If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve just successfully selected a WMS that’s right for your business needs. Congratulations! While it may seem like your work is done, it isn’t. The next step, WMS implementation, is where the work actually begins. A WMS is a large investment, which is why its implementation must be taken seriously, and with just as much rigor as the selection process. With proper planning and execution, it can be done effectively, ensuring the future success of your operation.
As part of your WMS selection process, you determined your business requirements to ensure you had the right fit. Now, it’s important to understand what implementation components you need to ensure a smooth WMS implementation. A phased approach is almost always the way to go.
Deciding on your implementation approach is an excellent way to get organized and solidify a plan of action. The approach you take will vary based on the type and size of the operation you run.
- By Facility – This is the most common approach
- Big Bang
- All product lines
- All facilities
- By Process
- Inventory Control
- By Item Grouping
- Individual products
- Product lines
Before the implementation begins, you want to have the right resources in place to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. This comes down to many directives, such as teamwork, budgeting, design, training and communication, testing, and go-live planning.
Identify key stakeholders from different departments, like warehouse/operations, IT, and management, to start. You’ll then want to establish roles and responsibilities for each team member to ensure a smooth process. We recommend a team consisting of a few key roles:
- Project manager
- Warehouse manager
- Database administrator
- On-staff technical resource
- Operations resource/engineer
- Process owners
- WMS expert/trainer
Budgeting and Forecasting
There are a variety of factors that will impact WMS implementation cost, like if it’s cloud-based or on-premise. But there are a few other costs you want to keep an eye out for.
- WMS training
More importantly, you want to give yourself room to grow. The main reason to implement a WMS is to improve efficiency, and with that improvement, most operations tend to grow. Set yourself up for success by budgeting for future growth so you’re not inadvertently stunted.
With a WMS selected and a team allocated for the WMS implementation process, you can then discuss the specifics of the system design, and how it can be customized to suit your business requirements and operational needs. We typically divide these into two major categories.
- Operational Flow
- Clear Process Flow
- System (e.g. screen) Flow
- Product Flow, including Material Handling
- Process Exceptions
- Information Flow
- System Setup
- Integration to Enterprise Systems
- Integration to other (e.g. TMS, Event) Systems
- Material Handling Data Flow
Training & Communication
Arming your employees with the proper training isn’t just vital for WMS implementation but for your operation’s future day-to-day efficiency. Training the implementation team is an excellent way to get yourself a small group of dedicated and experienced users who can serve as subject-matter experts down the line. They’ll do more than lead the implementation, they will also train other employees down the line so that adoption is smooth and pain-free.
You’ll also want to communicate often and clearly with your team. Establish an implementation timeline and make sure all team members are aware of milestones and important dates. More importantly, communicate any updates or changes proactively. There’s nothing more counterproductive than having team members working toward a goal that’s been changed or eliminated. With all this in place, testing can begin.
Implement the WMS in a small portion of the warehouse and conduct pilot testing. This is how you can ensure the system is working, the integrations are fully functional, and perform any exception testing to identify and address anomalies or irregularities in the system’s operation. This testing may involve end-to-end scenarios, stress testing, and user acceptance testing to identify and resolve any last-minute issues. This is critical as it will allow you to catch any inconsistencies or undesirables before the entire operation can be affected. This is also an opportunity to gather feedback from trained employees in charge of implementation.
Setting up a plan of action for the big day is vital so that no steps are missed. Once a specific go-live date is selected, a detailed plan is created to guide the deployment process. This plan includes tasks, timelines, responsibilities, and contingency measures to address potential issues during the go-live period. This may also include scheduling additional staff to help with the launch.
With all those phases taken care of, it’s finally time to launch. At the planned date and time, initiate the system, and then, wait and see. At this point, you want to monitor the entire operation and review how order handoffs are working and how teams are handling the new system with updated equipment and picking instructions. This is a good time to have your IT team check data quality regularly to make sure any new orders are making it all the way through the WMS. You’ll also want your warehouse leads to monitor staff and keep an eye out for any sticking points or areas of confusion. You want to keep the system running so that you can troubleshoot any issues in real time.
There is a lot more detailed planning that goes into a WMS implementation, which we outline in this White Paper. Go ahead and download a copy of it, or if you’re looking for help with you WMS needs, reach out to us today!