It can be daunting knowing where to start and remembering all the processes and elements you should consider before you get started. However with our Step by Step Warehouse Management System implementation guide it couldn’t be easier.
So let’s get started….
Create your implementation team
A successful WMS implementation starts with a talented team. You’ll want a variety of skills and more than one person as the whole process is going to be way too much for any one individual to handle.
The total makeup of your team will vary based on the size and scope of your company and project, but here are the essential personnel you should add to that WMS implementation checklist:
- Project manager: the person leading the entire effort, keeping a high overview as well as problem solving. If you’re reading this WMS implementation guide, you’re probably the PM.
- Warehouse manager: you’ll need someone from leadership to be involved in the process. They will help you understand budget limitations and process requirements. They’re your second in command.
- Database administrator: This team member will be responsible for managing your existing data and assisting with the data migration process.
- On-staff engineer: bring in your IT team whenever possible to monitor and help. Their final role will vary — sometimes as QA testing, others to help customise applications — but there is definitely a need.
- WMS expert/trainer: identify the person who will be using your new WMS the most. They need to be involved to ensure they’re properly trained and can guide you on features as well as the practical day-to-day operations that will influence use. In the long run, this person will likely train new hires on your WMS.
- Go-live team: bring in extra help for when you’re ready to go live. Additional hands in the warehouse can reduce the impact of errors or bottlenecks, while extra IT staff can help troubleshoot any issues that arise.
Change management plans and new practices
After your team is assembled, it’s time to start creating a plan to implement your new WMS and address the changes and challenges that come during any major business process shift.
Elements of your planning should include:
- Creating expected WMS implementation costs, then developing and approving a budget
- Using your budget to build out WMS implementation steps and schedule
- Addressing data backups and migrations
- Training your staff in multiple avenues
- Building out a test list as well as go-live actions
- Launching your new WMS implementation
- Reviewing your WMS and evaluating success
Make sure you communicate well throughout the whole project, then you can easily see if something is wrong or that the next phase should begin. We recommend you use tools you’re already familiar with for project management and ensure your team has access, can use them to communicate, and checks your tools regularly. Be sure to loop in company leadership and stakeholders so they can see the progress you’re making and ask for what they need.
Forecast your costs and budget
The main areas to look at are:
- On-premise installations tend to be more expensive and require more time spent by your vendor because they are adjusting the system to your specific infrastructure and often require the vendor to send a team to your location; cloud systems can often be installed remotely so there are fewer travel costs, plus you tend to have to bring your infrastructure up to meet their demands with customisation coming as separate costs.
- Maintenance costs are often included in the original purchase price, though some WMS may base your maintenance costs on installation and implementation which would defer them until your implementation wraps — that could add 5% to 20% of your purchase price depending on licensing and subscription agreements.
- WMS training costs will vary based on the use or combination of digital learning, hands-on training, and on-site training from the vendor.
- Factor in consultant fees if you hire any.
- Create a list of infrastructure upgrades you need to deploy the WMS based on vendor requirements.
- Budget for extra hours or even overtime for your team during training and the go-live.
- Secure cost estimates for data services as you create additional backups or need to store your data in the cloud for the new WMS. Storage costs are sometimes included in your WMS costs, but they tend to come with limits or pricing that raises as you meet different data thresholds.
And the final piece of the budget that tends to get forgotten: give yourself room to grow.
Data backups and migration
A Warehouse Management System implementation guide should start the data discussion on migration because it’s 100% essential for you to maintain data accuracy and validity as you port it over to your new system. Data migration also include a variety of clean-up and new governance rules so that you ensure the information your new WMS uses to manage your business is correct.
However, don’t neglect the need to create a backup of your existing data. It’s good to have one that you use for the migration process and a separate backup on different media just in case. Your vendor may supply the migration backup and data management, but won’t necessarily keep an additional record of your original data available to you.
To prepare for the data migration process, call on your database administrator and on-site engineer to ensure that data formats and aspects are not lost in translation as you move between systems.
Train your staff
Training your staff to use your new WMS can take three to five full days and require some shift work in many cases, so that your team can learn, practice, and have time to ask questions about the new system.
Depending on your vendor you may have access to multiple training types, such as online courses and training materials, training at the vendor’s location, and training in your own warehouse. Training at your own location with vendor staff gives you a chance to practice on your own equipment, but it may come with higher WMS training costs.
Identifying warehouse leaders and experts with a penchant for technology can increase your success rate. These power users may be able to learn the system faster and provide greater assistance to other employees during the training and after you go live.
Be sure to reward these employees for their hard work and manage other tasks or expectations if these team members start to take on more mentoring and training roles.
Plan your go-live steps
Some of the most important WMS implementation steps come during this planning phase when you’re prepping to launch.
Here are a few specific elements that need a plan and a review before you’re ready to launch:
- Touch base with WMS implementation stakeholders to see their status
- Ensure all previously required WMS implementation checklist items are addressed
- Test the system for use with small-batch data and common patterns
- Schedule additional staff to support the launch itself
- Create a list of metrics to use to evaluate success for launch and initial months
- Formulate a plan to address potential downtime or bottlenecks
- Test your network itself to make sure you can support the increased demand
- Verify data backups and your data migration success
Time to go live
Now, you switch the system on and monitor its progress. Look at order hand-offs and how your team starts working with new equipment and picking instructions.
In the immediate, you want to watch and wait. Have your IT team check data quality and make sure that new orders are making all the way through your WMS, while your warehouse leads should monitor staff performance to see if there are any areas of confusion. The goal is to keep the technology up and running while you help people troubleshoot concerns or missed steps in real-time.
Review your WMS implementation for success
Now it’s time to evaluation your WMS implementation. The dangers of WMS implementation are significant, and you will definitely know outright failure or success within a short span of time.
- Revenue gains are part of the traditional ROI calculation, where you see a variety of cost reductions or business increases related to how well your warehouse performed.
- Productivity improvements will hopefully come in two flavours after your WMS implementation: decreases in mistakes your team makes (like inventory counts) and increases in overall productivity.
- Client satisfaction can also be easier to track, especially if your WMS is showing that you’re getting more orders out the door on time and that they’re being fulfilled properly.
One added benefit that occurs for some teams implementing a new WMS is that they learn more about their inventory and demand forecasting. This can allow them to reduce inventory on hand and optimise their resupply orders so they’re ultimately paying less to store additional goods.
Preparation is the key to success, or you’ll end up seeing cost increases that you didn’t plan for additional headaches in the warehouse and demotivated staff. Use the above Step by Step Warehouse Management System Implementation Guide as part of your planning or contact us today for further help.
Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.
Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.
ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.