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How to survive a WMS go-live

Having been in the Warehouse Management System (WMS) world for over 20 years, we have taken part in countless WMS selection and implementation processes. A WMS is essential for businesses that want to improve their warehouse efficiency, accuracy, and profitability. No matter the size of the operation, having a successful go-live depends on expert planning, having a dedicated team, and taking care of yourself too. There is a process for selecting the right WMS, another one for implementing it properly, and of course, going live is a whole undertaking of its own. Read on for our top ten tips on how to survive a go-live. 

1: Prepare a detailed launch plan
The WMS launch plan is a detailed document that outlines all the steps necessary for a successful launch of a new WMS system. The more detailed, the better. It should be developed in collaboration with all who will be participating in the implementation. This includes the project manager, warehouse manager, database administrator, on-staff technical expert, operations staff, and the WMS trainer/expert. Every plan will vary depending on the operation, but there are a few key elements that will almost always be necessary.

  • A timeline and schedule for all of the activities leading up to and during go-live, including tasks like data migration, training, and testing.
  • A communication plan outlining how and when employees, customers, and suppliers will be communicated with during the go-live process. 
  • A set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to ensure all team members know exactly what they are aiming for throughout the process. 
  • A risk management plan that identifies and assesses potential risks associated with the go-live process, along with suggested mitigation strategies. This plan should include identifying who is responsible for addressing each problem and what steps they should take.
  • A support plan that highlights how users will be supported during the go-live process, such as support from the WMS vendor, as well as internal support from IT and other departments.

2: Ensure the necessary resources are available

Thankfully, a detailed launch plan will do most of the heavy lifting in terms of this second step. But it’s always best to do your due diligence and make certain you have everything accounted for long before the go-live date. 

  • Make sure you have allocated the right team members for the right job, the most important resource during a go-live is the people. It’s important to have representatives from different departments, including IT, operations, and customer service.
  • Don’t rush, take time to do it right. Give yourself and your team enough time to do the job well, rather than rushing through it. There are few things more costly than having to re-do an entire WMS implementation. 
  • Develop training materials ahead of the launch date so they are available for use during the go-live date. This should include training on the new WMS system as well as information on any new processes and procedures.

3: Get enough sleep

This may seem superfluous, but it isn’t. Nobody does well when they’re working on limited sleep. Without sufficient sleep, you run the risk of making mistakes that could lead to accidents or injuries. There’s also the chance your immune system will be weakened, and getting sick during a WMS go-live is the last thing you need! Avoid the risk of reduced productivity and poor performance and prioritize sleep, your body and teammates will thank you for it.

4: Have a launch meeting to ensure everybody’s on the same page

People always like to joke about how useless meetings can be, and while many of them may feel that way, a WMS go-live pre-implementation meeting is not one of them. All stakeholders involved in the WMS implementation should attend: employees, customers, suppliers, and IT staff. The purpose of the meeting is to review the plan and timelines, go over any potential changes, answer any questions, and of course, build excitement around the big change. Agendas vary from operation to operation, but this is a good place to start:

  • Overview of the new WMS system
  • Go-live timeline and schedule
  • Training plan
  • Testing plan
  • Go-live process
  • Support plan
  • Risk management plan
  • Communication plan
  • Q&A

5: Caffeinate yourself appropriately

We won’t go through a go-live without a coffee in hand, and sometimes more throughout the day. If coffee isn’t your style, then use whatever works best to keep you motivated, whether it’s tea, Red Bull, or doing pushups. You want to keep your mind alert and ready to deal with whatever challenges come your way because no matter how well you plan, you can almost always guarantee there will be a hiccup along the way.

6: Obtain a formal sign-off before starting

This goes without saying, but you should never start any massive project like a WMS implementation without a formal sign-off. After reviewing the go-live plan, timelines, training and testing materials, as well as the mitigation and support plans, the stakeholders should all confirm their commitment to the plan with their formal sign-off. Only then may the go-live begin. You’ll want to document the formal sign-off process and stakeholder signatures, a paper trail is always helpful to have. 

7: Validate and refresh training as needed

One of the most important parts of the WMS go-live experience is providing on-site training on the new system. You’ll want to start by focusing on the tasks that users will be expected to complete during the go-live. For example, if they will be picking and packing orders, they should be trained on how to use the new WMS system to perform these tasks. Depending on the complexity of the WMS, you may want to hold daily or weekly training until all users feel comfortable and confident in the system. But the training does not end there!

We recommend hosting monthly or quarterly training sessions well after the go-live. This will help users master the system and to learn how to use it to its full potential. You’d be surprised how many operations barely scratch the surface when it comes to using all the functionality their WMS provides. 

8: Monitor the first day with KPIs in mind

The best way to know if your implementation is going well is to have a set bench of KPIs to compare against. These will have been determined during the planning phase and should serve as a guiding light throughout the go-live. Keep track of these, and more importantly, write a detailed report on how the new system is delivering against them. Gathering this information early on will allow you to make any adjustments or changes right off the bat. 

9: Don’t forget to breathe

Sure, breathing comes naturally to us, but believe it or not, in times of stress, we can sometimes constrict our breathing and that doesn’t help anybody. Give yourself permission to step aside, take a breath, and relax for a minute. Go-lives are stressful, don’t make it worse on yourself by not taking the time you need to get your head in the game.

10.  Be sure to find time to eat and drink

Like breathing, this may seem like a silly one, and yet you’d be surprised by how many people simply forego meals during busy times. We’ve all done it before, and we’re here to tell you not to! Without food, the brain suffers. Studies have shown that when you don’t eat you experience fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and memory loss – none of these are useful during a WMS go-live. Like breathing, be sure to take time to eat and take in plenty of fluids, you want to keep your immune system strong and your brain sharp. Good news, though, you can almost always take time to eat and breathe at the same time — two birds, one stone!

A go-live is no easy feat, but it’s not impossible. We’ve been taking care of WMS go-live implementations for two decades now and have the experience needed to ask the right questions to make sure it’s done properly, on time, and on budget. Are you looking for help selecting or implementing a WMS? Let’s talk.


You don’t need more time in your day,
you need to get more done.