My previous blog post focused on defining what a Warehouse Execution System (WES) is, as well as the benefits this solution delivers for retailers, manufacturers and logistics services providers (LSPs). For this follow-up post, I’ve asked Joe Kozenski, Product Director for WES at Blue Yonder, to share some tips on identifying the right WES solution. Joe recently joined me for a LinkedIn Live event called “Warehouse Execution System: A New Competitive Imperative.”

More and more companies are exploring the benefits of WES solutions, and with good reason. In today’s volatile logistics landscape, a WES acts as the warehouse’s “brain” by continuously optimizing service, profitability, sustainability, and other outcomes — enabled by advanced artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), data science and analytics.

A WES ingests real-time signals from across the warehouse, conducts data-driven analysis, and dynamically replans and reprioritizes tasks. It maximizes resource utilization, service levels and profit margins by matching labor, equipment and robotics with work requirements in real time, on an ongoing basis.

“The real-world benefits of a WES are wide-ranging, touching just about every aspect of warehouse performance,” notes Joe. “Typical results include a 10% improvement in on-time delivery, a 12% increase in service levels and a 15% improvement in throughput. Manual task management can be reduced by up to 80%. It all adds up to a significant competitive advantage and stronger financial performance.”

Results like these are creating a fast-growing global market for WES solutions. WES sales are projected to increase from $1.22 billion in 2022 to $3.12 billion in 2029 — an average annual growth rate of 14.3%. That’s created increasing competition in the WES software space. But Joe warns that not all WES solutions are created equal.

“To gain the greatest benefit from a WES, it’s important to look at both the solution’s capabilities and the software provider standing behind that solution,” Joe says. “It’s a critical decision that needs to be carefully considered.”

The Four Characteristics of a Best-in-Class WES

According to Joe, best-in-class WES solutions must have the following four characteristics to successfully accommodate today’s challenging, volatile warehouse environment:

  • Dynamic, autonomous resource orchestration. “The primary reason for installing a WES is to replace labor-intensive, time-consuming and error-prone manual analysis with decision automation,” notes Joe. He advises logistics teams to look for a WES that continuously and fluidly assigns tasks to robots or humans as conditions change. The WES should have an awareness of employee skills and availability, as well as physical layouts and proximity, customer priority, task completion times, and other factors.
  • AI, ML and other advanced technology. Understanding and navigating a warehouse landscape with complex floorplans, thousands of SKUs, and hundreds of human and machine assets requires advanced AI. Continuously matching resources with orders, then rematching as conditions change, requires data science and ML. Creating simulations and what-if scenarios requires predictive analytics. “The autonomous decisions made by a WES are only as good as its underlying optimization engines and algorithms,” Joe explains. “Make sure they represent the leading edge.”
  • Interoperability with other solutions. Modern warehouses are characterized by multiple systems and solutions, from the WMS, TMS and OMS to robotics. The WES needs to integrate with these systems tightly and launch quickly — and, in turn, support the fast, easy onboarding of new tools. A cloud delivery model, supported by standardized APIs, is a must to support this level of interoperability. A vendor-agnostic platform is needed to accommodate multiple technology solutions, including a range of warehouse robotics and automation.
  • Simplicity and accessibility. In today’s tight labor market, it’s essential to provide employees with tools that are simple and enjoyable to use. “It should be easy to get new warehouse employees up to speed on the WES solution, with minimal training,” Joe points out. “An accessible, consumer-like user interface, and a mobile platform, are critical in meeting the real-world needs of busy employees (and robots) who are constantly moving around the warehouse.”

What Does the Ideal Software Provider Look Like?

With the WES market growing quickly, new providers are constantly entering the market. Joe urges logistics teams to look for these marks of a world-class partner:

  • Proven customer results. According to Joe, your WES vendor should have a track record of generating results for thousands of customers in the supply chain space. “Ideally, you’re looking for a partner who has driven warehouse-specific results and has well-established WES capabilities,” he states. “Ask who their customers are and what they’ve been able to achieve for them.”
  • Technology innovation and leadership. Your software provider should also be recognized by industry analysts like Gartner for its technology leadership, including its proprietary AI, ML and algorithms. The company should also have a commitment to ongoing innovation. “Just as a benchmark, Blue Yonder owns over 425 patents and has committed more than $1 billion to future research and development,” notes Joe. “Technology is always changing. Make sure your potential provider is investing at the product level, or you risk falling behind.”
  • A modular software architecture. “Leading software providers are making it easier than ever for customers to install and upgrade their solutions, while seamlessly adding specialized capabilities like WES or yard management to the tech stack,” Joe emphasizes. Blue Yonder’s cloud-based architecture and its composable, microservices-based approach can lead to a launch of WES in as little as one week.

Start Capitalizing on the Benefits of a WES Today

What is Joe’s biggest piece of advice for logistics teams who are considering installing a WES? “Get started now,” he stresses. “Blue Yonder is working with over 60 WES customers who are already realizing significant improvements in their warehouse costs, margins, services levels, and other outcomes. Early WES adopters will achieve a big advantage over companies that overlook this opportunity to capitalize on the power of advanced technology.”

Ready to get started on the journey to warehouse optimization? Reach out to Blue Yonder today for a product demo. You can also learn more by watching our recent LinkedIn Live event and video, or reading this Logistics Viewpoints article on the benefits of a WES.