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DOs and DON’Ts of a WMS Implementation

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Implementation of a new Warehouse Management System (WMS) can make your life a whole lot easier, or a whole lot harder. Follow this plan to make that transition as smooth as possible.

Before anything else, DO ask yourself if you need a WMS and if so, which type. This will set your expectations for the system and any potential vendor up front. DO understand what your plan is going to be. DON’T ignore basic questions such as “are the products slotted correctly?” and “how are my responsibilities for resource going to change versus how they look today?” DON’T assume that a new WMS by itself will be a magical elixir to cure your operational ills.

DO make sure Operations owns the system. They will be the final user of the system when it’s all said and done. Make sure they own the system from the very beginning, as they will be the ones who benefit once the rollout is complete.

DO plan three to five years into the future. Think about how your operations will change in the future. A WMS implementation can be costly, so it is important to not unnecessarily burden yourself with more costs. If today you only do retail, but have plans to do e-commerce in the future, that should be a consideration when you select a WMS for today and the future.

DO involve IT. There are three components to selecting an application. (1) Operationally, what is required for the WMS? (2) What is the financial justification? (3) What is the IT strategy that the organization has set? Expect the IT group to come to the table and say, “Here is our strategy for how we want to incorporate this new piece of structure in our corporation. Here’s the plan and what we need? These are all the systems that will interact with the new WMS.” IT has a very strong role upfront, but remains critical throughout the course of the implementation.

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DO make sure your project team has some experience with the software you are choosing and a wealth of experience with your particular vertical. If someone understands that a different retailer previously used a system in a certain way that is going to add benefit to your project that information is invaluable.

DO make it an internal led process and DON’T make it a vendor led process. Too many times, the customer brings a vendor in and they haven’t defined their own requirements. They will ask the vendor what they’re good at and how that applies to their business. DO your due diligence up front – understand the role of the WMS in your operations. This allows you to get exactly what you want, versus the vendor telling you what you’re getting, which allows for potential surprises that creep up after you sign a contract.

DON’T attempt to modify too much. There are many hidden costs associated with modifications to your WMS system. Not only is the initial cost higher, but upgrade costs down the line are more expensive and more frequent. Most of the software options have “been around the block” and have been implemented in multiple sites. Ask yourself “If this is something I require, why haven’t others also required it?”

DON’T attempt to take shortcuts. DON’T try to do the same amount of work in less time, but DO try to pare your scope down. If cost cutting is a concern, discuss a phased implementation or other approaches that allow you to get value a little quicker but are still building blocks for a larger long-term implementation.

Final Thoughts

Take the right amount of time to design exactly where you think the WMS will have a role in your organization. Discuss IT capabilities, functional requirements, and due to the high number of options on the market, conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Make sure the entire process is led by you – you need to be in the driver’s seat!

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