Innovating the Supply Chain part 1 – OMS to WMS

The Goal

To facilitate the flow of order and picking information between Collectiv Food and our warehouse and delivery partners.

The Biggest Challenge

Working with a very large warehouse and supply chain partner, navigating the technical challenges of integrating with older legacy systems.

The Final Product

An integrated picking flow within the Order Management System (OMS), allowing pickers in the warehouse to access orders ready for picking, export the data into their own system, and update changes to picked orders directly into the OMS.

The Key Lessons

Working with third parties to develop software solutions is a balancing act: finding the sweet spot between the monetary cost, the development time, matching system capabilities, and maintenance costs.

Going from a greenfield build to integration with legacy hardware and software can mean the easiest or most secure options are not even on the table.

Warehouse Management Systems

Managing the movement of stock is the most important challenges of Supply Chain. Knowing what stock is on hand (in your inventory), what is inbound and what is outbound is essential for meeting customer needs and managing cost margins. Add to this the complexity of managing perishable goods and you have a very expensive headache. The industry standard software for managing all these variables comes in the form of very expensive, rather out-dated Warehouse Management Systems. Lack of competition in this vertical has resulted in bulky monoliths incapable of 3rd party API integrations or small-scale tailored configuration, and at a base price-point of £10s of thousands a year.

This was not really an option for a scrappy Food-tech start-up attempting to take on the big dogs of traditional wholesale. However Collectiv Food still needed a way to communicate picking lists with the Warehouse staff.

Technical approaches

1) API web hooks

Preferred method – this would have been the simplest method for passing required information between systems.

2) Integrate OMS with WMS

For integration we were informed that a physical modem would need to be installed within the warehouse to interact with the WMS.

3) Build Order picking tools in OMS

In many ways this was the least ideal method, requiring more up-front development and asking that warehouse staff log into the Collectiv Food OMS in order to process picking.

Meeting the users

My team (the VP Engineering, our Business Analyst and myself) met with our counterparts at the warehouse to discuss our needs, and come to a decision on the approach we would take.