What is involved in a fully-integrated WMS implementation?
To remain competitive in the marketplace - and keep your customers and supply chain partners - you know it is time to implement the rapid evolution that technology has brought us over the last few months. As the economy embraces digital pathways, so must you to stay relevant!
To fully optimise your supply chain and succeed in meeting your customers’ expectations with regard to delivery, quality, and consistency, you need a warehouse intelligence dashboard that pulls data into set KPIs to assess the health of your business and make key decisions to help it stay on track.
The most common mistake in a WMS implementation is to underestimate your own requirements and misrepresent the scope of your own - and the vendor's - involvement.
Whether you choose to upgrade an existing system, add or activate a new module in your ERP system, or go with a best-in-class, stand-alone warehouse management system (WMS), you stand to gain great benefits, and they are generally easy to justify and to realise if you do the project correctly.
The key is full-time project management and support not only for selecting a system, but for implementing it and training your people, too.
How to ensure you have the right information for your implementation:
- Understand the scope
- Team up with the best-possible vendor
- Get buy-in from the right people
We give you the breakdown of what to look for and how to plan below:
1. Know your business and the required WMS features and functions
There is no off-the-shelf package that does not require some degree of customisation, so knowing what your business requires, and which of these requirements can be satisfied by a WMS is a critical point to reach before you select your vendor.
If the software cannot be customised to your operation, then your operation will have to be customised to work within the parameters of the software.
- What integrations do you require?
- What functionality will you need, listed out from most critical to nice-to-have?
- What are your industry benchmarks, and how will the WMS help you satisfy these?
- What outside expertise do you have available, and can you provide in-house support?
- How much information is available to you about the implementation process?
- What schedule are you working on, how large is your operation, and what is your estimated delivery expectation?
- What is your project team capable of, and how will you train them on the software?
Your aim is to expedite the system development with the correct functionality and addition of modules or features that are correctly, effectively, and practically deployed.
2. Know what you're paying for
You get what you pay for, and you should know exactly what that is before you engage with any vendor. Your software costs, hardware outlay, licensing fees, and implementation costs will contribute to the bill at the end of the day, and if you cannot guarantee that you'll finish the process with a functional, for-purpose, best-in-class system, you'll need to adjust your selection at the start of the project.
Carefully identify your operational requirements and prioritise them by both the financial benefits and the by the qualitative benefits to customer service and accuracy.
- What can you afford?
- Which system will deliver on your business requirements?
- Which system will deliver on your functional requirements?
- Which system satisfies your functional requirements?
- How much customisation do you need? Is the system capable of extensive custom adaptations, and what is the additional cost?
- How much will you need to adapt your hardware to suit the new capabilities? Can you sell off old equipment to offset the cost of new components?
- What is your current warehouse overhead, and what saving can you expect from the implementation of your WMS?
- What training is included, and how much will additional training cost?
- What personnel updates will you need to make to ensure a smooth and simple transition to the new system?
Once you know the multiple impacts and their cost implications, you are better-equipped to make informed decisions.
3. Teams and your implementation performance
Monitoring your system developer and your own team is critical, as well as the ongoing change management processes you need to implement to ensure your entire organisation starts and stays on board with the implementation.
Choose a reputable partner, using your vendor-selection team, to pass on the implementation to a qualified and proactive task-force which can ensure your implementation process is transparent, efficient, and well-executed.
- Who will be choosing your vendor? Is the team responsible for this au fait with the deliverables and functional requirements of your organisation?
- Your vendor selection: Have you elected to work with a vendor that is a good fit, great communicator, and competent at the project implementation your require?
- Who do you nominate to manage the project, both from your own organisation and from your vendor-liaison?
- What is your relationship with the system developer?
- Have you built a change-management team to oversee the rollout of the new technology into your organisation?
- How involved is your management team in the process?
The more you communicate, the better your implementation process will be, and the more successful your outcomes.
4. Contingency planning
Assuming that the system will work as designed the day you start it up and ignoring all the possible (often inevitable) troubleshooting is a common mistake.
Allow time for the system to be developed, implemented, tested, and fired up. 100% efficiency on day 1 is rare, and so is a smooth and perfect design and development process, so plan to be flexible, and ramp up your efforts over time.
- know your outcomes and objectives
- track your progress against a solid project plan
- allow for changes in your project timeline
- build the right team for each function and ensure accountability
- create back-up electronic copies of all downloaded files
- back up the system before start-up
- create a stable recovery start point
- implement training and productivity measurement to allow greater efficiency, sooner
5. Information and training
Keep your teams, management, and affected staff informed form the outset, and implement training programs as soon as possible to ensure your organisation takes on the task of implementation as effectively as you can.
Everyday users must be informed of the changes coming and potential challenges they may face, and training must be prioritises.
- Users must be trained in the daily operating environment
- Communication and escalation of problems must be streamlined
- Debugging is a team effort!
- Give ownership of the system to the frequent users
- Competency-based training should be repeated and refreshed regularly
- System exposure before your go-live is a must
- Establish who will be accountable for training at each stage of your WMS implementation, go-live, and post-implementation
6. Information and master data
Faulty and incomplete data will hinder your success with your new WMS. It's critical to ensure that the data you use is clean, curated, and correct.
What is Master Data?
It is your responsibility to provide your vendor with good-quality data, so ensure that you start off on a high note with the best tools at your disposal.
- Parties: Customers, suppliers, prospects, and partners
- Places: Geographies, locations, sites, zones, and subsidiaries
- Items: Products, services and assets -
- Product characteristic data
- All product pack-size dimensions
- Starting inventory locations of all products
- Product characteristic data
- Financial and organisational data: Reporting and accounting categories, organisation structures, sales territories, chart of accounts, cost centres, price lists
- Reference data: States, countries, industry sectors, and classifications
7. Preparing processes for automation
Your existing inefficiencies will not disappear on the implementation of a WMS, no matter how impeccable your implementation is. What you should be doing vs. what you're currently doing are likely different, and in order to make a competitive change, your team, management, and all other players need to be aware of what is possible vs. what you're currently achieving.
You need to improve both the flow of information (with your implementation) and the surrounding processes (by examination and audit) in order to build a truly unstoppable warehouse.
- Educate your organisation through seminars, vendor-arranged site visits and sharing of literature and documentation
- Engage an experience expert to stimulate and manage process optimisation.
Ensure that you're hitting the right targets at the right time, with a roadmap that truly reflects your organisation, your people, and your capabilities. This will help you to ensure a smooth implementation, and promote a healthy adoption of new technologies in the long-term.
Browse our resources to get up to speed with the components of your WMS implementation that you'll need for a successful project, from start to finish: