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  • Roy Strauss

Supply Chain Profitability – WMS Software

WMS (warehouse management) software provides the capability to manage product and materials from receipt of product to shipment of customer orders whether for an automated system or manually pushing a cart down an aisle. The software must manage key data throughout all relevant company systems and provide on time reporting for all. The best designed operational systems depend on such software and will not run properly if the software is not capable of supporting the system based on either functionality or improper implementation. Results can include poor performance that leads to customer dissatisfaction.

Often organizations do not pay enough attention to the importance of selecting and properly implementing WMS software. They will select software that they are familiar with, heard good things about, or from the same vendor supplying other software such as ERP. A comprehensive request for a proposal submitted to carefully selected vendors combined with a way to assess their capabilities is key to success. Implementing warehouse management software properly can ensure that operations are executed properly and that your company will have satisfied customers that are always receiving accurate orders delivered on time.

There are seven key requirements which, if overlooked or discounted, have the potential to negatively impact WMS selection and implementation. Many of these factors may also be critical to other types of systems such as ERP, SCM, and CRM but cannot be ignored when implementing a WMS.

1. Clearly Define Objectives

The objectives of a WMS must be clearly laid out and synchronized with all other systems to ensure connectivity and continuity. The project stakeholders must agree in advance how the different systems will be configured to maximize for both management needs and to ensure customer satisfaction. The goals of the project must be clearly stated in writing and act as a guide to keep the project on track. There should be a dedicated implementation team that coordinates the efforts of the vendors, the company, and the WMS implementation.

2. Ensure the Project Design Team Includes All of the Stakeholders

The project design team should include representatives from every part of the organization including, finance, sales, marketing, customer service, and operations. Only by including everyone can the organization ensure that the established success criteria will meet the needs of the entire organization. Getting people to participate is critical to team building. It helps to dissipate some of the fear they may have regarding the unknown. Instead, they can see how the system is designed to make everyone more efficient and their jobs easier.

3. Clearly Articulate the Performance Criteria

The company must have a strong project manager, who is experienced and has a track record of successful implementations or bring in outside help. The project manager must be able to articulate the performance criteria keeping the vendors and other stakeholders on track. Selecting the proper project manager is one of the most important decisions made throughout the entire project.

4. Build Clear Performance Metrics into the System Design.

Performance metrics are critical to a successful implementation. The project manager should ensure that each area of the WMS implementation is governed by an appropriate set of metrics. These should include all operational functions in both the warehouse and office, and other company specific critical operational areas. These operational metrics are critical to ensuring the vendors have delivered the appropriate functionality and performance to the organization and manage present and future data requirements in a timely manner to all system users.

5. Create a Detailed Data Map

These are automated tools that let you map one type of data to another. This is essential for companies trying to deal with different shipping data formats, such as advanced ship notices that can come in XML, EDI, spreadsheets, or other formats. It is key for coordination of data when receiving product from numerous sources with different software programs.

6. Design Sufficient Stress Tests into the System

Sufficient testing is the best way to avoid a crisis when you go live with a new WMS. If one does parallel testing with beta test data duplicating the real data, successful debugging will occur. Unfortunately, testing is often the first thing to go if the project is delayed or has incurred financial overruns. It is important to process-test all workflow, including inbound, outbound, cross-dock, cycle count, etc. One should train workers to use the new system at least four weeks before the go-live date, so they are familiar with the system and become part of the implementation team.

7. Senior Level Support Is a Critical Success Factor

For a successful WMS project, one must have “C” level support (executives that buy into and demonstrate support for the project), including the software selection process. This is key to having staff at each level “sign on” to the project which will also eliminate resistance to change.

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