chains.

Luckily, there are solutions to the multitude of supply chain software issues the pandemic seems to have uncovered. 

This article will outline why your supply chain software might not be functioning as efficiently as it could be and how you can optimize it.

A Brief Understanding of Supply Chain Softwares

Your supply chain's digital transformation starts with addressing what core supply chain systems you already have in place (or need to have in place). Your supply chain software often centers around a WMS, a warehouse management system, and how it functions at its best. 

Some questions you could ask yourself before understanding the software side of things are: 

  • What is the scale of your WMS currently OR in the future?
  • Do you require a system that will integrate with all facets of your supply chain, or are you looking to implement a system for just a single aspect of your operations? 
  • How do you visualize a functional workflow for your supply chain management systems? 

Understanding these three questions will help you conceptualize and advocate for your software needs before running into any software production problems. 

One issue that has come to light during these past two years is that executives need to plan for proactive supply chain systems instead of reactive ones. When the pandemic hit, supply chain systems were heavily affected, bringing to light how businesses can proactively notice issues within their technologies. Choosing supply chain software that considers your needs and automatically alters itself to meet those needs is a much more proactive system than noticing a system issue once it’s already a problem.

An Introduction to the Technology Problem

Undoubtedly, the realizations made within the past two years are important for supply chains. The pandemic has unearthed needs and pitfalls in the supply chain system that are undeniable, despite many people in the industry have known these problems were bubbling just below the surface for years. Most of these problems revolve around the technology we use and how we use it. 

The growing infrastructure of tech in the supply chain is vast. Employees and executives alike rely on these WM systems at the core of their supply chains to track data, keep records, enhance order production, and more. 

When a tech system fails, a business fails. 

Through the learning of failure, we can identify three problems that have arisen through the utilization of custom-coded supply chain software. 

Using insecurely coded supply chain software leaves your business open to a myriad of problems. Some of these risky problems lead to even larger ones, including security issues and fraud. Use this guide to help you identify where your software might need some altering.

The Functionality Problem 

Your business has unique needs that demand consideration. The truth is most supply chain software either creates a blanket system for all buyers (which doesn’t address individual needs) or creates custom code for sub-sections of your uniqueness. This custom code, while somewhat meeting your needs of the moment, can come with all sorts of problems, including: 

  • Each customization requires individual upgrades, which costs time and money.
  • Each customization and upgrade requires new training for employees utilizing it.
  • There is an exceedingly higher chance your software will experience bugs and crashes with a unique set of code. 
  • There is a higher risk security-wise with many sections of custom code.

The fact of the matter is, your uniqueness is a gift to your company. Oftentimes, it's what helps your business find success amongst the crowd. Your supply chain software should have the capacity to functionally meet the needs of your core supply chain operations. 

It shouldn’t require continual employee training every time you upgrade or change you systems. It also shouldn’t experience unexpected glitches or crashes due to the different custom modifications working together. 

Functionality is a company's number one asset when it comes to supply chain systems. It is the difference between order fulfilment leading to happy customers and a full system halt leading to customers waiting for a product or simply abandoning their purchase. 

The Implementation Problem 

Aside from how the supply chain system functions, there are also problems noted within the implementation (outright or continual) of supply chain software. 

As mentioned above, customizing supply chain software can be extremely expensive. Frequently implementing these customizations and keeping up with their upgrades can cost more than the initial software itself. 

Factors to consider when customizing your WMS are:

  • Will I need to pay a team to code upgrades for this customization?
  • Will this software implementation or upgrade take time away from my system functioning?
  • Will I have ongoing support for this software and the custom modifications?

It shouldn’t cost you more than the initial implementation of the software to simply stay running at optimal capacity, and if it does, you should be planning for it beforehand. It also shouldn’t require weeks or months of new code to be implemented simply to keep it running consistently. 

A software implementation should keep your business running smoothly. It shouldn’t derail production just to keep pace.

The Workflow Problem

The final problem executives report with their supply chain software is workflow issues. Oftentimes the software doesn’t efficiently show what the system is actually doing, resulting in missed information and lack of clarity. Having efficient and visually accessible workflows assists in keeping your supply chain functioning optimally. 

The most intuitive software uses visual, process-flow based workflows to drive configuration, making it far simpler to understand the system functionality, and easier to diagnose problems when the system behaves unexpectedly. It is inevitable that your system will do something wonky at some point, and you shouldn’t have to access a multitude of screens just to figure out what went wrong. With proper workflows, it is easy to follow system logic and avoid system failures.

The Common Themes and Takeaways

So what is the common factor in all three problems? 

The common issue is that your WMS needs are specific and require specific planning, implementation, and processes that an off-the-shelf supply chain system cannot meet without customization. Each company is different, just as each supply chain is different. The software you employ should proactively meet your company’s needs without the opportunity for fallout or reactive workarounds. If you are investing in supply chain software outright, it should do its job just as much as you do yours. 

When your supply chain software has custom coded components, you leave room for:

  • Functionality glitches, crashes, or bugs
  • Unforeseen expenses in upgrades, implementation, repairs, and training
  • Kinks in workflow production and visual accessibility for all users

The Big Solution

Surely there is a happy medium where your business gets the customization it needs to ensure its supply chain software functions as efficiently as possible within your unique business while remediating all the risks that come with it.

The good news is, a happy medium exists. 

Using supply chain software that expands your WMS without code is the way to mitigate all these possible risks and simplify your supply chain system.

Utilizing a product that proactively and automatically creates software based on your existing processes and operations gives you the control back in your supply chain. Using process-centric, visual models of your company's systems and how your WMS functions allows the technology to generate the custom functionality you need automatically and without custom-written code. Overlaying this technology on top of your existing systems to meet those needs directly lowers your need for specific custom-coded modifications because the software is built specifically to your needs. 

Benefits of Intuitive Supply Chain Software

PorterLogic offers a version of this intuitive software model that mitigates many of the risks associated with traditionally coded software modifications. 

But what are its benefits? Clearly, it solves the problems outlined here, but how can it benefit a client instead of just avoiding possible problems?

Here are five ways intuitive supply chain software can benefit your business: 

1. Enhance, deepen, and broaden your workflow processes

Taking stock of your current processes and seeing what can be enhanced is a major asset to your company. Outlining those workflows so your software can be integrated around them and from them is an even bigger asset.

2. Customizable user interfaces without constant upgrading or coding

Your supply chain has many roles and responsibilities. Having the ability to customize the interfaces your employees use with ease and efficiency is key to success on the job. Ensuring those interfaces have as little code to upgrade and test as possible is a win for your management.

3. Easy integration across multiple supply chain systems

Need your WMS to work seamlessly with another system (OMS, TMS, or beyond)? Ensuring your software can integrate across multiple platforms ensures you have no production glitches in your supply chain. 

4. A quick and responsive implementation that requires a low amount of training

Without-code systems ensure your supply chain software can get off the ground on the day of go-live. It requires little training for employees on the ground floor, working with it daily.

5. A highly functional and dependable system that automatically configures itself

Using a without-code system means your software identifies its needs as you input it and produces exactly what you need. Functionality over form goes a long way. You get what you need without the days of coding in between. 

Next Steps & The Future of Supply Chain Software

After reading, have you identified where there could be potential flaws in your WMS software? Are you in need of customizable software without the hassle and problems associated with customized code? 

Want the latest supply chain insights? When you subscribe to PorterLogic’s newsletter, you’ll get a bimonthly analysis and rundown of the supply chain’s latest trends and challenges in your inbox. 

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