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The future of Warehouse Management

What is the future of Warehouse Management module within R/3 as an independent consultant?


Warehouse Management continues to be a pretty obscure area within SAP in terms of market acceptance. As such, it is a niche for "expert level" consultants only. If you don't have five years of heavy WM configuration experience, you're going to have a hard time landing WM contracts. Fortunately, for many consultants, WM is simply part of a broader, and more broadly marketable, logistics background. The future for WM consulting, and by that I mean focusing solely on WM, is not all that bright. The reason for that is twofold: SAP's Warehouse Management module is neither widely used, nor is it prominently positioned in the mySAP product line going forward. SAP has found Warehouse Management to be a challenging best-of-breed area, and the WM module has continually fought the battle of third party supremacy. To this day, many companies use third party solutions to support Warehouse Management, and SAP doesn't have a real solid track record of beating out the third party WM vendors. The bottom line: it's taken SAP a long time to develop robust transportation and warehouse management components. Niche supply chain vendors still have a foothold in many SAP shops. Now, as you know, SAP is never happy with this situation - they see it as business left on the table, so they've tried to build a better WM product. And they've had some successes by doing so. But even if SAP were to fully penetrate the WM space, the big concern for consultants is that there aren't a lot of touchpoints between WM and the mySAP components. When you look at the R/3 Enterprise Architecture of the future, WM is just a fringe component. It's one of those peripheral pieces that can be addressed with a third party solution and/or SAP. Companies will choose to "plug and play" with either SAP's product or somebody else's. Either way, it's not an integral decision - certainly not on the level of choosing a supply chain planning system, for example.

If I were a Warehouse Management consultant, unless I were one of a handful of truly elite WM folks, I'd be looking to broaden my expertise to include a range of components within SD, MM, and PP. Sometimes referred to as Logistics, this broader supply chain knowledge gives a consultant a lot of flexibility. The icing on the cake is having experience in the Logistics Execution System (LES), which gives you a fundamental understanding of how the SD, MM, PP, and WM modules interact when it comes to order fulfillment. WM skills are a part of this Logistics expertise, but when you broaden your background, you can hedge your bets a little more, and you'll be in a much better strategic position to move into APO and other mySAP Supply Chain Management components as they are released.


This was last published in November 2002

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