Debunking the Top 5 Myths and Misconceptions About Mobile WMS

Aug 17, 2021 | Industry

Mobile has made its way into the warehouse. As noted by Modern Materials Handling, mobile warehouse devices are much like a carpenters’ toolbelt: Critical for day-to-day operations and efficiency. 

The problem? Some older mobile warehouse management software (WMS) and devices are at risk of being phased out by newer and more powerful options that render existing solutions obsolete.

Consider the recent phase-out of support for Windows CE software used to power purpose-built handheld warehouse management devices. Since 2018, Microsoft has been slowly moving away from this software — which was originally launched back in 1996 — in turn forcing companies to find more adaptable and modern alternatives.

Unsurprisingly, the move away from Windows CE and the resulting frustration felt by companies compelled to switch has given them pause about the uptake of new mobile warehouse management systems — what if they once again find themselves facing the short end of the stick when it comes to WMS form and function?

In this piece, we’re tackling the top five myths and misconceptions about mobile warehouse management software to help offer peace of find for companies looking to leverage on-demand operations but concerned about the long-term impact. Here’s what you need to know about making the most of mobile WMS.

 

What is mobile WMS?

Handheld-driven, Windows CE-powered mobile devices helped revolutionize warehouse management operations. Instead of requiring staff to physically write down key inventory and product details, these devices were capable of capturing critical data and sending it directly to company databases.

For businesses, this made it possible to significantly increase both speed and accuracy at scale, in turn giving staff more time to concentrate on line-of-business tasks. And as mobile solutions evolved — for example, many now support connections directly to the cloud and are capable of directly integrating with existing applications — businesses were able to expand their reach and impact without incurring substantive costs.

But, even as mobile solutions became ubiquitous, concerns around continued operations began to emerge. While the rapid expansion of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) meant greater interconnection between devices, databases, sensors, and staff, many of these devices came with hardware and software that couldn’t be easily upgraded, in turn making it difficult — or impossible — for companies to avoid spending money on newer versions or updates. In addition, the hardcoded nature of these solutions often posed a security risk: If hackers were able to compromise operational perimeters, they could disrupt entire warehouse networks.

Next-generation WMS solutions that rely on existing commercial devices such as iOS- or Android-powered smartphones and tablets now make it possible to capture the benefits of mobile warehouse solutions — and sidestep their biggest drawbacks.

Nonetheless, both myths and misconceptions still exist. Let’s break down the top five.

 

Myth 1: It Requires Expensive Hardware

First-generation WMS solutions required the use of expensive specialized handheld devices that were purpose-built for a specific function, such as reading barcodes or collecting inventory information. Next-generation solutions make use of broadly available mobile devices that are much cheaper than their predecessors and can be easily and consistently rolled out across your organization.

For example, Flow WMS by Magaya lets you make use of any iOS or Android devices you already have on hand, rather than requiring you to replace existing hardware.

Myth 2: It Won’t Work in Real-Life Warehouse Conditions

While many WMS solutions look great on paper, they can’t perform under actual warehouse conditions. Their biggest challenge? Connectivity. Given the sheer size of many warehouse buildings, wifi dead spots are common, meaning that WMS solutions may suddenly “go dark” just when you need them most. Flow WMS automatically switches to mobile data if wifi is no longer available, ensuring that even when connections are spotty warehouse systems stay up and running.

Myth 3: It’s Hard to Train Users on New UIs

One major contributor to recent supply chain disruptions is the lack of skilled staff. As a result, companies want to do everything they can to avoid losing employees who have in-depth knowledge of warehouse processes — and may therefore hesitate to introduce new technology that could shake things up.

Here’s why: if experienced staff find new solutions complicated or cumbersome, they simply won’t use them. You run the risk of investing in something that never gets used, or worse, losing great staff and wasting precious time training their replacements. 

Next-generation WMS solutions like Flow WMS, however, offer intuitive user interfaces that align with how staff already use their mobile devices, in turn boosting overall uptake.

Myth 4: It Complicates Existing Workflows

Current workflows exist because they get the job done — and if new WMS gets in the way, adoption won’t happen. Flow WMS from Magaya works the way you do, with workflows that align with how your teams already operate, in turn reducing operational complications. In addition, Flow works in perfect harmony with the Magaya Dimensioner to give you the ultimate in accuracy and speed with real-time updates to weights and measures in a flash.

Myth 5: It Will Quickly be Replaced By Something Else

As noted above, one of the biggest concerns for companies is that current technologies will quickly be replaced by something else, in turn costing them time and money. It’s not an unfounded fear — the early sunset of Windows CE makes it clear that even widely-used platforms can unexpectedly become legacy tools that lack consistent support.

By leveraging commonly-used smartphones and tablets, however, companies can avoid the bulk of this expensive exchange. Capturing key data such as barcodes and product photos requires only basic camera functionality, and by the time devices no longer support the most current iOS or Android software, chances are staff have already moved on to newer versions. The result is that while replacement does eventually happen, it happens within the purview of warehouse operations — rather than outside your control.

Mobile WMS is the future of warehouse operations and automation. Stay ahead of the curve with Magaya and Flow WMS.

Learn more about Flow WMS, the mobile WMS made for Android and iPhone.