In the fast-paced world of supply chain management, a reliable Warehouse Management System (WMS) is a must-have. It’s the backbone of your operation, providing a comprehensive view of inventory and streamlining processes to make the most of your warehouse space. But, as any experienced warehouse manager knows, implementing a WMS can be daunting. It requires careful planning, design, and installation to ensure success.
In this article, we’ll take you through the process step-by-step, from understanding the benefits of a WMS and designing it to fit your specific needs to create a comprehensive implementation checklist and tips for a successful roll-out. We’ll also delve into the common challenges associated with WMS implementation and how to plan for them, so you can confidently navigate the process. By the end, you’ll have all the tools you need to succeed in your WMS implementation. So, let’s get started!
Benefits of Implementing a Warehouse Management System
A Warehouse Management System (WMS) is a computerised system that automates and optimises warehouse operations. A WMS can provide many benefits, including improved inventory accuracy, faster picking and packing times, reduced labour costs, and improved customer service. Additionally, a WMS can provide real-time visibility into inventory levels, allowing for better inventory management and forecasting.
The most important benefit of a WMS is that it can help organisations become more efficient and cost-effective. By automating many of the manual processes associated with warehouse management, a WMS can help to reduce labour costs and increase productivity. Furthermore, a WMS can help to improve inventory accuracy and reduce stock-outs, allowing for better customer service. Finally, a WMS can help reduce inventory management costs by providing real-time visibility into stock levels and allowing for more accurate forecasting.
Basic Warehouse Management System Design
Before implementing a WMS, it is essential to consider the system’s basic design. The design should consider the size and layout of the warehouse, the type of inventory that will be stored, and the types of operations that will be performed. Additionally, the design should factor in the technology used, such as RFID tags, barcode scanners, and voice technology. Finally, the system should be scalable to grow with the company and accommodate future needs.
Warehouse Management System Implementation Checklist
Before implementing a WMS, it is vital to create a checklist to ensure all necessary steps are taken. This checklist should include an analysis of the current warehouse environment and operations, an evaluation of the current system, a plan for the new WMS, a timeline for implementation, a list of necessary resources, and a budget. Additionally, the checklist should include an evaluation of the current staff and a plan for training. Finally, the checklist should include a plan for testing the new system and going live.
Tips for Successful WMS Implementation
Implementing a WMS can be a complex and time-consuming process. Following a few simple tips is essential to ensure a successful implementation. First, it is vital to involve all stakeholders in the process. This includes management, staff, and any vendors or suppliers involved in the implementation. Second, planning and creating a timeline for the implementation is essential. This timeline should include deadlines for each step in the process and should take into account any potential delays or obstacles. Finally, it is crucial to test the system thoroughly before going live. This includes testing the hardware and software and training staff on the new system.
Challenges with WMS Implementation
While a WMS can provide many benefits, knowing the potential challenges of implementing a new system is vital. Some of the most common challenges include the cost of implementation, the complexity of the system, and the difficulty of training staff. Additionally, there can be delays or obstacles due to integrating the WMS with existing systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Finally, it is crucial to consider the system’s scalability, as it must grow with the company and accommodate future needs.
Warehouse Implementation Plan
Once the WMS implementation checklist is complete, creating a warehouse implementation plan is time. This plan should include a timeline for each step in the process and a list of resources needed for the implementation. Additionally, the plan should include a timeline for testing the system and going live. Finally, the plan should include a budget and a plan for evaluating the success of the implementation.
Step 1: Project Planning
The first step in the WMS implementation process is project planning. This includes creating a timeline for the entire process and identifying the resources needed for the implementation. Additionally, it is essential to create a budget for the implementation, as well as a plan for evaluating the success of the implementation. Finally, creating a plan for training staff on the new system is crucial.
Step 2: 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 will be way too much for any individual to handle.
The entire 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: leads the entire effort, keeping a high overview and 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. They will help you understand budget limitations and process requirements. They’re your second in command.
- Database administrator: This team member will manage your existing data and assist with the migration process.
- On-staff engineer: Bring 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 a need.
- WMS expert/trainer: identify the person who will use your new WMS the most. They must be involved to ensure they’re adequately trained and can guide you on features and 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 extra help when you’re ready to go live. Other hands in the warehouse can reduce the impact of errors or bottlenecks, while extra IT staff can help troubleshoot any issues.
Step 3: 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 during any significant business process shift.
Elements of your planning should include the following:
- 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 the success
Ensure you communicate well throughout the project, and then you can quickly see if something is wrong or if 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 your progress and ask for what they need.
Step 4: 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. However, 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 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 rise as you meet different data thresholds.
And the final piece of the budget that tends to get forgotten: give yourself room to grow.
Step 5: Design the Warehouse Management System
The next step in the implementation process is to design the Warehouse Management System. This includes determining the size and layout of the warehouse, the type of inventory that will be stored, and the types of operations that will be performed. Additionally, the design should factor in the technology used, such as RFID tags, barcode scanners, and voice technology. Finally, the system should be scalable to grow with the company and accommodate future needs.
Step 6: Prepare the Warehouse
Once the WMS has been designed, the next step is to prepare the warehouse for implementation. This includes making sure that the warehouse is clean and organised and that there is adequate space for the new system. It is also essential to label all products and locations in the warehouse, as this will help ensure accuracy and efficiency. Finally, ensuring that all staff are trained on the new system and familiar with the new procedures is vital.
Step 7: 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 includes 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 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.
Step 8: Install the Warehouse Management System
Once the warehouse is prepared, installing the Warehouse Management System is next. This includes installing the hardware and software necessary for the system and configuring the system to meet the organisation’s needs. Additionally, it is essential to integrate the WMS with existing systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Finally, ensuring that all staff are trained on the new system and familiar with the new procedures is vital.
Step 9: Test the Warehouse Management System
Once the system is installed, it is vital to thoroughly test it before going live. This includes testing the hardware and software and training staff on the new system. Additionally, it is crucial to test the system in a simulated environment, as this will help identify potential issues that may arise when the system is implemented. Finally, ensuring that the system runs smoothly and that all staff are familiar with the new procedures is essential.
Step 10: 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 warehouse. Training at your location with vendor staff allows you to practice on your 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 more significant 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.
Step 11: Plan Your Go-Live Launch
Some of the essential 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
Step 11: Go-Live
Once the system has been tested and is running smoothly, it is time to go live. This includes ensuring all staff are trained and familiar with the new system and procedures. Additionally, it is vital to test the system in a live environment, as this will help identify potential issues that may arise when the system is implemented. Finally, ensure that all data is secure and the system can handle the expected workload.
Review Your WMS Implementation for Success
Now it’s time to evaluate your WMS implementation. The dangers of WMS implementation are significant, and you will know about outright failure or success within a short period.
- 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 shows that you’re getting more orders out the door on time and are being fulfilled properly.
One added benefit 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 and optimise their resupply orders, so they’re ultimately paying less to store additional goods.
Preparation is the key to success, or you’ll see 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!
Clarus WMS has a quick and easy implementation process. Contact us today to learn more about our Warehouse Management System implementation services.
Implementing a new warehouse management system (WMS) can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Clarus WMS has a quick and easy implementation process that can keep your business running with minimal disruption. Our experienced professionals will work with you every step of the way to ensure a smooth transition to the new system.
One of the critical benefits of Clarus WMS is its flexibility and customisation options. The system can be tailored to fit your business’s specific needs and processes, making it easy to integrate into your current operations. With real-time tracking and forecasting capabilities, Clarus WMS can help your business overcome the challenges of traditional inventory management and stay competitive in today’s fast-paced market.
So don’t let the challenges of traditional inventory management hold your business back. Contact us today to learn more about our Warehouse Management System implementation services and take control of your inventory.