60 seconds with Ian Hobkirk, Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors

Modern spends 60 seconds talking to Ian Hobkirk at Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors about warehouse management systems today.
image

Ian Hobkirk, Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors

By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
November 01, 2012 - MMH Editorial

Ian Hobkirk, Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors
Title: Managing director
Location: Boston, Mass.
Experience: 19 years in supply chain, including consulting and systems integration. Hobkirk is a former analyst with The Aberdeen Group.
Primary Focus: Distribution center design, network optimization, WMS selection and implementation.

Modern: What is driving end-users to upgrade their warehouse management systems (WMS) systems today?
Hobkirk: There are really two different markets. Big, established companies that already have a WMS are modernizing their systems. Then you have up-and-coming companies that don’t have anything beyond an inventory management system. There are different drivers in each of those markets.

Modern: Can you give some examples?
Hobkirk: For the established companies, one big driver is that SAP and Oracle have come out with significantly enhanced WMS offerings. Those releases have coincided with a generation of CIOs that have already been through system replacements and are less willing to look at best-of-breed systems. The pendulum has always swung between IT and operations, and now it’s swinging toward IT. I still wouldn’t put enterprise resource planning (ERP) WMS on par with best-of-breed for complex distribution environments, but there is a lot of functionality there that didn’t exist a few years ago.

Modern: What role is e-commerce playing in WMS upgrades?
Hobkirk: It’s playing a significant role. Retailers are upgrading their materials handling systems. They need to do more complex things like cartonization, wave picking and cluster picking because their labor costs to do piece picking are out of control. They need more accurate systems. Maybe they want to manage more than one forward pick location for the same SKU. There are also factors outside of e-commerce that are causing companies to upgrade their WMS systems. One of those is the need for task interleaving and true “task-driven warehousing.” They’re discovering that a lot of legacy systems just can’t handle those processes. It’s not in their DNA.

Modern: How about the up-and-coming companies that don’t really have a WMS?
Hobkirk: For them, it’s harder than ever to select a WMS. You’ve had a lot of atrophy in the industry. Five or six years ago, you had a few large players, but you also had half a dozen or so mid-tier companies with large user bases. The large players are still there, but a number of the solid mid-tier companies have been acquired or are less visible. On one hand, the mid-tier WMS players have really improved their features and functionality, but there are also more vendors that are less well-known. It’s just harder for a user to figure out who they should talk to.



About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

The Port of Oakland has undertaken a series of measures in recent years to attract more import volume.

The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported this week that U.S. trade with its North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico increased 8.2 percent from September 2013 to September 2014 at $102.2 billion.

NS said that the D&H lines it plans to acquire connect with the NS network at Sunbury, Pa. and Binghamton, N.Y. and give NS single-line routes from Chicago and the southeast U.S. to Albany, N.Y., which is in close proximity to NS’ Mechanicville, N.Y.-based intermodal terminal.

This follows a 1.6 cent decrease last week, which was preceded by a 5.4 gain the week before and stands as the first increase going back to the week of June 23, when the weekly average headed up 3.7 cents to $3.919 per gallon.

BNSF said that its 2015 capital expenditures will be allocated towards various areas of its business, including maintenance and expansion of the railroad to meet the expected demand for freight rail service, with 2015 representing the third straight year BNSF has invested a record annual capital expenditures investment.

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.