With the rise of the Internet and digitalization, customers’ buying habits have been drastically transformed. Customers expect to shop from their ‘place’ of convenience, expect speedy delivery and need the assurance of hassle-free returns. This correlates to more businesses relying on warehouse management systems and WMS implementation.
These new habits have disrupted the fulfillment process and to address customer expectations, retail businesses can benefit from a robust warehouse management system (WMS). Poor implementation of a WMS solution can cause more harm than good and result in problems such as misplacement of stock, inaccurate inventory counts and longer shipping times.
This article shares ways to successfully implement a warehouse management system project and prevent the aforementioned issues.
What is a Warehouse Management System (WMS)?
A warehouse management system is a software application that offers a holistic view of a company’s entire inventory operation and aids in managing the supply chain operations from distribution center to store shelves.
As the name suggests, a warehouse management system helps keep warehouses organized, keeps track of inventory and facilitates the smooth fulfillment of orders. Once you successfully implement a WMS, it will track stock quantities, different product models and the precise location of items in the warehouse.
A WMS can also help with reordering when stock runs low, track shipping and keep up with customer demand. Here are some more benefits of implementing a warehouse management system.
Why do you need to implement a warehouse management system?
There are plenty of warehouse management software solutions to choose from,and we recommend a 100% cloud-based solution to ensure your data is adequately backed up and can be accessed from anywhere.
By adopting a cloud-based solution, businesses can depend on real-time data and a fulfillment solution that can scale up or down depending on market conditions. Here are some more benefits of warehouse management system:
#1 Boost performance
By using a warehouse management system, you can identify high demand products and those that aren’t performing. A WMS can also reduce the time spent in finding the exact location of products in the warehouse and decrease errors.
All this leads to an improvement in the overall warehouse performance and helps cut operational costs.
#2 Streamline the fulfillment process
To keep up with shifting consumer expectations, businesses need to adapt quickly. A cloud-based warehouse management software solution can help to make the supply chain more efficient. A WMS can provide powerful logistics capabilities that streamline the fulfillment process.
A cloud-based solution eliminates the need for IT headcount to maintain on-site servers, empowering you to get up and running quickly – without breaking the bank.
#3 Increases Transparency
With effective warehouse management software, you can get real-time visibility into your warehousing operations and inventory status.
This makes it easier to offer real-time updates to customers, assuring them that their order is being processed efficiently.
Now that we have seen the benefits of a WMS, let’s look at how you can ensure a successful implementation.
Tips to ensure the successful implementation of a warehouse management system
#1 Aligning the WMS with Corporate Strategy
Warehouse management systems are crucial for the success of your retail business. Considering the plethora of options to choose from, you should consider the one that aligns with your organization’s long-term strategy and goals.
WMS software should be dynamic enough to adapt to ever-changing industry requirements and scalable for facilitating business growth. You can achieve this by benchmarking features against rival offerings and selecting the best-in-class technology that fits your business requirements.
#2 Determine your business requirements
When considering warehouse management software, your supply chain managers need to collaborate with IT to conduct an objective gap analysis.
A gap analysis ensures that the WMS software will meet your business needs and will align with your company’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
A WMS implementation should be a customer-centric process rather than a vendor-led process. After shortlisting a number of systems that align with your business requirements,
ask each vendor to demonstrate how their solution will handle scenarios specific to your business.
You can also approach companies with similar business challenges to identify solutions that helped them to grow.
#3 Create realistic goals and achievable time-frames
When implementing a warehouse management system, be sure to factor in time for your staff’s learning curve. At first, getting acquainted with the software will slow down the time it takes for your staff to deliver results.
To determine a realistic deployment timeframe, senior management should conduct careful analysis and consider the time required by previous software implementations.
There should be a mutual agreement between management and staff members on the time frame to generate a positive ROI.
After choosing the best warehouse management solution for your business, a plan of action needs to be devised. It can be achieved by conducting an executive workshop led by a veteran facilitator. The facilitator can communicate project vision along with broader goals to help define the path ahead.
#4 Adopting the best warehouse management system implementation practices
Every software provider has a set of dos and don’ts associated with their solution. This data is based on years of experience working with clients like you. One of the quickest ways to make the most of the WMS software is to adopt the best practices recommended by your vendor.
After choosing your vendor, they will be able to assist you with an implementation strategy taking your requirements into consideration. This should include helpful steps to streamline your warehousing processes leading to increased operational efficiency.
Having the software vendor representative on-site can help you with any implementation-related issues you may encounter while adapting to the new system. With their guidance, you can more quickly resolve any problems.
#5 Formulating the team
The success of your warehouse management system’s implementation depends heavily on the team. Therefore, you should strive to assemble the best and brightest for the project.
With diverse team members, you will be able to garner different perspectives and leverage their unique experience pertaining to their fields.
Your team should consist of people who can fill these roles:
- Project manager – If your organization does not already have experienced project managers, you should seriously consider hiring or outsourcing this function to an industry expert. Ideally, you should look for managers who have had experience implementing at least five WSM projects.A project manager can also help prepare for the implementation and coordinate with involved team members to achieve various objectives. The project manager must be involved in all the aspects of the project.
If any team members run into any blockers, they should seek out the project manager for appropriate guidance.
- Warehouse manager – After project managers, warehouse managers come to the rescue to help the warehouse team.An ideal warehouse manager is one who is already familiar with the company’s warehouse, understands the project requirements, knows how to make the most of the budget and understands the ins and outs of warehouse operations.
- Engineer – The on-staff engineer is the go-to IT person for the warehouse management software implementation.
The engineer will help monitor the entire implementation process and test the system to see everything works as required. With the help of the vendor, the engineer can determine the proper database and operating system that best suits the WMS.
- Warehouse management system expert – One of your team members should specialize in using the newly implemented WMS and they should be using the tool most often.The expert can ensure that the other warehouse employees are adequately trained to use the solution and guide them in day-to-day operations whenever required.After successful implementation, the expert can help with training new recruits ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
- Supporting team – Recruit a few extra team members to aid with the new implementation. The can consist of other warehouse workers who are already familiar with the new WMS and can help rectify any bugs with the system.
Although your IT team is responsible for ensuring the new system works as it should, the supporting team will be the primary users of the WMS. Their involvement is vital in training and testing.
#6 Testing warehouse management system
There are three testing phases for WMS:
- System testing – This mode of testing ensures that the warehouse management system is correctly configured to support business operations.
- Integration testing – This tests whether the WMS software is fully integrated with your company’s existing tech stack. It is done to ensure that everything works seamlessly and in sync.
- User acceptance testing – User here refers to the “super users,” aka the operational staff who will be heavily utilizing the system. Testing is done to ensure that the system is fit for its purpose.
For every testing phase, adhere to well-established business processes and use actual data collected from a live business environment involving real users.
Volume tests check the ability of the WMS to process large data pools. If undetected, data processing and storage issues can lead to security jeopardy or system shutdown.
It’s a volume tester’s job to ensure the software can handle any estimated data loads.
Testing is crucial, especially in the early days of the implementation, to ensure that existing data is accurately migrated to the new WMS, that the WMS records new data, performs successful data backups and the system works as desired.
The IT staff can monitor how the orders are processed through the WMS and the warehouse manager can oversee operations to ensure timely delivery.
#7 Training the staff
No matter how sophisticated the newly implemented WMS is, if end-users do not know how to operate the system it has no real business value.
For training purposes, it is best to rely on the expertise of your WMS vendor. After all, they know their product the best! Executives should transparently share their requirements with the vendor to modify training protocols to incorporate the necessary information.
Along with training, a standard operating procedure (SOP) should also be documented to ensure all operations run smoothly. It is a good idea to include screenshots of the system and note each required procedural step.
Adequate training minimizes errors and maximizes productivity.
#8 Be open to suggestions
Honest and transparent communication is vital during the pre and post-implementation phases. It is advised to have a structured communication program to ensure that the entire project team meets regularly to brainstorm ideas, share feedback and provide progress reports.
The project manager should take the team’s feedback and discuss it with the WMS provider for better customization to fit the needs of the business.
#9 Plan meticulously for WMS implementation
The plan should factor in the strategies for covering the implementation costs. For this, you need to identify the financial cost of WMS implementation. Set a budget to distribute funds for typical costs like training, consultant fees and ongoing maintenance.
You must also plan for the launch accordingly. Start with the launch date to begin drafting a timeline to get things done. On average, it takes around six to eight months to fully implement a warehouse management system.
In the long term, companies need to have an established team of individuals who collectively worked on the original project and stakeholders from various departments within the business. They should be entrusted with the responsibility of periodic review and assessment.
Implementation a Warehouse Management System with DEAR Systems
After reading this article, you now understand the importance of selecting the right vendor for WMS and WMS implementation. Transitioning to an entirely new vendor for your warehousing needs can be overwhelming and DEAR completely understands that.
At DEAR Systems, we strive to offer you superior support right from the start until your WMS is successfully implemented. Our supply chain experts can help you devise the best system as per your requirements.
Book a call now to learn more about how DEAR Systems can help you with warehouse management.